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New Museum of Art costume exhibit can help fall semester curriculum come alive

A new exhibit at BYU's Museum of Art (MOA) brings famous films - and history - to life and provides an unusual teaching opportunity for BYU faculty.

CUT! Costume and the Cinema is a traveling collection of forty period costumes worn by the leads of more than two-dozen popular motion pictures including Pirates of the CaribbeanSense and Sensibility and Phantom of the Opera. The exhibition, which showcases the work of London costume house Cosprop Ltd, opens this Friday, July 11, and runs through December 6.

BYU Professors should be especially interested in this exhibit said MOA’s Museum Educator Kalisha Grimsman because the historically accurate and intricately constructed pieces can be used as an impactful educational supplement in disciplines such as history, media, English and arts, as well as many other subjects.

"There's something about physical presence that is striking and memorable," Grimsman said. "[It’s often easy to] underestimate the power of inanimate objects to empower learning."

Films represented in the exhibition depict five centuries of history, drama, comedy, fantasy and adventure through costumes worn by famous film stars including Johnny Depp, Keira Knightley, Daniel Craig, Kate Winslet and Sandra Bullock.

This exhibition can inspire university students to think critically as they consider how the costumes were produced, how fashion is changing and how fashion reflects history, said Grimsman. Students can also compare the historical portraiture with the contemporary costumes and contemplate how the costumes affect the way the subjects think, move and act.

Any faculty and staff who are interested in learning how to incorporate this exhibit into curriculum this fall can contact Grimsman directly. She will work with you one-on-one to create tailored tours that meet specific class objectives.

The exhibit’s curator, Nancy Lawson, a New York theater and international film industry regular, said costumes similar to the ones on display ignited her interest in history.

"I was never really into history before - I was always into theater and film," Lawson said. "Until I started doing costume exhibitions about ten years ago, history was just foreign, it didn't really affect me, I didn't really care. And this has kind of changed my life - it has given depth to my life." 

According to Lawson, the pieces must be seen in person to be truly appreciated. 

"To see them up close is very exciting," she said. "It's the craftsmanship, it's the quality of design, it's how it relates to the actor becoming that character. If Keira Knightley has to wear a corset, she can only move a certain way. She's going to move like that Duchess did and that informs [Knightley] so much."

To celebrate the opening of CUT!, the MOA will host a Hollywood Red Carpet Night this Friday, July 11, from 7 to 9 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and attendees are invited to dress in their red carpet best. An outdoor film showing of Pirates of the Carribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl will begin that night at 9 p.m. in the MOA Sculpture Garden.

Attendance to the exhibition is free and tickets are not required. More information about the exhibition and related programming can be found on the MOA's website.


An eighteenth century-styled purple silk court gown worn by Keira Knightley in "The Duchess."

Johnny Depp's pirate-style costume from his famous role as Captain Jack Sparrow in "Pirates of the Caribbean" is based on Restoration fashion from the eighteenth century. Image courtesy of PhotoFest

Kate Winslet wore this cream silk night dress and robe in "Finding Neverland."
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