The cream-silk wedding suit with black piping worn by Meryl Streep wore for Karen Blixen’s marriage of convenience in 1985’s “Out of Africa.”
The flowing green velvet dress with a cream floral print worn by Eddie Redmayne as his character arrived at a German hospital for groundbreaking sex reassignment surgery in 2015’s “The Danish Girl.”
The deep purple silk gown worn by Judi Dench as the imposing 18th-century aristocrat Lady Catharine in 2005’s “Pride and Prejudice.”
Period films can soar or sink on the strength of their costumes, which must be accurate and dazzling at the same time. For examples of the best that clothing can bring to cinema, go see the “Cinematic Couture” exhibit currently on display at Troy’s Somerset Collection.
Forty outfits from movies ranging from 2003’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” to 2019’s “Little Women” to 2003’s “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen” are part of the free exhibition, which is installed in the mall’s North Grand Court.
It offers an up-close look at some of the most memorable costumes from more than four decades of filmmaking. And, oh, the Hollywood legends who’ve inhabited the clothing: Sean Connery, Julie Andrews, Robert Downey Jr., Angela Lansbury, Dev Patel, Nicole Kidman and enough other A-listers to pack an Oscar red carpet.
This exhibition of “very dramatic period pieces,” as Somerset Collection general manager Kate Millea describes it, is an example of retailtainment (that’s retail plus entertainment), a concept that helps provide memorable shopping experiences at Somerset and other places that employ it.
Visitors can take their time looking at the costumes, find out more about them from docents who are stationed at “Cinematic Couture” and pore over a booklet that’s part of the event.
The costumes were curated for and loaned to Somerset Collection by Cosprop, a London costume house that’s internationally renowned for its authentic reproductions of clothing for films set from the early 1700s to the swinging 1960s
The house was started by John Bright, who won an Oscar for his costumes for 1985’s Merchant-Ivory classic “A Room with a View.”
Back in 2007, Cosprop sent 40 costumes to Somerset Collection for the original “Cinematic Couture” show at the site. With movies like “Barbie” and “Oppenheimer” once again drawing huge audiences to theaters after the pandemic shutdowns and post-pandemic filmgoing lulls, it once again seems appropriate to celebrate the fashion side of filmmaking.
Period costumes don’t just decorate a character. They help define who exactly that person on the big screen is, as is the case with the military-themed gown and elaborately festooned hat worn by Keira Knightley in 2008’s “The Duchess,” the story of the unhappy young wife of the Duke of Devonshire who treated like an accessory to her famous and cruel husband.
Cosprop exhibition manager Judith Bright says via email that there is “a real hunger” among people to see such costumes in person. “Costume exhibitions are an opportunity to get closer to the stories and to appreciate the quality of outfits which are often only fleetingly glanced on the screen,” notes Bright.
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The oldest costumes on display are those donned by Bette Davis and Angela Lansbury in 1978’s “Death on the Nile.” The most recent is the deep-blue gown worn by Claire Foy (“The Crown”) in 2021’s “The Electric Life of Louis Wain.”
The most interesting comparison? The Regency-era outfits worn by the stars of two different adaptations of “Emma,” Gwyneth Paltrow in the 1996 version of Jane Austen’s novel and Anya Taylor-Joy in the 2020 update.
The most beautiful? That’s in the eye of the beholder. But that the cream silk robe appliqued with red velvet and gold lame worn by Kate Winslet in 2004’s “Finding Neverland” is worth the trip to Oakland County alone.
Contact Detroit Free Press pop culture critic Julie Hinds at email@example.com.