01 of 08
The Restoration of Scarlet O’Hara’s Dresses
The ultimate in the vintage clothing collecting realm lies in Hollywood costuming. This is especially true when it comes to the iconic dresses and gowns worn in Gone With the Wind, a film based on the novel by Margaret Mitchell.
As the heroine of the film, Scarlet O’Hara (portrayed by Vivien Leigh) wears some of the most memorable costumes in movie history. Five of these gowns (three original and two replica) were restored and displayed as part of “The Making of the Gone With the Wind” exhibit from Sept. 9, 2014 through Jan. 4, 2015 at the Harry Ransom Center on the University of Texas campus in Austin, Texas.
These dresses, designed by Walter Plunkett, are part of the David O. Selznick archive received by the Ransom Center in the 1980s. They had not been displayed together for more than 25 years prior to this exhibit, which coincided with the 75th anniversary of the release of Gone With the Wind.
In 2010, the Ransom Center raised more than $30,000 from donors around the world to support conservation work required to safely display the gowns in the 2014 exhibition. As explained on the Harry Ransom Center's website, "Prior to the collection's arrival at the Ransom Center in the 1980s, the costumes had been exhibited extensively for promotional purposes in the years after the film's production, and as a result were in fragile condition."
Now that the dresses have been restored properly and fitted to custom mannequins, they can be loaned to other museums and enjoyed by the public once again.Continue to 2 of 8 below.
02 of 08
The Green Curtain Dress
The green Curtain Dress, or Drapery Dress, is arguably the best remembered and most revered of the Gone With the Wind costumes. In the film, after Scarlett makes her way back to her beloved Tara, she finds that not much was left in the war-ravaged mansion other than her mother’s green drapes. As part of her scheme to approach Rhett Butler (played by Clark Gable) for financial assistance, Scarlett removed the drapes from the wall and demanded that Mammy sew a dress from the fabric and trim. The dress is, in effect, a symbol of Scarlett's will to fulfill her promise never to go hungry again, made in the memorable “As God is my witness …” scene prior to the film’s intermission.
The Curtain dress was later spoofed by comedienne Carol Burnett in her classic “Went with the Wind” skit in the 1970s. The parody became so popular that the replica dress, complete with a curtain rod across the shoulders, is now a museum piece itself.Continue to 3 of 8 below.
03 of 08
The Burgundy Ball Gown
The burgundy ball gown is perhaps the most elegant and dramatic of all the Gone With the Wind costumes. It is described by the Harry Ransom Center as a “sleeveless, silk velvet gown...embellished with glass teardrop beads and round, red faceted beads at the neckline and a profusion of ostrich feathers around the shoulders."
In the movie, Scarlett is caught in an embrace with Ashley Wilkes in the lumber mill. That evening, Rhett chooses this inappropriately provocative dress from Scarlett's closet for her to wear to Ashley’s birthday party, telling her, “Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion.Continue to 4 of 8 below.
04 of 08
The Green Wrapper on Display
This elaborate dressing gown combines stylish Hollywood glamour with medieval elements. It is made of silk velvet and is heavily embroidered in gold to the signify the wealth and social standing Scarlett achieved as the wife of Rhett Butler. It seems to echo the colors in the Drapery Dress to highlight how far Scarlett had come since she was forced to grovel for money after the war.Continue to 5 of 8 below.
05 of 08
The Green Wrapper in Technicolor
Realizing her waist had grown to the unfathomable measurement of 20 inches after giving birth to her daughter, Scarlett declares to Mammy that she won’t have any more children and dons this elaborate dressing gown. The Technicolor shade of the dress is perhaps much more vivid than the original fabric, but the silk velvet used to construct the wrapper has faded considerably over the years.Continue to 6 of 8 below.
06 of 08
Scarlett’s Blue Peignoir
The blue velvet robe with black fox trim is one of the two replica gowns that were displayed at the Harry Ransom Center exhibition. It was made in 1986 by Carrie Harrell and Jan Hevenor based on Walter Plunkett’s original design worn in the film.
The deep blue color of the gown connects Scarlett to the child she has with Rhett, “Bonnie Blue” Butler. It is worn during the scene when Bonnie, who is also wearing blue velvet, falls from a horse and suffers fatal injuries. In spite of the gown’s luxurious nature, Scarlett appears quite pale and fragile wearing it in the movie.Continue to 7 of 8 below.
07 of 08
The Wedding Dress on Display
Scarlett's bridal gown is another replica created in 1986 by Carrie Harrell and Jan Hevenor. It is made of ivory silk satin and features an appliqué leaf and vine design.Continue to 8 of 8 below.
08 of 08
The Wedding Dress on Set
In the film, the conniving Scarlett hastily marries Charles Hamilton before he marches off to war. Because there was no time to have a proper wedding gown made, Scarlett wears her mother’s gown, which was in a style clearly out of fashion for the Civil War era wedding. To ensure the dress was too large for Scarlett's small frame, Walter Plunkett fitted the gown on a dress form normally used for Ellen O’Hara’s costumes.