Cinema and art collide with fascinating results in the Columbia Museum of Art’s new exhibit, “CUT: Costume and the Cinema,” which opens Friday.
Karen Brosius, CMA executive director, said this is the first costumer/fashion exhibition to be shown at the museum. Inspired by the success of similar exhibits and impressed that the collection features costumes worn by the film stars themselves, Brosius anticipates attracting visitors interested in seeing how art, theater, literature and music meld.
“It opens up the museum to broaden our audience,” she said. “This has an authenticity to it.”
The modern-day films represented span five centuries of history, comedy, drama and adventure. Costumes on display include those worn by Keira Knightley, Kate Winslet, Scarlett Johansson, Johnny Depp, Daniel Craig and Robert Downey Jr.
The pieces come from a stock of more than 100,000 costumes and accessories created by British costumer Cosprop Ltd., founded by costume designer John Bright in 1965. The company has won two Academy Awards for costume design and been nominated for 34 films.
“It’s a traveling exhibition,” CMA curator Catherine Walworth said. “My job was to give it a home here.”
During a media preview on Wednesday, Walworth explained how she incorporated pieces from the museum’s collection, such as a large 19th century Baroque mirror that hung for nearly 50 years at the museum’s former Taylor House location that now stands sentinel behind a dress worn by Shirley Henderson in “The Last King: The Power and Passion of Charles II.”
“I wanted them to sort of have a dance,” Walworth said.
Several costumes worn by Knightley in her role as Georgiana Cavendish, Duchess of Devonshire, in “The Duchess” are featured, including a buff-and-blue dress that lent subtle symbolic support to George Washington’s Revolutionary War army with its color scheme. The 2009 film earned Cosprop its second Oscar.
A cream-colored gown worn by Nicole Kidman in 1996’s “Portrait of a Lady” features a back bustle and train that her controlling film husband, John Malkovich, steps on, causing his spirited wife to fall and demonstrating that women were constrained by both society and clothing, Walworth said.
Classic literature is also represented in costumes from “Sense and Sensibility” and "Jane Eyre." An entire section, dedicated to corsets and crinolines, explores the importance of underpinnings.
Gentlemen are not neglected. A bomber jacket worn by Daniel Craig in 2008’s “Defiance” is featured, as are the stylish threads sported by Downey Jr. as Sherlock Holmes and Jude Law as Dr. Watson.
A hands-on interactive nook allows visitors to sketch their own costumes, design their own fabric and feel swatches of velvet, silk, tulle and leather. A nod is given to the Columbia Design League’s recycled fashion, including a tiered gown made from dryer sheets.
The showstopper is a voluminous ruffled red taffeta dress worn by Lara Flynn Boyle in the 2006 political satire “Land of the Blind.”
“CUT: Costume and the Cinema” will be on view through Feb. 19. Admission to the Columbia Museum of Art, located at 1515 Main St. and open Tuesday through Sunday, is $15 or less and free for members.