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Academy 'Hollywood Costume' exhibit opens, showcases 150 outfits

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More than 150 costumes — from the likes of "Dallas Buyers Club" to Charlie Chaplin's "The Tramp" — are on display at the "Hollywood Costume" exhibit by the Academy of Motion Pictures.

The Academy Museum of Motion Pictures isn't set to open its doors until 2017, but the first exhibition debuts Thursday — and it's a showstopper. 

It's called "Hollywood Costume" and it celebrates the art of costume design in film history.

More than 150 costumes are on display — from recent films like "Dallas Buyers Club" and "The Hunger Games" and all the way back to the silent-film era, with Charlie Chaplin's suit from 1915's "The Tramp."

But, as curator and Oscar-nominated costume designer Deborah Nadoolman Landis will tell you, "It's not about the costumes." The exhibit, which was organized by and first opened at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, is about the movies. The atmosphere is designed in a way to make you feel like you're going to see a film and less like you're walking into a museum.

Visitors are greeted with a full multi-media experience, complete with an original score, screens showing film clips, animations of screenplays, and interviews with directors, costume designers and actors.

It even has its own trailer: 

Take Two host Alex Cohen spoke with Nadoolman Landis about some of her favorite pieces in the exhibit and what it was like to put it all together.

On what her reaction was to seeing Dorothy's costume from "The Wizard of Oz" for the first time:

I cried when I saw it. I was so moved by the manufacture of the costume. In 1939, Adrian, the costume designer for "The Wizard of Oz," also designed "The Women." He was, without challenge, the greatest costume designer of the Golden Age of Hollywood.

I really think that Adrian sent one of his costumers or seamstresses in his shop and said, "You be Auntie Em. Please buy the cheapest Dust Bowl cotton on the market, then please wash it on a wash board, then put it through a wringer, then hang it with wooden clothes pins on a line, then do it all again 10 times, ... and then find a treadle sewing machine, be Auntie Em, sew it for Dorothy, and sew it really badly."

If you look at it, none of the seams match. ... And for a costume designer, the significance of this is huge. The same year, Adrian designed "The Women." "The Women" was French couture. ... Dorothy's pinafore was made by Auntie Em.

On how she made Harrison Ford's costume for "Indiana Jones":

The funny thing was that Tom Selleck had been cast in that role, and I had made everything for Tom Selleck, who was 6-foot-5, and then [he] had to leave to go do "Magnum, P.I."

So I had Harrison Ford maybe four weeks before shooting began. At the first day of shooting, only one leather jacket and hat was ready in London, and they were not aged.

And so that evening, Harrison and I went to the bar, I had brought mineral oil, I had brought triple-zero sand paper, and I aged that jacket myself with Harrison looking on. And that's the jacket that he wore the next day in the film.

On how creating the exhibit was like directing a film:

Costumes are created ... to be seen in a specific narrative and visual context. It's a really bad idea to have a costume design exhibition, because costumes are not meant to be seen in person, in 3-D, that's totally wrong!

It doesn't matter how they look in the gallery, because they're not artifacts that really should be evaluated in person. They're so much part of a movie. And to have the idea, the chutzpah, to tear them from the context for which they were originally designed, that's just wrong.

So I had to really create, direct, figure out how to create an entirely new context to display the costumes. ... I had to be the director, because I had to create a new production called "Hollywood Costume" and recast all of these people in new roles, so I feel that I could serve the writer, the director and the costume designers.

The Hollywood Costume exhibit is on display at the historic Wilshire May Co. Building, the future location of theAcademy Museum of Motion Pictures, at Wilshire Boulevard and Fairfax Avenue in Los Angeles. The exhibit runs through March 2, 2015. Purchase tickets here.

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