The costumes from Glenn Close’s collection that will be on display at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Museum of Art at Indiana University Bloomington give a small glimpse of the award-winning actress’s successful and wide-ranging career. Visitors to ” The Art of the Character: Highlights from the Glenn Close Costume Collection” will see the elaborate ensembles she wore in her villainous role as Cruella De Vil, the heiress who dognaps Dalmatians for their fur, and the chic leather jacket she donned as Alex Forrest, the obsessed mistress in “Fatal Attraction,” among the 56 costumes from Close’s career representing 14 productions.
IU faculty, staff and students have worked behind the scenes for months to prepare the costumes for the exhibition’s opening. We asked them to share their favorite pieces from the collection.
Kelly Richardson, the curator for the Elizabeth Sage Historic Fashion Collection at the IU Eskenazi School of Art, Architecture + Design, likes Close’s “102 Dalmatians” prison costume the best.
“I think it’s just really a stroke of genius that they reframed her Cruella De Vil character as a fashion designer, not just as a fashion lover or fur lover,” Richardson said. “It really allowed them to push the limits in costuming. It’s a wonderful heavy linen and black velvet striped prison coat dress. “
Legendary designer Anthony Powell, who passed away April 16, designed Close’s wardrobe for “101” and “102 Dalmatians.” He took the idea of a striped prison uniform and turned it into an early 1960s mini dress, complete with Chanel-style handcuffs and shackles. Richardson said the way Powell used fashion to constantly reframe De Vil’s evolving character was genius.
Madi Bell, a costume technology MFA candidate who has worked with Close’s costumes, also said the prison outfit is her favorite.
“Most of the Cruella De Vil stuff is just insanely impeccable,” Bell said.
She especially admired the stripes and tights paired with the outfit. The tights were made with individually sewn stripes.
“That was just mind blowing,” she said.
Heather Milam, professor of practice and director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Theatre, Drama and Contemporary Dance, helped make some of the costumes when she worked for Barbara Matera Ltd. In the 1990s and has used that experience to advise Richardson ahead of the exhibition.
Milam said she loves all of the costumes from “101 Dalmatians” and “102 Dalmatians,” but she especially likes a snakeskin-print chiffon dress Close wore that includes feathers at the neck, hem and cuffs.
“The connection between character and costume is evident in ’101’ and ’102 Dalmatians’,” Milam said. “The costumes are Cruella De Vil just as much as Cruella De Vil is the costumes.”
Galina Olmsted, co-curator of “The Art of the Character,” has worked closely with Richardson to plan the exhibition and make sure the costumes displayed tell a cohesive story.
Olmsted said the pink silk organza cocktail dress that Close’s character Sunny von Bülow wears in “Reversal of Fortune” was a must-have in the exhibition and is her personal favorite costume.
Close wears the dress during a garden party scene where she fearlessly invites a tiger to drink from a teacup. Olmstead said it helped create the ultimate cool-girl persona.
“It’s just exquisitely made,” Olmsted said. “It has cartridge pleating at the waist, matching pink gloves and matching jewelry.”
Olmsted said that while the costume isn’t contemporary, it’s a timeless silhouette.
“I’d like to imagine that if I got to attend a glamorous garden party with a tiger that it’s something I would choose for myself,” she said.
Close’s costumes will be on display at the Eskenazi Museum May 6 through Nov. 14. The exhibit is free and open to the public.
“A Close look at ‘The Art of the Character’” is a feature series that explores how IU Bloomington students, staff, faculty and students have helped prepare Glenn Close’s costumes for their first on-campus exhibition.