19 thoughts on “Farewell to Hollywood History’s Costume Queen: Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016)

  1. This is a great tribute to Debbie Reynolds. I wish she had created a museum for those Hollywood costumes, here in L.A. Or did she?

    By the way, the MGM designer Adrian didn’t create the costumes for “My Fair Lady”. Cecil Beaton did. Adrian had been dead for five years by the time the movie was released.

    1. Debbie Reynolds tried many times to create a museum to display the pieces, and make them ‘self-supporting’, in a way, so that the entry fees would cover the cost of housing, restoring and maintaining to costumes. I recently read her autobiography, Unsinkable, which includes the terribly sad story of she and her husband starting construction on a hotel/museum/theatre, with Debbie’s son, but the husband turned out to be a cheating bastard who was actually trying to sabotage the building and steal as much money as he could.
      Alas, no one was interested in helping Debbie take care of the costumes, or display them- and the places that were interested, simply couldn’t afford to do it.
      It’s a kind of sad tale, but Debbie was often ahead of her times! Her realisation that these costumes were history is an example of this.

  2. Lovely tribute. But I don’t think it was necessary to paint Debbie as a flawed mother. If anything, the estrangement was more Carrie than Debbie. Debbie was a working mother who never gave up on her daughter and was always there for her, even when Carrie was not. Theirs was an unconditional love. May they both finally rest in peace.

      1. The article currently reads “a devoted, if not flawed, mother” – shouldn’t it be “a devoted, if flawed, mother”?

  3. Thank you for your article on Ms Reynolds’ attempt at saving Hollywood Costume History.
    I, too, am hopeful that these legendary costumes/clothes will see the light of day in a permanent exhibition and location. Perhaps, Lucas, Spielberg, Sir Peter Jackson, James Cameron and/or Bill and Melinda Gates will come to the rescue.

  4. I remember seeing the collection at the Debbie Reynolds casino in Las Vegas around 1990. As I remember the admission was reasonable and the costumes fascinating to view. Too bad they couldn’t keep them together for the public.

  5. I’m always astonished when I hear about the bad old days of movie costumes being basically thrown out in the garbage. I work with theatrical costumes and replacement costs for super basic not-at-all exciting garments can be thousands of dollars, for fancy stuff we’re talking tens of thousands. Movie costumes are so much more iconic, so fabulously made, and in so much better condition, how the hell could no one have recognized the value of these pieces even monetarily? Like… isn’t money the bottom line with these people, anyway?

  6. Debbie was the first person to admit she was a less-than-perfect (i.e. Flawed) mother but her devotion to her children never waivered.

    There is no such thing as a perfect parent in my eyes. I love both of my parents. But I’m aware that they are, like everyone else in the world, flawed human beings who are capable of making mistakes. Just like me.

    Did Ms. Reynolds have any remaining costumes in her collection at the time of her death?

    1. It’s unclear how much is still in the Reynolds Estate. She was estimated to have between 5,000-6,000 items and I believe the 2011 auction was only listing around 600 objects. I think she’s sold bits off piecemeal over the years, too.

      Now that the Academy is putting together a museum, I’m curious to see what, if any, costumes from her collection actually made it into the Academy’s hands.

  7. Wow, lovely article, great tribute to Debbie Reynolds! I admired her a lot, and recently read her autobiography, Unsinkable, which only increased my admiration for her. She was truly passionate about the costumes and items she’d collected from Hollywood’s Golden Age, and repeatedly disapppointed that her efforts to preserve and display them came to nothing.
    Hopefully, something will be done now, and include a special tribute to her.

    1. Reynolds was probably the first to understand that movie memorabilia were historical records of American culture and therefore needed to be preserved and exhibited. Most of Hollywood saw movie props and costumes as disposable once the films were in the can.

  8. I used to work in Hollywood in Costumes…it would kill me to see famous costumes just hanging limp in the warehouses of the studios. I remember seeing the Munchkin costumes at Sony just shoved on a rack hanging dirty. They also discovered Humphrey Bogart’s trench in a trash bin on one of the studio lots and saved it from being disgarded..It wasn’t until Debbie started collecting and taking an interest in all this that they started taking care of what they all have in their stock rooms! Thank God for Debbie!

  9. A lovely and well deserved tribute. I do hope that the remaining collection finds a good home where it is accessible to the pubic, It should all be in a museum because it is not just Hollywood history it is cultural history reflecting an era that shaped the imagination, (whether good or bad) of the world,.

  10. Maybe if Lucas ever gets his popular culture museum built the remains of the collection might fit there.

  11. Luckily, some movie costumes from the MOMI in London have now ended up being taken care of by the Victoria and Albert Museum, although I think it is a comparatively small percentage – only 600 or so costumes.

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