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    • Selznick International Pictures
    • Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer (MGM)

    Gone With the Wind

    1939

    Costume seen on Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara

    • RKO Radio Pictures

    Bedlam

    1946

    Costume seen on Anna Lee as Nell

Additional Images

About the Costume

“The Green Curtain Dress” is arguably one of the most iconic costumes ever created for one of the most famous films ever to be produced by Hollywood. It’s shocking to think that a gown that has become so iconic in our eyes would go on to be used again. Still, we must remember that in an era when there were no DVDs or online streaming, people saw a movie in the theater and then never saw it again, making a costume very difficult to be remembered in vivid detail. If the film was extremely popular, it might go on to be released a few years later (And in the case of Gone with the Wind, it was.), but by and large, people would see a film in the theater, and that would be the last they would see of it. Gone with the Wind reused many of its costumes, including Scarlett’s paisley dressing gown and her green bonnet from Paris.

The gown was designed by the great Walter Plunkett for use on newcomer Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. At the time, Technicolor cameras made garments appear a different color on screen than they were in real life. For example, Dorothy’s famous “Ruby Slippers” were, in fact, more of a burgundy color. Plunkett had the task of getting the green to look the proper color in technicolor, getting the green to make Vivien Leigh’s blue eyes appear greener on screen, and fading the dress in places to make it appear as if the sun had damaged them while hanging in the window. At the first two tasks, Plunkett succeeded admirably, but the fading does not appear on camera, and the gown appears a uniform, brilliant green.

It is not known how many copies of the curtain dress were produced. Just as today, multiples of a costume were frequently created for stunt doubles or body doubles. At least one copy of the costume does seem to have gone on to be altered and used in the 1946 film Bedlam on Anna Lee as Nell. The film is in black and white, so the brilliant color of the piece is not seen, though a lobby card colors it incorrectly as red. The gown has clearly undergone some adjustments. The hoop skirt is no longer worn, and thus the skirt falls much differently. The caplet on the left shoulder has been removed, large cuffs have been added to the end of the sleeves, and the cording around the waist and shoulder have been removed. However, looking at the collar and the seams of the dress make it evident that it is indeed the same costume – a fact that is confirmed in the audio commentary of Bedlam.

One copy of the curtain dress was eventually put into storage in the David O. Selznick collection at The Harry Ransom Center in Texas, where $30,000 was raised for its restoration so that it could go on display for the 75th-anniversary exhibit “The Making of Gone with the Wind.” To properly restore the gown, textile conservator Cara Varnell had to take great pains in determining what was original to the dress and what was not. Of the dress at the Ransom Center, she says:

“There are several rows of machine stitching on the waistline that don’t make sense. There are extensive alterations, and it’s not clear when or why they were done.”

Nicole Villarreal, a Textiles and Apparel Technology student who helped to do a complete study and catalog of the dress, documenting which threads were original and which were added at a later date, notes of the gown:

“If you look at the movie stills, the skirt is bell-shaped. But if you look at the dress now, the twill tape makes it more of an A-line skirt. Also, the front hem of the dress doesn’t have an undulating wave in the movie stills, but it does now with the hoop in it.

We may never know why these alterations were done. Is the gown that the Ransom Center owns the same one used in Bedlam? Likely not, though the alterations suggest that the Ransom Center’s version of the dress may have been used in another production as well – or at the very least altered for different displays. Either way – one of the copies of the “Curtain Dress” used in Gone with the Wind went on to be used in Bedlam, and the dress owned by the Ransom Center is an excellent reminder that even the most exceptional pieces get altered and changed.

Seventy-five years later, the gown has become iconic. Designer Bob Mackie created his own parody version of the curtain dress for The Carol Burnett Show skit “Went With the Wind,” and the gag costume has become iconic in its own right.

To learn more about the conservation of this wonderful dress, visit the Ransom Center Blog. You can also watch Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind” sketch online, as well as see an interview of Carol Burnett and Bob Mackie discussing the creation of the costume.

