top of page

Marilyn Monroe, Elton John and Tina Turner outfits to star in Diva exhibition

The V&A display will include Sir Elton’s Louis XIV inspired look worn for his 50th birthday celebration.

Sir Elton John’s 50th birthday outfit, designed by Sandy Powell, is among the items on display (V&A/PA)

The V&A display will include Sir Elton’s Louis XIV inspired look worn for his 50th birthday celebration.

Outfits worn by Marilyn Monroe, Sir Elton John and Tina Turner are to go on show at a museum in London.

More than 250 objects, made up of fashion, photography and music, will be showcased at the Victoria and Albert Museum’s (V&A) Diva exhibition from June.

The collection, which looks at movie stars, performers and opera singers, will explore how diva, meaning goddess in Italian, has been “subverted and embraced over time”, from the 19th century to the present day.

A sketch by Bob Mackie of a design for singer Tina Turner which will feature in the exhibition (Bob Mackie/V&A/PA)

One of the items being shown is the fringed black dress worn by Monroe in Some Like It Hot, which won an Oscar for costume design and earned the actress a Golden Globe.

In the 1959 comedy film, she stars as ukulele player and singer Sugar “Kane” Kowalczyk who has two men – played by Jack Lemmon and Tony Curtis – compete for her affection while they are dressed as women who are pursued by gangsters.

The more than 60 outfits on display at the V&A will also include costumes worn by Turner, Cher and P!nk, who had garments created by celebrity fashion designer Bob Mackie.

A costume, designed by Christian Dior, worn by Vivien Leigh in Duel Of Angels (V&A/PA)

Sir Elton’s Louis XIV inspired look, with powdered wig and train, worn by the singer-songwriter for his 50th birthday celebration in 1997, will be on display, as will Dame Shirley Bassey’s couture pink gown designed by Julien MacDonald with diamante-studded wellington boots which were worn on stage at Glastonbury in 2007.

Kate Bailey, curator of Diva, said:

“The V&A, with its world-class collections of art design and performance and its mission to inspire creativity in all its forms, is the perfect stage to celebrate the multifaceted Diva.

“Today the word diva holds a myriad of meanings. 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.”

Other key works on show include the only known surviving dress worn by actress Clara Bow, which the V&A said has rarely been seen outside of the US, the 1970s “Flame Dress” worn by singer Turner and designed by Mackie, and actress Vivien Leigh’s costume when she starred as Paola in Duel Of Angels by Jean Giraudoux at the Apollo Theatre in 1958.

Adelina Patti was a 19th century opera singer (Harewood House Trust/V&A/PA)

The exhibition is in two parts, with Act One focusing on “the goddesses of the stage and screen who have endured and shaped our popular culture today”.

Objects associated with the first opera “divas” Adelina Patti and Jenny Lind, silent-screen stars like Bow, and Bette Davis, Leigh and Monroe from the Golden Age of Hollywood all appear.

Act Two sees how the word diva has been redefined in the modern age and highlights Rihanna, Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, Sir Elton and Cher among other stars.

Diva will open at the V&A on June 24 and will run until April 7, 2024.


bottom of page