For the past century, L.A.’s Western Costume Company has dressed leading ladies and men in some of the most iconic outfits in modern cinema—from the famous ruby-red slippers that transported Dorothy home in The Wizard of Oz to “that robe” worn by Charlton Heston in The Ten Commandments.
To celebrate Western’s 100th anniversary, the Costume Council of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) will host a gala at the Bing Theater on June 20, featuring a panel discussion with renowned designers and a catwalk show with 42 ensembles from Hollywood’s most memorable films, including a re-creation of Scarlet O’Hara’s green velvet dress from Gone with the Wind, as well as original Western fashions for Titanic and The Artist. Below, VF.com provides an exclusive sneak peek into the fabled costume house’s world of dress-up.
During the LACMA gala’s catwalk show, an actor depicting Marc Antony will wear a breastplate and Roman-military regalia from Western’s armory room. Given the workmanlike nature of the costume business—one that is constantly in flux and feeding film productions—it is hard to date exactly how old these tin pieces are, but Garland estimates that some are from the turn of the 20th century.
Western Costume founder L. L. Burns (far left) began his career as a specialized trader in Native American wares and originally struck up the idea of the costume house in 1912 after admonishing silent-filmmaker William S. Hart for the inauthentic look of his frontier films. Soon a lucrative partnership was born between the director and Burns, and Western Costume became the go-to fashion laboratory in the film industry. “He was the original hustler,” Bobi Garland, director of the Western Costume Library and Archive, says of Burns, who appears here on the set of Cecil Blount DeMille’s film The Squaw Man (1914).