About the Costume

Have you seen this gown somewhere else? Do you need to be given credit for this sighting? Do you have corrections, additions or changes you would like to make?

Have you ever watched a film and noticed a character walk by in a gown that you just know you’ve seen before? Recycled Movie Costumes is dedicated to documenting the life of a costume through its various appearances on film and television.

Additional Images

About the Costume

“The Green Curtain Dress” is arguably one of the most iconic costumes ever created for one of the most famous films ever to be produced by Hollywood. It’s shocking to think that a gown that has become so iconic in our eyes would go on to be used again. Still, we must remember that in an era when there were no DVDs or online streaming, people saw a movie in the theater and then never saw it again, making a costume very difficult to be remembered in vivid detail. If the film was extremely popular, it might go on to be released a few years later (And in the case of Gone with the Wind, it was.), but by and large, people would see a film in the theater, and that would be the last they would see of it. Gone with the Wind reused many of its costumes, including Scarlett’s paisley dressing gown and her green bonnet from Paris.

The gown was designed by the great Walter Plunkett for use on newcomer Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. At the time, Technicolor cameras made garments appear a different color on screen than they were in real life. For example, Dorothy’s famous “Ruby Slippers” were, in fact, more of a burgundy color. Plunkett had the task of getting the green to look the proper color in technicolor, getting the green to make Vivien Leigh’s blue eyes appear greener on screen, and fading the dress in places to make it appear as if the sun had damaged them while hanging in the window. At the first two tasks, Plunkett succeeded admirably, but the fading does not appear on camera, and the gown appears a uniform, brilliant green.

It is not known how many copies of the curtain dress were produced. Just as today, multiples of a costume were frequently created for stunt doubles or body doubles. At least one copy of the costume does seem to have gone on to be altered and used in the 1946 film Bedlam on Anna Lee as Nell. The film is in black and white, so the brilliant color of the piece is not seen, though a lobby card colors it incorrectly as red. The gown has clearly undergone some adjustments. The hoop skirt is no longer worn, and thus the skirt falls much differently. The caplet on the left shoulder has been removed, large cuffs have been added to the end of the sleeves, and the cording around the waist and shoulder have been removed. However, looking at the collar and the seams of the dress make it evident that it is indeed the same costume – a fact that is confirmed in the audio commentary of Bedlam.

One copy of the curtain dress was eventually put into storage in the David O. Selznick collection at The Harry Ransom Center in Texas, where $30,000 was raised for its restoration so that it could go on display for the 75th-anniversary exhibit “The Making of Gone with the Wind.” To properly restore the gown, textile conservator Cara Varnell had to take great pains in determining what was original to the dress and what was not. Of the dress at the Ransom Center, she says:

“There are several rows of machine stitching on the waistline that don’t make sense. There are extensive alterations, and it’s not clear when or why they were done.”

Nicole Villarreal, a Textiles and Apparel Technology student who helped to do a complete study and catalog of the dress, documenting which threads were original and which were added at a later date, notes of the gown:

“If you look at the movie stills, the skirt is bell-shaped. But if you look at the dress now, the twill tape makes it more of an A-line skirt. Also, the front hem of the dress doesn’t have an undulating wave in the movie stills, but it does now with the hoop in it.

We may never know why these alterations were done. Is the gown that the Ransom Center owns the same one used in Bedlam? Likely not, though the alterations suggest that the Ransom Center’s version of the dress may have been used in another production as well – or at the very least altered for different displays. Either way – one of the copies of the “Curtain Dress” used in Gone with the Wind went on to be used in Bedlam, and the dress owned by the Ransom Center is an excellent reminder that even the most exceptional pieces get altered and changed.

Seventy-five years later, the gown has become iconic. Designer Bob Mackie created his own parody version of the curtain dress for The Carol Burnett Show skit “Went With the Wind,” and the gag costume has become iconic in its own right.

To learn more about the conservation of this wonderful dress, visit the Ransom Center Blog. You can also watch Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind” sketch online, as well as see an interview of Carol Burnett and Bob Mackie discussing the creation of the costume.

