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Academy Celebrates the Costumes That Make the Movies

Deborah Nadoolman Landis is known for her encyclopedic knowledge on the subject of costume design. But the curator of the Academy’s upcoming Hollywood Costume Exhibition didn’t just trust her own opinion when she began researching the list of items to be included in the project when it first opened in 2007 at London’s V&A. Instead, she asked everyone from her mother and mother-in-law on down for ideas about the movies (and the costumes) that resonated with them.

“For me, movies are about falling in and a complete surrender to the story,” says Landis. “I didn’t want to have an exhibition of great costumes from movies that were forgettable films.”

This meant going beyond the scope of best picture winners or concentrating on obvious choices like overly corseted and bejeweled period dramas to include pieces from films like “Borat” and even her own work from “The Raiders of the Lost Ark,” along with designs from classics like “The Wizard of Oz” and “Singin’ in the Rain.”

“Popular movies don’t often win Oscars,” she says, adding that “What’s also true is I have many films that won best picture, but the costume would have never been considered to be best costume design. Like ‘Argo;’ if a movie’s best picture, then the costumes would be great.”

Hollywood Costume Exhibition runs Oct. 2 to March 2 at the Wilshire May Building. Ticket information and hours can be found at Oscars.org.

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