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MGM/The Kobal Collection

Who’s Indiana Jones without his hat, the Little Tramp minus his bowler or Dorothy sans her ruby slippers? Characters, sure, but definitely less-convincing ones. Which is exactly the premise of “Hollywood Costume,” an exhibit exploring the significance of costume design in filmmaking that debuts this month at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. The show, which is broken into three sections — Deconstruction, Dialogue and Finale — features 100-plus pieces from some of the most famous Hollywood films made over the last 100 years.
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Paramount Pictures

The exhibit opens by first explaining the art of the costume designer, who is tasked with developing the essence of the character as gleaned from the script and through period research; the process is fine-tuned by collaboration with directors and actors. Examples on hand include the aforementioned Raiders of the Lost Ark, Marie Antoinette and Fight Club, among others.

“On every film, the clothes are half the battle in creating the character,” says megastar Meryl Streep who, along with fellow chameleon Robert De Niro, offers curator-taped insights into the transformative power of costume attire as part of the Dialogue portion of the show.

The exhibit climaxes in a final gallery that features the memorably accessorized, from Audrey Hepburn’s column-sheathed, Givenchy-wearing Holly Golightly in Breakfast at Tiffany’s to Darth Vader’s more literal approach to black in the Star Wars epic.

The exhibit runs Oct. 20 to Jan. 27, 2013; www.vam.ac.uk