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‘Golden Age of Hollywood’ costume exhibit opens at Tanger

Tanger Outlets in Riverhead is now home to a collection of vintage Hollywood costumes. 

“Golden Age of Hollywood,” an exhibit featuring more than 60 items from the collection of longtime television personality Gene London, will be housed in Suite 1003 of the outlet center through April 28. The display is free and will be open daily from noon to 7 p.m.

The exhibit features garments from the 1920s through the 1950s — from flapper dresses to below-knee drop waist dresses to life-sized John Wayne replicas and everything in between.

“It’s a museum-quality exhibit that we brought out to our shopping center,” said Tanger general manager Leslie Anthony, who called the pieces in Mr. London’s collection “stunning.”

Ms. Anthony brought the exhibit to the center after reading about similar displays of Mr. London’s at a shopping mall and art museum in Texas.

“We were looking to do an art exhibit at our shopping center, and we wanted to highlight fashion because we’re all about fashion,” she said.

The entire planning process took about three months — quick for an installation-based exhibit — and was installed in a vacant suite within just two days.

On Thursday, March 28, the outlet center hosted a VIP event exclusive to Tanger Club members that hundreds of shoppers attended.

Maureen O’Brien of Northport, who visited because her daughter is an up-and-coming costume designer in theater and film, said the exhibit is a beautiful display of costumes.

“It’s sentimental sometimes to see these things and to understand what went into the designing,” she said. “I really had a chuckle when I saw the curtain dress from ‘Gone with the Wind,’ because I remember Carol Burnett doing the comedic take of the curtain dress.”

Mr. London said the display shows how Hollywood represented glamour and provided an escape from the Great Depression.

“You couldn’t have a wrinkle and be a star,” Mr. London said of the costumes worn by classic film stars. “When you sat down, it had to look as if it was not showing button pull. And remember that the screens were the size of the building, so every flaw showed.”

Mr. London and Ms. Anthony at the opening night event. (Credit: Mahreen Khan)

Mr. London said his early appreciation for film is what drew him to collect items from Hollywood’s storied past.

“I never thought that I, as a kid who loved the movies, would be able to own a dress owned by a star,” he said. “I thought that was Hollywood’s secret.”

Benjamin Calderone of Ridge called the exhibit “phenomenal” and said it sends an important message about cherishing history.

“America at large, we need to look at history no matter what it is,” he said. “To have the piece about Hollywood, that draws people in … It’s really good to do events like these so people get a more rounded education about pop media, old time film, whatever it’s going to be.”

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