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From Marilyn Monroe to Tina Turner: London's V&A presents the iconic looks of "divas"

Installation images of DIVA at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Installation images of DIVA at the Victoria and Albert Museum Copyright Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum
Copyright Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum
By Theo FarrantAP
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The exhibition features dresses worn by Marilyn Monroe, Tina Turner, Whitney Houston, Rihanna and Édith Piaf.

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Divas are taking centre stage at a new major fashion exhibition at London's esteemed V&A museum. 

From the enchanting Marilyn Monroe to the flamboyant Elton John, "DIVA" pays homage to the iconic performers who have captured our hearts and become feminist icons, anti-racism champions, and LGBTQ advocates.

With 60 ensembles and more than 250 objects, including mesmerising costumes, photographs, posters, rare magazines, film and video clips, the exhibition immerses visitors in the stories and glamour of these extraordinary figures. 

Senior curator Kate Bailey's vision was to showcase how the term "diva" is being reclaimed as a powerful term that transcends traditional gender boundaries. 

Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum
Marilyn Monroe ensemble installation at the Victoria and Albert Museum's "DIVA" exhibitionCredit: Victoria & Albert Museum

The exhibition explores the evolution of the diva's role, highlighting the ways in which it has been subverted and embraced throughout history. 

Gai Terrell/Redferns
tinaGai Terrell/Redferns

One of the highlights is the homage paid to Tina Turner, who sadly died last month. Turner's famous flame dress, designed by the legendary Bob Mackie, is on display, symbolising her fiery and unforgettable stage presence.

Mackie, known for his iconic creations worn by Cher, Tina Turner and Pink, offered outfits and sketches from his personal archive to emphasise the ever-evolving nature of diva culture.

While the exhibition features contemporary artists such as Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Lil Nas X, Janelle Monáe, Elton John, Billie Eilish, and Lizzo, curator Kate Bailey takes particular pride in the older items that hold historical and sentimental value. 

Pieces like the Cleopatra dress worn by Theda Bara, which survives despite the film being lost, Josephine Baker's chateau in France and Maria Callas' onstage for her portrayal of Norma in the Covent Garden Opera Company's production of 'Norma' in 1952, provide a profound connection to the past.

Credit: Victoria & Albert Museum
A dress worn by Whitney Houston on display at the V&A's "DIVA" exhibitionCredit: Victoria & Albert Museum

Among the standout artefacts are Sade and Aretha Franklin's handwritten lyrics, Edith Piaf's throat spray, and Mary Pickford's makeup box. 

The exhibition also features dresses worn by beloved figures like Judy Garland, Whitney Houston, Elizabeth Taylor, and Joan Crawford. 

"DIVA" runs until 7 April 2024, at the prestigious Victoria & Albert Museum in London. 

Check out the video above for a look inside the exhibition.

Video editor • Theo Farrant

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