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5 outfits featured in new V&A fashion exhibition honouring divas

Costumes worn by Marilyn Monroe and Elton John will feature in the V&A’s Diva exhbition (Alamy/Neil Munns/PA)

The upcoming show brings together outfits from stars of stage and screen. By Katie Wright.


Glamourous outfits worn by Marilyn Monroe, Elton John and Cher are among items set to be shown in a new V&A fashion exhibition.

Opening in June, the London show – called ‘Diva’ – celebrates the power and creativity of performers from the 19th century to today, with over 250 objects on display.

“Today the word diva holds a myriad of meanings,” curator Kate Bailey said.

“At the heart of this exhibition is a story of iconic performers who with creativity, courage and ambition have challenged the status quo and used their voice and their art to redefine and reclaim the diva.”

Split into two acts, the exhibition traces the history of stage and screen legends, starting with opera divas such as Maria Callas and Jenny Lind, and acting icons including Monroe, Vivien Leigh and Clara Bow.

Celebrating modern divas, act two looks at how groundbreaking performers such as Debbie Harry, RuPaul and Janelle Monae have changed the fashion landscape.

These are some of the divas featured in the exhibition…

1. Marilyn Monroe

Marilyn Monroe in a publicity photo for Some Like It Hot (Alamy/PA)

One of the highlights of act one is the black fringed V-neck dress worn by Marilyn Monroe in her role as Sugar ‘Kane’ Kowalczyk in 1959’s Some Like It Hot.

2. Maria Callas

Opera stars Maria Callas (right) and Tito Gobbi in a scene from Tosca (PA)

Split into two acts, the exhibition traces the history of stage and screen legends, starting with opera divas such as Maria Callas and the velvet dress she wore in Franco Zeffirelli’s production of Tosca.

3. Tina Turner

Sketch of Flame dress for Tina Turner by Bob Mackie, 1977 (Bob Mackie/V&A/PA)

Designer Bob Mackie was responsible for Tina Turner’s iconic ‘Flame Dress’.

Designed in 1977, the sequinned dress was a copy of a version originally made for Cher.

4. Elton John

Elton John (L), leaving his London home with his partner, David Furnish, for his 50th birthday party (Neil Munns/PA)

Elton John’s 50th birthday costume, designed by Sandy Powell, is one of the most extravagant outfits on show.

Dressed up as King Louis XIV, the pop star donned a white frock coat and 15-foot feathered train and a three-foot-tall wig topped with a miniature Spanish warship and cannon.

The train was so huge, John had to travel to the party venue, Hammersmith Palais music hall, in the back of a lorry.

5. Shirley Bassey

Dame Shirley Bassey after her performance on the Pyramid Stage at the 2007 Glastonbury Festival (Yui Mok/PA)

Diva will also display the gown Welsh songstress Dame Shirley Bassey wore to headline the legends slot at Glastonbury in 2007.

The bespoke pink dress and diamanté-studded Wellington boots were created by Welsh designer Julien Macdonald.

“It is wonderful to see the diva celebrated in this exhibition, and to see the V&A reclaiming the title,” Bassey said.

“To me, ‘diva’ is all about the power of the voice and the ability to entertain, to succeed against odds, to fight, and break through barrier after barrier: to have your voice heard.”

Diva opens at the V&A on June 24. Tickets are on sale now.


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