Without getting too overwhelmed with puns, this costume worn by Scotty Beckett in Listen, Darling is, well, darling. The 1938 MGM musical brings Scotty together with Judy Garland and Freddie Bartholomew as siblings Billie, Pinkie and Buzz (respectively) Wingate who plot to kidnap their mother (played by Mary Astor) to prevent her from marrying the wrong man.
The costume is worn towards the end of the film when Pinkie soothes the tearful Billie through a thunderstorm by singing “Ten Pins in the Sky.” A clip can be seen here:
Conserving this piece was fairly straightforward only requiring some reversal of post-production modifications, a clean and the creation of a mount. The costume is created from brown felt and decorated with blue, red and yellow embroidered trim. There is substantial global loss of pigment which is likely a combination of UV damage and the instability of vegetable-based dyes. Sometime after 1938, the costume was reused and numerous multi-colored beads were added along the shoulders and lateral aspects of the legs. Since these were not organic to the original design, it was opted to carefully document their presence but to remove them. The garment was then wet cleaned, blocked to dry and steamed to form.
To create the mount, I requested an invisible look. This was achieved by using a Dorfman ethafoam mannikin that was cut away at the torso and forearms and then covered with a matching fabric. An unanticipated but delightful outcome of this choice was that it allows the viewer an unobstructed view of the MGM wardrobe label.
And remember, “when the thunder starts to thunder, don’t go out and cry…they’re playing ten pins in the sky.”