What do you have that pretty much every movie character ever has, whether they spend their screen time below the ocean's surface or live on a planet across the galaxy or answer to "your majesty"?
"Clothing" is the answer, something all movie viewers have on, to varying degrees, when entering a theater. It's our instant commonality with the beings on screen. With this in mind costume exhibits, particularly wide-scale, deeply considered display, are not only is a pretty thing to gaze upon. They're the audience's easy, I-have-a-dress-on-too entry into a film.
Hollywood Costume, which debuted in the May Co. building on Oct. 2, is such a display. The Swarovski-backed exhibit, which debuted at London's Victoria and Albert Museum a few years back and is presented in Los Angeles by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, boasts over 150 recognizable outfits from "Star Wars" and "Blade Runner" and "Django Unchained" and "The Birds."
Wait, "recognizable"? Surely we meant "iconic" there. A certain blue-and-white gingham frock and a pair of ruby slippers hold court in the Miracle Mile exhibit, so "iconic" is really only the half of it.
Deborah Nadoolman Landis is the curator, which fits like a hand in a carefully measured, hand-sewn evening glove; she served as the costume designer for several major films, including "Raiders of the Lost Ark."
Which also makes a high-spirited costume cameo, complete with Dr. Jones's fedora and leather jacket and snap! Literally -- Indy's whip is in the house, too.
The show, which foretells of the Academy moving into the May Co., permanently, in 2017 -- that's the projected year that the Academy Museum is set to debut -- has the feel of stepping directly into a film. This comes courtesy of the sweeping soundtrackian music scored just for the exhibit as well as the lowered lights. You may feel as though you are indeed inside a cinema, with key beams on the characters and costumes (many of which do glitter, making Swarovski the ideal sponsor).
Other treats? A whole section devoted to Meryl Streep, with an innovative twist: Her character from each film "talks" from a screen above each outfit. Another area created just for the crown-wearers of cinema is a show stand-out, as is the imposing Darth Vader costume from "The Empire Strikes Back."
Truly, fictional characters, even those who live on spaceships and moons, dress like us. Well, with more capes and shoulder pads and boots and gigantic hats, sure, but clothes matter to the larger picture. It's strong sartorial connection between viewer and viewee, with clothing as the button between.
Hollywood Costume is on view at the May Co. at Wilshire and Fairfax through March 2.