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The CCHS Historical Costumes Collection

Spring 2007

by: Louise Coffey-Webb, Costume Committee Chair

March, 2007 saw the transfer of the MGM costume collection from temporary storage, into the new Culver City Historical Society “Archives and Resource Center” (ARC), housed in the Veteran’s Memorial Building. My “Spring Break” from teaching and curating at Woodbury University, was spent examining the collection, photographing and re-packing these precious items with archival tissue.

I first heard about the costumes some 15 years ago, and they had remained mythical for me ever since until this past week when they actually materialized! These costumes were originally donated to the city after the famous auction of 1970 held by David Weisz, from the then MGM lot. Many of the costumes are identified by wearer and film. Further research has found the year they were created and the costume designer. When studios had their own full-service wardrobe departments, no expense was spared in quality and design.

So it has been a treat to see the creative expertise exemplified in the construction of many of the costumes. For example, many bodices are boned and lined, with special weights inserted into hems and seams to insure the garment hung appropriately. There are voluminous attached petticoats, some with lace and frills that were never seen on film. Metallic laces, rhinestones, sequins, pleated mousselline and ruched ribbons adorn these period costumes.

All items are being photographed and records made of their condition, while all previous inventories are being compared. There will be no more “fashion shows” of these garments as their purpose now will be to educate and delight while being preserved for future generations.

Plans for the future include maintaining museum-quality storage standards, and the acquisition of professional display forms and cases so that these marvels can be appreciated when the Culver City Historical Society “ARC” opens to the public.

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