When visiting the Hollywood Costume exhibition at the Victoria & Albert Museum this week, I nearly got tears in my eyes. When you’re a big fan of all things classic and contemporary cinema (excluding the typical Summer romantic comedy and the feel-good family Christmas films), standing in front of Indiana Jones’s original leather jacket or anything even touched by Edith Head can really make you feel overwhelmed. It also, however, made me think of myself in a strange new light – who exactly am I?
I’m certainly not Cleopatra, nor Scarlett O’Hara. I’ve never been a particularly flashy or feminine person when it comes to getting dressed, I’m not a femme fatale at all and I’d much rather be in Edward Norton’s dull grey suit from “Fight Club” or Marlene Dietrich’s fabulous tuxedo. Unfortunately, I’ve always had a bit of a Marilyn Monroe silhouette going on, which makes the elegant androgynous style completely impossible for me to pull off and unlike women in the movies I am not accustomed to nor is it practical for me to wear a dress every single day of my life. I’ve had to compromise – big time – between my blatant preference for menswear and staple classics and my undying love of, surprisingly, 1920s sequined flapper gowns – think Renée Zellweger as Roxie Hart in Chicago. This leads to a closet full of intricately beaded tops, boyfriend blazers, crisp white shirts, brogues and skinny jeans in every colour of the rainbow, muted down to darker hues.
I wonder what my clothes say about me. Am I too spread-out across the board to be a single iconic character, or is it my own multiplicity that makes me identifiable? At the end of the day, so many things inspire me that I get confused and end up going back to the classics – the Burberry trench, the black boots. But in 2012 it’s no longer about creating a character, unless you are Lady Gaga; it’s about being true to yourself, whoever you are, and if you can take inspiration without becoming a copy (of a copy of a copy, to quote my favourite film) your style, however you or others decide to describe it, will speak for you.
If you’re in London, the V&A Hollywood Costume exhibition is a must-see. Proper review to come later.