“The Green Curtain Dress” is arguably one of the most iconic costumes ever created for one of the most famous films ever to be produced by Hollywood. It’s shocking to think that a gown that has become so iconic in our eyes would go on to be used again. Still, we must remember that in an era when there were no DVDs or online streaming, people saw a movie in the theater and then never saw it again, making a costume very difficult to be remembered in vivid detail. If the film was extremely popular, it might go on to be released a few years later (And in the case of Gone with the Wind, it was.), but by and large, people would see a film in the theater, and that would be the last they would see of it. Gone with the Wind reused many of its costumes, including Scarlett’s paisley dressing gown and her green bonnet from Paris.

The gown was designed by the great Walter Plunkett for use on newcomer Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 film Gone with the Wind. At the time, Technicolor cameras made garments appear a different color on screen than they were in real life. For example, Dorothy’s famous “Ruby Slippers” were, in fact, more of a burgundy color. Plunkett had the task of getting the green to look the proper color in technicolor, getting the green to make Vivien Leigh’s blue eyes appear greener on screen, and fading the dress in places to make it appear as if the sun had damaged them while hanging in the window. At the first two tasks, Plunkett succeeded admirably, but the fading does not appear on camera, and the gown appears a uniform, brilliant green.

It is not known how many copies of the curtain dress were produced. Just as today, multiples of a costume were frequently created for stunt doubles or body doubles. At least one copy of the costume does seem to have gone on to be altered and used in the 1946 film Bedlam on Anna Lee as Nell. The film is in black and white, so the brilliant color of the piece is not seen, though a lobby card colors it incorrectly as red. The gown has clearly undergone some adjustments. The hoop skirt is no longer worn, and thus the skirt falls much differently. The caplet on the left shoulder has been removed, large cuffs have been added to the end of the sleeves, and the cording around the waist and shoulder have been removed. However, looking at the collar and the seams of the dress make it evident that it is indeed the same costume – a fact that is confirmed in the audio commentary of Bedlam.

One copy of the curtain dress was eventually put into storage in the David O. Selznick collection at The Harry Ransom Center in Texas, where $30,000 was raised for its restoration so that it could go on display for the 75th-anniversary exhibit “The Making of Gone with the Wind.” To properly restore the gown, textile conservator Cara Varnell had to take great pains in determining what was original to the dress and what was not. Of the dress at the Ransom Center, she says:

“There are several rows of machine stitching on the waistline that don’t make sense. There are extensive alterations, and it’s not clear when or why they were done.”

Nicole Villarreal, a Textiles and Apparel Technology student who helped to do a complete study and catalog of the dress, documenting which threads were original and which were added at a later date, notes of the gown:

“If you look at the movie stills, the skirt is bell-shaped. But if you look at the dress now, the twill tape makes it more of an A-line skirt. Also, the front hem of the dress doesn’t have an undulating wave in the movie stills, but it does now with the hoop in it.

We may never know why these alterations were done. Is the gown that the Ransom Center owns the same one used in Bedlam? Likely not, though the alterations suggest that the Ransom Center’s version of the dress may have been used in another production as well – or at the very least altered for different displays. Either way – one of the copies of the “Curtain Dress” used in Gone with the Wind went on to be used in Bedlam, and the dress owned by the Ransom Center is an excellent reminder that even the most exceptional pieces get altered and changed.

Seventy-five years later, the gown has become iconic. Designer Bob Mackie created his own parody version of the curtain dress for The Carol Burnett Show skit “Went With the Wind,” and the gag costume has become iconic in its own right.

To learn more about the conservation of this wonderful dress, visit the Ransom Center Blog. You can also watch Carol Burnett’s “Went with the Wind” sketch online, as well as see an interview of Carol Burnett and Bob Mackie discussing the creation of the costume.

Credits

Sighting Credit:
  • James
  • James L. Tumblin
Photos provided by:
Costume Designer:
  • Walter Plunkett

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