Tuesday, 22 January 2013

Clothes maketh the man (and woman)

This is part one of the saga of the wonderful weekend. It was meant to be two separate trips on Friday night and Saturday morning but due to inclement weather (It was -7 degrees and we’ve had heavy snow) we decided to just stay over in a hotel in case trains weren’t running and boy am I glad we did because it snowed/sleeted non-stop all weekend and several trains (including the one we needed on Saturday) were called off or had severe delays. Staying overnight meant we missed most of the closures.

 First, on Friday afternoon we went to the V&A museum to see an exhibit about Hollywood costumes. Despite being one of those timed ticket things where you could only go in at a certain time to prevent overcrowding--it was mega crowded. But we didn’t care.

The first costume we saw was the green velvet dress made from curtains worn by Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in Gone With the Wind. 

Spiderman and I both thought you should have also had the costume worn by Carol Burnett in the parody where she leaves the curtain rod in


We also saw a costume worn by Charlie Chaplin in The Little Tramp.  Each of the costume displays had this interactive computer screen with information about the costume or a quote from the actor or designer. This was sometimes informative but mostly annoying. What happened to placards that you read? Anyway, the interesting fact here was that Chaplin wore shoes several sizes too big for him for this character.


We then saw the costumes from Brokeback Mountain (or “cowboys eating pudding” if you are Cartman) . I found these very interesting because whilst they both wore cowboy hats there were subtle differences between a Texas hat and a Wyoming hat. Who knew? Also the designer talked about the cowboys would have worn tighter wranglers  and  the ranchers levis because of the way that they fit. Again who knew? This was the first costumes to talk about one of my favourite jobs in the world of costume making--distressing. This is where you make something new look old. I can recall having to run a pair of overalls over with my car in a mud puddle to get the desired worn effect for a play I was costuming at Uni.


The next bit of distressing was described in the costume worn by Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones. To distress his hat they rubbed it with mineral oil and fullers earth and then stepped on it, sat on it and generally squashed it. Even Harrison Ford got to sit on it for a bit. His leather jacket was distressed by using acid of some sort and dirt and steel wool which the designer said ruined her hands.


We also saw the costume for Darth Vader which was massively tall (David Prowse who wore it was 6 foot 7 inches tall) but was made in pieces so it could take apart easily so he could be comfortable between shots.  Also the control panel on the front looked a bit crap. It really looked better on film--in person it was like something you knocked up in your bedroom for Halloween out of a cereal box that you painted black and some plastic lids from a milk carton.


There were several superhero costumes on display--Batman, Spiderman and Catwoman. Sadly, they were all placed really high up and could hardly be seen. Batman was on a ledge, Spidey was climbing up a wall and Catwoman was up on top of  a canopy near the ceiling.  I really wanted to see Catwoman as  I wanted to see how the stitching that was decorative was different from the stitching that held it together.  But you couldn’t see it at all. Crumbs.


There were several other interesting costumes--too many to name. But the real reason we went was to see this:

The dress worn by Judy Garland as Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz. It was the last costume on show and by now the crowds had died down and so I was able to have a good long look at it without feeling like I was holding everyone up.  It was gorgeous to see up close--the detailed rick-rack around the neck and sleeves. There are actually 2 styles of the dress worn in the film. When she leaves Munchkin land the dress is plainer and more boxy. When they get cleaned up in the Emerald City it is the same dress, but the cut is slightly fuller, the sleeves ever so puffier. Subtle but enough to somehow make her look more beautiful in it. It was impossible to tell on the mannequin which dress this was--but I suspect the first one as the skirt seemed to be cut more straight rather than more A-line. There were also ruby slippers, but clearly just replicas as they were just sequined not done with swarovski crystals like the real shoes were. Plus they were huge so they may have belonged to Bobbie Koshay (Dorothy’s stand in who had bigger feet) Still it was wonderful to see it up close.


Every trip need souvenirs, right? There were several Ruby Slipper items available--earrings and broach for £25--but none seemed right. Especially as those of us in the know about Oz know that the slippers were actually SILVER and only made RUBY for Technicolor. But then back in the children’s souvenir section we found something. There were (rather cheaply made but good looking) plastic replicas of the medal of courage given to the Lion and the heart pocket watch given to the Tin Man and so we bought these. I can easily make a diploma for the Scarecrow and make some sort of display. They also had a Dorothy costume which excited me greatly but the label said for ages 5-7 so I was really disappointed.


They also seemed to have lots of imported American sweets. There was Laffy Taffy (God--I used to love that--but looking at the ingredient list was like reading the back of a tin of pesticide) and Tootsie Rolls but there was our old favourite--Junior Mints. Spiderman and I used to love to eat these when we pulled an “all nighter” at Uni and then follow it on with Dr Pepper as it made your burps taste hot and cold at the same time. Spiderman denies all knowledge of this but he is the one who taught me so I know it’s true.


I was sure Junior Mints weren’t vegan. I think at one time they had gelatine and or shellac as a glaze. But we scoured the ingredients and discussed them and could see nothing suspect (well, nothing not vegan--it was fairly suspect on the health front) but we spent £2 on a small box for old time’s sake(“Excuse me, I bought a box of Junior Mints and now I have no money”) Sadly there was no Dr Pepper, but I had forgotten the strength of the peppermint and the deepness of the chocolate. Bliss. But at £2 and all sorts of hydrogenated this and corn syrup that, I doubt we will ever eat them again. But it was a treat.


Then we tubed to Paddington Station and took the train out to Slough for the next leg of the wonderful weekend. We were going to a Doctor Who Convention!!!!!!!  We booked a hotel near the event that was right next to a Sainsburys so we could buy food to save money instead of having to pay for a restaurant. Plus our hotel had a rocking breakfast--cereal (soya milk on request), fresh fruit, hash browns, cowboy beans and grilled mushrooms. Enough to fill us up so we didn’t have to just pack a suitcase full of food to get through Saturday. 


Stay tuned for part two of the wonderful weekend--Doctor Who Day!





  1. Sounds like a truly wonderful day! Glad you took the plunge and snacked on the Junior Mints. Sometimes nostalgia is more important than worrying about how healthy something is.

  2. ditto to what Danny said. This was superb, even though I heard it over the phone, it was much nicer reading it with pictures!