Sandy Powell, a costume designer, purchased the outfit from a charity boss and gave it to the museum

The Victoria and Albert Museum acquired Sandy Powell’s unique “autograph suit”, a costume designer, which was signed by more 200 Hollywood stars and luminaries, including Leonardo DiCaprio and Spike Lee.

The suit was worn by Powell in 2020’s film awards season. It was part of an Art Fund fundraising effort to save Prospect Cottage. Edwina Dunn (chief executive of The Female Lead), purchased it and gave it to the V&A.

“I initiated the project as a fundraiser to save Prospect Cottage, but the notion of “where is it going to end up?” haunted me,” Powell said. “Edwina granted my wish and I am grateful that someone bought it. It is now where it was meant to be.”

Powell wore a cream suit to events such as the 2020 Critics Circle, Baftas, and Oscar ceremonies. She asked A-list celebrities to sign their names with Sharpies across the suit’s fabric. Al Pacino, Joaquin Phoenix, Scarlett Johansson, and Billie Eilish, among other signatories.

“I had received an Oscar nomination as well as a Bafta nomination in The Irishman. I thought, “that’s nice, but what am I going to be wearing?,” Powell says. “I had an idea to wear something sustainable and I suddenly thought it would be fun to raise money. I wore the same suit to every event I attended for two weeks. Every event, every party.”

Certain parts of the suit were more signature-friendly than others. Richard E Grant had the nerve to sign Powell’s leg while Gwendoline Christine signed the inside. Powell stated, “I only let women sign the bum.” “Brad Pitt is hiding under a lapel.”

The multi-Oscar and Bafta-winning costume designer has worked in theatre, dance, and film. She credits Jarman with having been a part of her first feature film Caravaggio in 1985.

She stated, “He was my first film director and he really kicked started my career. He was a great man and I owe him so much.”

Prospect Cottage, an old fisherman’s hut situated on the windswept shores in Dungeness is a popular pilgrimage site for Jarman’s fans around the globe.

Powell’s suit is among highlights from the V&A National Collection of Performing Arts, which will air on Wednesday. It’s also one of the four stars featured in the BBC Two’s Secret of the Museum series that will air Wednesday night.

Kate Bailey, senior curator of theatre, performance, and theatre at the V&A said that the suit was an “extraordinary object which is so rich with stories and creativity.” It’s wonderful to share this amazing work with our visitors. It provides such an interesting insight into the performing arts sector.

Dunn stated: “Sandy is a passionate member of our celebrated Female Leader icons and when her suit went up for auction, we bought it as a tangible symbol of our belief that ‘we lift others’.

“For me, the suit represents a collective effort of making a difference. It is an expression of ‘paying forward’. Together, the signatories saved Prospect Cottage which will be used as an inspiration place for young artists.

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