Donations Sought to Restore Iconic Costumes from “Gone With The Wind”

Aug. 10, 2010

AUSTIN, Texas — The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has introduced an initiative to raise $30,000 to restore and preserve five original costumes from "Gone With The Wind" (1939).

Green curtain dress (the Portieres dress) worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in 'Gone With The Wind'
Green curtain dress (the Portieres dress) worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in "Gone With The Wind."

Donations to restore the costumes can be made online.

The Ransom Center holds the film collection of David O. Selznick, a well-known and admired producer of Hollywood's "Golden Age" of the 1930s and 1940s. Selznick's production of "Gone With The Wind" is considered one of the quintessential films of the period, receiving 10 Academy Awards.

Among the more than 5,000 boxes of materials in the Selznick collection are five original costumes from "Gone With The Wind": character Scarlett O'Hara's green curtain dress, green velvet dressing gown, burgundy ball gown, blue velvet peignoir and wedding dress. Most of the costumes, worn by actress Vivien Leigh, are too fragile to be exhibited.

"An historical garment in a museum collection is often most compelling when it is displayed on a mannequin, and yet each time a fragile costume is removed from storage, handled and placed on a dress form, that garment is at risk," said Jill Morena, collection assistant for costumes and personal effects at the Ransom Center. "Conservation work and custom supports for storage and display are essential components in ensuring that the 'Gone With The Wind' costumes can be enjoyed for years to come."

Donations made to the Ransom Center will allow for the restoration of the original dresses and the purchase of protective housing and custom-fitted mannequins to allow for proper exhibition. The center hopes to display the costumes in 2014 as part of an exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of "Gone With The Wind" and to be able to loan the dresses to museums internationally.

"Nothing evokes the human element in film quite like the costume," said Steve Wilson, curator of film at the Ransom Center. "A character's social and economic class, for example, can be represented through the style and quality of her clothes, shoes and jewelry, and whether those clothes are clean and fresh or tattered and soiled. And not only must the costume support and enhance the actor and director's interpretation of the character, but it must also allow for the actor's movement and withstand the rigors of shooting. The appreciation of costume design can deepen our understanding of film as an art form and reflection of our culture."

Concerning the creation of costumes for "Gone With The Wind," costume designer Walter Plunkett said, "I don't think it was my best work or even the biggest thing I did. But that picture, of course, will go on forever, and that green dress, because it makes a story point, is probably the most famous costume in the history of motion pictures."

High-resolution press images of each of the dresses are available.

For more information, contact: Jennifer Tisdale, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512 471 8949;  Alicia Dietrich, Harry Huntt Ransom Humanities Research Center, 512-232-3667.

19 Comments to "Donations Sought to Restore Iconic Costumes from “Gone With The Wind”"

1.  gina gonzales said on Aug. 10, 2010

I don't have a lot of funds but "Gone With The Wind" is my favorite movie of all time. I remember when I first saw it at the Paramount Theater when I was 13 years old, so I hope what little I contribute will at least help some.

2.  Anti-Confederate said on Aug. 11, 2010

Couldn't the money be put toward something more useful than some lousy dresses from some overrated film?

3.  marcia said on Aug. 11, 2010

I loved this publication. It's a wonderful idea to do that.

4.  Dana said on Aug. 12, 2010

I can't look at the green curtain dress without thinking of Carol Burnett and Flip Wilson with his Abe Lincoln T-shirt. I'll contribute to the cause if for no other reason than being able to see the actual dress and remember that hilarious sketch again.

5.  Deena Berg said on Aug. 12, 2010

I find it ironic that fundraising for this particular project appears in the headlines barely a month after the announcement of renaming Simkins Residence Hall due to Simkins' ties to the KKK. While I read the book many times growing up, I do hope this "celebration" exhibit balances the fantasy of the film's treatment of African Americans with the reality of plantation life. How about displaying the real clothes and scars the slaves wore?

