Smithfield: Community

Festival to peek into Ava’s Closet

This year’s Ava Gardner Festival will include a look at the late actress’ fashion style.
This year’s Ava Gardner Festival will include a look at the late actress’ fashion style. AVA GARDNER MUSEUM

Megan Fox and Jennifer Lopez profess their admiration; Marcia Gay Harden and Kate Beckinsale played her on the big screen. Today, nearly 25 years after her death, designers, stars and fans continue to emulate the sultry elegance of Ava Gardner’s fashion style.

To celebrate her sense of style, this year’s Ava Gardner Festival, Oct. 3-5, will feature an exhibit, “Ava’s Closet,” that will showcase her personal fashion.

“The Fontana Sisters of Rome, Walter Plunkett of ‘Show Boat’ fame, Irene Lentz, Edith Head and Christian Dior are just a few to design costumes and personal clothes for Ava,” said Deanna Brandenberger, director of the Ava Gardner Museum in Smithfield.

Gardner had the glamor and style that photographers begged to capture and fashion designers clamored to dress, Brandenberger said. She is listed 25th among the American Film Institute’s Greatest Female Stars.

“Ava’s Closet” will open during a “Fashion Fling” at 7 p.m. Oct. 3 at the museum. The exhibit will have two cases – one for evening wear and one for Gardner’s casualy clothing and accessories. The “fling” in “Fashion Fling” will come from a reception with Sinatra-style entertainment by The Carolina Crooner, hors d’oeuvres and beverages. Tickets are $25 person.

On Saturday, Oct. 4, festival-goers will enjoy the new exhibits, a Heritage Tour, and free movie screenings. John Huston was a screen writer for “The Killers,” and he directed “The Life and Times of Judge Roy Bean.” Those movies will show at 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., respectively. Another tribute to Huston, “The African Queen,” will screen at 3 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 5.

Heritage tours will depart at 9 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 1:30 p.m. and 3:30 p.m. Saturday. The guided tour takes visitors to Gardner’s birthplace, to the Brogden teacherage where she grew up and to her gravesite in Smithfield’s Sunset Memorial Park. All-day admission to the Ava Gardner Museum is $8, and Heritage Tour tickets are $15.

Also on Saturday, the museum will partner with the Clayton Piano Festival, whose theme this year is classical music from movies. Festival organizers are working with Clayton native Jonathan Levin to pay tribute to Gardner with a song from “Show Boat” and a selection of other musical influences in Gardner’s movies.

The Clayton Piano Festival will be held at 7 p.m. Oct. 4 at The Clayton Center, 111 E. Second St., Clayton. Coffee, desserts and a meet-and-greet with the featured pianist, Azamat Sydakov, will follow with concert. Tickets are $20, plus taxes and fees, and are available online at

The Ava Gardner Museum is located at 325 E. Market St. Festival information and advanced tickets are available online at or by calling 919-934-5830.