Tuesday 21 November 2017

'The Birds' display takes wing as star Tippi sees wish granted

Newbridge museum pulls off costume coup by showcasing outfits worn by screen legend Tippi Hedren in Hitchcock classic, says Constance Harris

Tippi Hedren
Tippi Hedren

Constance Harris

Newbridge Silverware's Museum of Style Icons has unveiled a unique installation based on Alfred Hitchcock's 1963 classic, The Birds. It has brought together for the first time - and at the request of the movie's star, Tippi Hedren - the white silk coat she wore at Cannes Film Festival to promote the movie and the now-famous two-piece green suit she wore in it. Quite the coup, according to film costume circles.

The green jacket and sleeveless dress, specifically requested by Hitchcock, was a key feature of the film's famous poster. Designed by Hollywood costume designer extraordinaire, Edith Head, the ensemble is part of a new installation in the museum, adding to its already impressive collection of Hollywood and music memorabilia.

Alfred Hitchcock's predilection for casting young, cool, ice-pale blondes as female characters who always ended up in acute situations has given film historians, critics and psychologists infinite content on which to discourse.

Hitchcock understood the power of sex, and he knew how to work it. Everything from powerful trains pushing through dark tunnels, to knowing that a particular length of a skirt would lead a woman to constantly try to pull it over her knees to preserve her modesty, was used as a means to convey sex.

Hitchcock's women were fascinating, compulsive and pivotal to his stories. Just because all his actresses were blonde didn't mean they were all playing the same character. All - from society model girlfriend Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) in Rear Window, to abused and raped Marnie (Hedren, who herself visited the Museum of Style Icons in 2012) - had presence and grit, as well as style.

Equal to his brilliant casting of women was Hitchcock's genius in selecting leading men - Cary Grant, Jimmy Stewart and Sean Connery were immensely easy on the eye.

And, there was Hitchcock's genius in hiring Edith Head.

Utterly brilliant, Head worked in Hollywood for over 40 years. She created the distinctive clothing style of Hitchcock's films. Together, Hitchcock and Head did what is only beginning to be understood today - they used clothes to create character and plot.

Do an internet search of her name and you will instantly be shown clips and lists that cite her as the most brilliant costume designer of the last century. Steve Martin dedicated his 1982 movie, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid, a black-and-white homage to detective movies of the 1940s, to Head's talent, such was her importance.

Fantastically, for film junkies, costume designers and fashion students, there is a great collection of Head's work at the Museum of Style Icons - ensembles, drawings and biography are all available. The museum also has the largest private collection of Audrey Hepburn memorabilia outside of her family.

It has extraordinary rarities such as the hot pink silk dress Audrey Hepburn wore in Breakfast at Tiffany's, the toile made by the Emmanuels for Princess Diana's wedding dress and the jewelled ballgown Grace Kelly wore in High Society.

In addition, it has the suits worn by The Beatles on their A Hard Day's Night tour, which were designed by DA Millings & Son, who created all The Beatles' iconic tailoring. There is a signed Paul McCartney guitar, Jackson Five costumes, an Elvis Presley jacket that he wore in Speedway and more.

The museum in Newbridge, Co Kildare, is free to the public.

For more information, see newbridgesilverware.com.

Sunday Independent

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