6.  Sharon Jackson said on Aug. 13, 2010

Keeping in "perspective" that this was one of the great movies of all time that I enjoyed and not something to use as a political statement, I would love to give to the restoration fund.

7.  Bill Stout said on Aug. 13, 2010

"Gone With The Wind" is a true American epic (both novel and film) with iconic characters who still interest and influence people around the world. The conservation and preservation of the costumes and other items from the movie deserve our attention and contributions because they are an intricate part of the history of America, a history that, unfortunately, many people forget after a decade.

8.  Pal said on Aug. 19, 2010

Yes, please preserve Katie Scarlett's dresses..we should all ask Mrs. O'Hara what to do. Yes, Mrs. O'Hara will know what's to be done....

9.  Rene' Bogue said on Aug. 19, 2010

I was honored to be a part of restoring the magnificent costumes from a part of entertainment history.

10.  Katrina Nicholson said on Aug. 19, 2010

I was very glad to donate even a little bit to this great cause. Preserving things like this for now and the future is always a worthy clause. So many great films have been lost over the years and Gone With The Wind was one of the lucky ones. I sent the donation link to anyone I could think of that loves such films and put the link on my facebook page. I hope that word of mouth spreads so history can be preserved especially something like Gone With the Wind which in all of its facets was as much about the making of a country as it was the struggle that people have to overcome. Not to mention being a jewel of the Golden Age of Hollywood which lifted an entire nation through the depression bringing people together like nothing else could.

11.  mary m vaotuua said on Aug. 19, 2010

BEST MOVIE EVER MADE! Looking forward to seeing the dresses in 2014

12.  Gayle Barton said on Aug. 19, 2010

I was happy to make my donation to preserve a piece of this classic movie. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to smile as I think of Scarlett and Tara, after all these years.

13.  Jenny said on Aug. 19, 2010

I became a costume designer because I was so inspired by the movie and I hope that through this restoration, others will be able to be inspired for years to come.

14.  BEN GREGO said on Aug. 19, 2010

I am delighted to contribute to the restoration of these costumes from this great movie!! What really gripes me is, where are all these 'Hollywood types" with their gazillions of dollars at a time like this??? As in the recent drive to save the famed "Hollywood" sign, the public was asked to contribute, when the public should have been the LAST to give...come on, Hollywood people, give some of your many millions to this worthy cause!! But I guess this will fall on 'deaf Hollywood ears"!!!...Nevertheless I'm glad to see us 'everyday' people being able to contribute!!!! Bravo UofT!!!

15.  Nancy Darrah said on Aug. 19, 2010

I wlll be honored to help with the preservation of these wonderful costumes. The movie they appeared in kept a nation going during the Depression. Should we all take a lesson from this??

16.  Debbie said on Aug. 19, 2010

An epic film such as "Gone with the Wind" and its costumery should be celebrated and preserved for the history and achievement of its time without political comment. Recognizing the fragility of the clothing, why is it important to risk moving and traveling these treasures to parts unknown?

17.  Wayne D. Parker grad 1960 said on Aug. 19, 2010

I have Gone With The Wind Motion Picture Edition by Margaret Mitchell New York The Macmillan Company 1940 There are a number of pictures throughout the book. Just re-reading brings out why the costumes should be preserved

18.  Ann Franzke said on Aug. 23, 2010

My mother had one of the original Scarlett dolls that she recieved as a child. The doll has been restored somewhat and was passed down to my little sister. I gave a donation to the preservation fund in honor of my mom and my sister. The film is my sister's favorite movie as well, and by the way the doll has on the " green dress". We can't wait to see the collection in 2014.

19.  Amanda Simpson said on Aug. 26, 2010

I would love to help with the preservation of these fabulous costumes. Vintage costumes help fuel young fashion designers of the future. It's so important to maintain these costumes as with any vintage or antique item. Love the idea!

Amanda Simpson
amandasimpson@thefashionstudio.com