Hollywood Costumes Left Me “Seeing Stars!”

“It’s rare to find an art showcase that appeals to all age groups, but the Oklahoma City Museum of Art seems to have pulled it off.  Sketch to Screen: The Art of Hollywood Costume Design is for anyone who has ever seen a movie…at least in the last 100 years.”

 That’s the opening paragraph to a story I recently wrote about the costume exhibit. (Link to “A Star-Studded Cast of Hollywood Costumes)  http://distinctlyoklahoma.com/content/view/615/62/

 And I believe it whole-heartedly.  Why?  Because I spent hours watching museum visitors react to the new costume exhibit.  Women hovered near the opulent dresses, children raced to the cartoon characters, and men flocked to the superhero costumes.  The words, “I saw that movie!” rang through the exhibit hall.  Favorite movie scenes were retold.  And no one rushed through. 

Brian Hearn (Film Curator), Sandy Schreier (Collector of over 15,000 costumes) and Jennifer Klos, Associate Curator). Photo from Leslie Spears.

Such reactions were exactly what the museum curators, Jennifer Klos and Brian Hearn, hoped for when they assembled this one-time collection.  It took three years just to find the costumes, secure permission to use them, raise the funding, and market the exhibit.  Three years of work for a 3 ½ month display—but the overwhelming response has been worth it. 

“Employees are saying that the museum has come alive!” said Klos. 

 “We have a hit on our hands!” said Hearn. 

 My own involvement with Sketch to Screen began in the Fall of 2009.  I was taking a Museum Studies class, and Klos was a guest lecturer.  With great passion, she shared how her background in textiles had prompted her to see costumes as an art form. 

 “Art is looking at culture and history, not just paintings,” she explained. “Costume design is a vital, creative aspect of 20th century film, worth elevating to the level of fine art.”

 As she outlined her plans to include both male and female garments, and talked about the huge span of movies that would be represented, I sensed the excitement of the other students (of all ages) in the class. 

 Hmmm…here was a story that needed to be written.   

Source: Oklahoma City Museum of Art webpage at http://www.okcmoa.com

Klos and Hearn kindly granted me several interview sessions and invited me to the grand opening.  Their obvious enthusiasm and knowledge was compelling, and I felt privileged to hear their behind-the-scenes stories; traveling to Hollywood to see the collections stored in boxes and discovering photos that had never been placed into context with the costumes before.  No wonder they struggled to write the short text panels—they had so much more to say.     

 When I saw the costumes for the first time, I realized that the garments themselves hold a special power that only comes in the seeing. 

  • How teenie-tiny the women were a century ago. 
  • How fake some costumes look in real life—but oh-so-sensational on screen. 
  • How worn out Fred Astaire’s tap shoes were from hours of dancing. 
  • Audrey Hepburn really wore that! 

 This exhibit attests to the power of movies in American culture.  As I said, “Sketch to Screen: The Art of Hollywood Costume Design is for anyone who has ever seen a movie…at least in the last 100 years.”

 Klos and Hearn truly brought this off-screen production to life. 

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3 Comments

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3 responses to “Hollywood Costumes Left Me “Seeing Stars!”

  1. Wonderful article, Amy!

    God Bless,
    Susan

  2. Leslie

    Thank you Amy! This is wonderful. We’ve tweeted and facebooked it out!

    • Thank you so much, Leslie! The staff at the Oklahoma City Museum of Art was so accomodating and easy to work with. It was really an honor to share your story!

      Amy Dee Stephens
      “Words carry time and culture.”

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