“Fashion from the Classics” exhibit opens Feb. 10 at Biltmore

Press release from Biltmore:

The artistry of great literary works, costume design, and movie making comes together in “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics,” Biltmore’s new exhibition premiering in Biltmore House on Feb. 10, 2017. Inspired by George Vanderbilt’s love of literature, “Designed for Drama” showcases more than 40 award-winning movie costumes from films based on favorite books in his collection. The exhibition will run through July 4, 2017.

George Vanderbilt: A well-read man
Once recognized as “one of the best read men in the country” by New York media, Vanderbilt amassed a library of more than 22,000 volumes at his North Carolina home. A reader from an early age, he began at the age of 12 keeping a record of the books he had read, including the title and author of each work. By his death in 1914, Vanderbilt had logged 3,159 books. He also counted leading authors of the era as personal friends, including Henry James, Paul Leicester Ford, and Edith Wharton—all of whom stayed at Biltmore House as guests of George and Edith Vanderbilt.

That literary connection is a central theme in the exhibition, with the original books from Vanderbilt’s library that inspired the films accompanying the costumes. This also marks the first time most of the volumes have been displayed to the public.

Wide-ranging fashions in Biltmore House
The exhibition features elaborate costumes from 14 recent films that bring literary characters to life, from the entertaining detective duo of Holmes and Watson in “Sherlock Holmes” to the creation of the Peter Pan story in “Finding Neverland.” The grand fashions of 19th century Russia are strikingly portrayed in “Anna Karenina,” while the simpler attire of Jane Austen’s characters in “Pride and Prejudice” portrays one of the BBC miniseries’ most memorable scenes.

The costumes on display reveal the attention to detail involved in period costume design, and represent the work of costume designers at the highest level of their profession, numbering Academy Awards and Emmys among their honors.

“We have an exquisite dress that Nicole Kidman wore in ‘The Portrait of a Lady,’” says Leslie Klingner, Biltmore’s curator of interpretation. “It’s black and gold, embroidered with flat sequins correct to the time period. This stunning and spectacular dress comes alive in Biltmore House.”

A collaborative effort
This is Biltmore’s third costume exhibition, all of which brought together the estate’s Museum Services team and Cosprop Ltd., London, an award-winning costumier that has designed countless fashions for film and television productions around the ­­­globe. Work leading up to “Designed for Drama” has involved a new collaboration, this time with Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising in Los Angeles.

Carolyn Jamerson, the institute’s collections manager and chief mount maker, traveled to Biltmore to create wigs on-site for the costumed mannequins. Jamerson is one of a handful of paper wig designers and makers in the country. While she uses simple tools to construct each wig, the precision and attention to detail results in a life-like yet ethereal effect. The wigs, she says, are meant to provide texture and structure without distracting from the costume.

Admission to “Designed for Drama: Fashion from the Classics” is included with a visit to Biltmore. For information, visit www.biltmore.com.

About Alli Marshall
Alli Marshall is the arts section editor at Mountain Xpress. She's lived in Asheville for more than 20 years and loves live music, visual art, fiction and friendly dogs. Alli is the winner of the 2016 Thomas Wolfe Fiction Prize and the author of the novel "How to Talk to Rockstars," published by Logosophia Books. Follow me @alli_marshall

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