The costumes designed by legendary Hollywood Costumer Walter Plunkett for Gone with the Wind remain among the most famous in film history for their beauty, construction, and the sheer volume. Plunkett and his team created over 5000 costumes for the principal cast and thousands of extras, in this epic historical romance extravaganza. Set against the backdrop of the epic American civil war, Scarlett O’hara’s dresses look graceful, luxurious and utterly spectacular, the perfect attire for one of America’s most willful, hot-headed but well-loved characters, immortalized by Vivian Leigh. Here is a quick look at a few special gowns from the most romantic and unforgettable scenes in the movie:
The Red Ball Gown
This gown is really supposed to be a shame dress for Scarlett, forced to be worn upon Rhett’s insistence as punishment after she has been discovered hugging Ashley at the lumber mill. Out of embarrassment, Scarlett tries to avoid Ashley’s birthday celebration that evening but Rhett won’t allow it. He instead chooses an ornate, immodest burgundy-red color provocative dress, which is intended to humiliate her, saying “Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion! And put on plenty of rouge, I want you to look your part tonight.” This sleeveless, silk velvet gown is embroidered with glass teardrop and red faceted beads, with a liberal touch of ostrich feathers over the shoulders.
The Green wrapper
We see Scarlett in the green wrapper when she tells Mammy that she has no plans to endure the tolls of pregnancy in the future to get more children. She is aghast at discovering that her waist size is now an appalling 20 inches and promptly declares “I’m not going to get fat and old before my time! I just won’t have any more babies! This luxurious heavily embroidered silk velvet gown with trailing sleeves is a reflection of Scarlett’s wealth and social stature as Rhett’s wife.
The Curtain dress
Scarlett’s most famous outfit, the striking velvet green dress famously referred to as the “Curtain dress” was inspired by the Margaret Mitchell grandmother’s (Eleanor Fitzgerald) elaborate velvet curtains hanging in the author’s home. It was celebrated as a powerful symbol of Scarlett’s determination to survive, when finding nothing else to wear, she pulls them down to make a dress for herself fit enough for a queen. It was worn in three scenes: the jail scene in which Scarlett asks Rhett for financial help, the scene in which Scarlett walks through Atlanta streets with Mammy and finally the scene in which Scarlett meets Frank Kennedy. It was restored and finally considered fit for public display after the University of Texas raised $30,000 to restore the epic movie costumes, it to its former glory.
The Christmas Gown
This is the gown which Scarlett dons upon Ashley’s return to Atlanta. The dress consists of two pieces, the bodice, and the skirt.
The Prayer Room dress
The beautiful prayer room dress was worn by Scarlett during the family bible reading scene. This is the dress in which we first get to see the beautiful Scarlett O'Hara, showing off to perfection her legendary 17-inch waist, “the smallest in three counties.” This elegant gown is made of 100% cotton lawn fabric and consists of two pieces, the bodice, and the skirt.The costumes, particularly Scarlett’s gowns, covered two major historical periods (the Civil War and Reconstruction) and reflected the changing fashions of the time.
Although GWTW swept the 12th Academy Awards, Walter Plunkett did not win anything, as tragically there was no Oscar for Costume Design until 1948. (He ultimately got one in An American in Paris, in 1951, but that’s another story!)