University of Texas at Austin

Thursday, September 9, 2010

The lowdown on Scartlett’s green dress

curtain_small1It would have been a good story if the curtains that Scarlett O’Hara ripped down in “Gone with the Wind” had been used to make her famous curtain dress, which is housed at the Harry Ransom Center.

But, alas, that’s not the case.

Hoping for a further finding, Further Findings put that question to Steve Wilson, the film curator at the Harry Ransom Center. The dress and 5,000 boxes of other materials from the second-best movie made in 1939 (my pick is The Wizard of Oz) are in the center’s David O. Selznick Collection.

Wilson replied that no, the curtains were not used.

But we can tell you that the material for the dress didn’t come directly from the fabric store, either.

“The fabric was distressed in various ways to make it appear to have been faded and damaged by hanging in a window,” Wilson said.

Film Curator Steve Wilson and Jill Morena, Collection Assistant for Costumes and Personal Effects, with the original curtain dress from Gone With The Wind. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

Film Curator Steve Wilson and Jill Morena, Collection Assistant for Costumes and Personal Effects, with the original curtain dress from Gone With The Wind. Photo by Anthony Maddaloni.

The question was prompted by the Ransom Center’s quest for donations for preserving the curtain dress and other costumes that Vivien Leigh, who played Scarlett, wore in the movie.

In just a couple of weeks, the Ransom Center raised $30,000 from donors from around the country and the world.

The Ransom Center will restore the dresses and purchase protective housing and custom-fitted mannequins to allow for proper exhibition according to conservation best practices and standards.

Read more about the curtain dress, including the dialog from the scene in which Scarlett repurposes the curtains, at the Ransom Center Web site.

Hear Wilson’s interview with Scott Simon from NPR’s Weekend Edition.

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