Tech Brings Movie Costumes To Life At Decorative Arts Center

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Viewers of the next exhibition at the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio will be able to travel through cinematic time, thanks to interactive technology programmed by an Ohio University Lancaster Alumna and Adjunct Professor.

The costumes in Designing Woman: Edith Head at Paramount 1924–1967 will come to life as visitors play short clips from movies on an iPad stationed in each gallery.

The augmented reality application was designed and developed by Carol Abbott of Lancaster.

“This puts the costumes in their context,” said Abbott. “Context is a major aid to understanding events, people and their history. By seeing the movies and seeing the costumes on display, it helps people understand how the costumes were important in creating the characters in these movies.”

Edith Head is one of the most recognizable names in film fashion history. During her 60-year career, she worked on more than 1,000 films, garnered 35 Academy Award nominations and won eight.

Head designed many of the iconic costumes worn by Barbara Stanwyck, Loretta Young, Veronica Lake, Bing Crosby, Bob Hope and Dorothy Lamour. The exhibit opens June 7.

“I hope the movie clips on the iPads help people understand the world the costumes were made for,” said Abbott.

The Center will join a growing number of museums around the world that are using interactive technology to enhance exhibits. For Designing Woman, a virtual museum gallery has been created inside the iPad using photographs of the gallery and the costumes.

While the iPad remains in a display stand, patrons will be able to view the costumes in reality, and in augmented reality on the screen. A tap on a costume image will start a brief movie clip. Scenes were chosen to show the range of action required of a costume.

Abbott worked on the project for several months this winter. She had to find copies of  the movies, find the costume in each movie and edit clips together that showcased the costumes.

“OUL Library Director Judy Carey Nevin helped me locate some of the last movies that I could not find,” said Abbott. “It was a good thing this was such a long, cold winter. It gave me the time to put this all together.”

The app includes 35 clips from each of 31 movies made between 1937 (True Confession) and 1965 (Harlow). Clips are generally about a minute long, and include abbreviated titles and the costume in action.

The range of time these costumes actually appeared on screen varies. Some are seen for as little as three seconds (Martha Raye’s matador cape in Tropic Holiday) and some for a large portion of the film (Carole Lombard’s dress in True Confession).

Abbott graduated from OUL in 1981 with an associate’s degree in Electronics Technology. She went on to get a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree from Ohio State in Mechanical Engineering. Abbott then earned a PhD in Interdisciplinary Arts and Sciences from Ohio University 2011. She is currently teaching algebra classes at Ohio University Lancaster.

In partnership with the Decorative Arts Center of Ohio, an Edith Head Film Festival will be held at Ohio University Lancaster’s Wagner Theatre on Saturday, Aug. 16. The Lady Eve, staring Barbara Stanwyck and Henry Fonda, will be shown at 2 p.m. and To Catch a Thief, staring Grace Kelly and Cary Grant, will be shown at 4 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.