Ohio Decorative Arts Center spotlights fashion and costume from Paramount Pictures

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Ohio Decorative Arts Center spotlights fashion and costume from Paramount Pictures

By: Emily Votaw

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On Saturday June 5, Ohio Decorative Arts Center in Lancaster will open its first in-person exhibition of 2021: Distinctly Paramount: Fashion and Costumes from the Paramount Pictures Archives. The exhibition will run until January 2, 2022 and showcase a wide range of pieces from designers such as Alexander McQueen, Nolan Miller, Edith Head and many more who have appeared in various Paramount Pictures productions.

The exhibit is curated by Randall Thropp, director of the Paramount Picture costume and prop archives and native of Lancaster. Distinctly Paramount marks the fourth exhibit that Thropp has brought from the West Coast to the Ohio Center for the Decorative Arts.

Between the final touch-ups at the exhibition, Thropp took the time to do a short question-and-answer session with WOUB Culture.

WOUB Culture: What has been your conservation strategy for Distinctly primordial?

Randall Thropp: Well I have been working on this exhibit for over a year now because its subject matter is so vast. My big inspiration for this dates back to the start of the pandemic, when I bought a coffee table book called Bill Cunningham: In the Streets: Five Decades of Iconic Photography. Bill Cunningham was a photographer who took a lot of candid photos for the New York Times – so the book is sort of like a very first New York street fashion blog that was published in the newspaper to document what the people wore from the late 60s. It’s an amazing book. So I was going through it, and I was like “wow, this is really interesting – just capturing all these different trends and styles with these totally candid photographs”, and I realized I had great things in the Paramount collection that aren’t necessarily star pieces, but they were bought for stars and not used on camera. So I went into our warehouse and looked through part of our collection, and I found all of these designer pieces, a lot of which were bought off the shelf, and all related to cinema in some way.

So, the impetus of the exhibition was to showcase purchased costumes and costumes designed and created from scratch – mixing high-end fashion pieces with costume design pieces designed to look like high-end fashion. range. The oldest piece to be on display is a lounge pajama designed by Travis Banton dating from around 1928, and the most recent pieces are very recent, until 2019.

Every day it’s like dressing up like you’re an actor and that’s how you’re going to dress for the role you’re going to play that day. What you wear reflects your personality, your mood, the way you want to present yourself. It’s about how much of your own character you really are, dressing up every day. – Randall Thropp

OUB: What does it mean to you to bring this exhibit to your hometown?

RT: Well, this is the fourth that I do, and it’s always fun to bring things to people because let’s face it: a lot of people, especially with COVID and travel restrictions; they won’t come to Hollywood to see these costumes. So we bring them here.

Also, not for bragging or anything, but many of the other exhibits I brought to the Decorative Arts Center were picked up by other museums after being shown at the Ohio Decorative Arts Center. The Edith Head exhibition that I presented here was taken over by the Bendigo Art Gallery in Australia – they saw it online and decided to exhibit it there. In fact, the Oklahoma City Museum of Art recently contacted me because they want to show the Edith Head exhibit which was shown here first. It’s interesting what social media did for the promotion. Without you realizing that you are actually promoting something, it just happens because people are photographing things and posting them on Facebook or Instagram.

OUB: I know we were just talking about how difficult it was to explain some of these pieces without seeing them in person before our interview, but I was curious: could you tell us about some of your favorite pieces from the show?

RT: Well, there are several that I’m really in love with. There’s a black Edith Head dress from around 1936, and it’s the quintessential sexy 1930s party dress. We also have a costume that Veronica Lake wore in the 1942 movie. The glass key, which is a very famous film noir. But I got pieces like this Alexander McQueen suit from Zoolander 2 – which is really eye-catching, really fantastic. We also have these amazing Victorian pieces – those handcrafted pieces from Budapest, Hungary that were made to The alienist – they’re just impeccably made, beautiful costume pieces.

WOUB: What do you hope people who visit the exhibition leave?

RT: It’s a good question. I think I really want people to appreciate the juxtaposition of the work of great fashion designers, like Giorgio Armani, and costume designers, like Edith Head. But, going back to Bill Cunningham’s book, what I really want people to think about is how everyone really dresses up all the time. Every day it’s like dressing up like you’re an actor and that’s how you’re going to dress for the role you’re going to play that day. What you wear reflects your personality, your mood, the way you want to present yourself. It’s about how much of your own character you really are, dressing up every day. That’s the subtext – but really, what I want people to do, if they can, is come here to see the exhibit in person. I would say about 80 percent of this show I’ve never shown anywhere before – and this is the first show I’ve shown shoes in.

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