Dressed by Angels Exhibition Review

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Yesterday I was at the Dressed by Angels exhibition at the Old Truman Brewery in London.

This was an exhibition to show the history of a renowned costumery, from its beginnings to the extent of their work so far. The Loading Bay was set out in to a series of rooms that walked you thought the history of the family run company, from it’s humble beginnings in the 1800’s as a second hand clothing store, to the world’s biggest costume house.

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The first room showed a number of pictures and garments from when the company began, notable this little display of moustaches that could be hired for all your moustaching needs.

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The second room looked at how the industry took off around the time of Charles Dickens, where actors would be hired not only based on their acting ability, but more often than not, if they had the right costume and so hiring became popular in the theatrical society.

As the times changed as did the need for costume and from stage came film. There were a number of costumes in further rooms, from notable films throughout history, such as this glamorous outfit from Mrs Henderson Presents.

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Some of the other costumes that caught my eye were from The Boyfriend – I just love those pompoms made from feathered fabric.

 

 

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Which also featured on a costume that holds good memories for me from, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus (the first film my husband and I  ever watched together), but sadly the last film Heath Ledger was in, as he died before filming was completed.

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And this Jazzy beauty from Mommie Dearest, which had so much beading on it, that the hat was worth more than most designer gowns at the time alone. I might have to recreate this look (minus the hat).

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From film came TV and the continuation with the British love of comedy, as seen in a number of outfits from Only Fools and Horses, The Good Life, Dad’s Army and The Morecambe and Wise Show, with this fantastic Cleopatra costume made for Glenda Jackson in 1971.

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Another TV favourite of mine was the infamous Dr. Who outfit, and specifically scarf, developed for Tom Baker who was Dr. Who number 4.

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The story of the Angel family was spread out with the garments on a walking timeline of their work, and showed how the family has been through a lot to be where it is today, showing that perseverance can lead to success, but success is not with out it’s drawbacks along the way.

The company never lost sight of who they were and continued to create garments for theatre, now with most companies keeping the costumes to be used on tours and ongoing shows the company do not hire out, but rather help to create such items as this interesting and quirky ensemble form Wicked.

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What became more and more evident as I walked around the exhibition is that costumery is a real art, and the attention to detail, was the real winner in many of these costumes.

Take for example, this costume for the up coming stage performance of Mrs Henderson Presents.

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To create such seamlessness on this bodice the sequins would have to be sewn over the seams, by hand.

Of any of these Royal replicas for filming purposes.

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This is a replica made for Harrods, but is being used in a Netflix show about the royals, soon to be released.

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Just look at that detail!!!

 

The craftsmanship that goes into costumery, even if for charity or fun, is insane and the team work that takes place to create garments of such quality is to be valued. So often we don’t even notice the costumes of extras in films, and that’s kind of the point.

Overall I was really impressed with the skill and ability of those involved in the creation of all the costumes. The story of the family intertwined with the work the company produced, added to the interest of many of the items, but one thing that did disappoint is that for what ever reason, many of the costumes on display were not originals, but exact copies, but copies non the less.

If you are interested in costume, for either film or stage it is well worth a visit, but for those who are interested in fashion, I’d probably give this one a miss.

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