The iconic green “Curtain Dress” worn by Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) may never look like the way it looked on screen in the 1939 epic film ‘Gone With The Wind’ as conservationists working on restoring the dress have reported a few irreparable damages in it.
Four other dresses of the protagonist are also said to be deteriorating, according to Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas that announced a $30,000 project last year to protect Scarlett’s five of the dresses including the green curtain dress, the green velvet dressing gown, the blue peignoir with fox trim, her burgundy ball gown and her wedding dress.
According to experts, the green curtain dress, which is made up of the bodice, skirt and belt, is mysteriously damaged, it said in a statement on Wednesday.
“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,” said Cara Varnell, an independent art conservator who specializes in textiles, historic clothing and Hollywood performance costumes, and is doing the restoration work.
“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,” Varnell said, adding that the green curtain dress has been discolored, and it won’t be possible to restore the original shade of the historical dress.
The damages may have been caused due to sprays during the dress’ promotional tours in other countries, she assumed.
Among other Scarlett’s dresses undergoing restoration, the burgundy ball gown in which extra feathers have been found and the green velvet dressing gown is being examined carefully. The wedding veil, which is made from fine silk net, arrived at the Ransom Center fragile, and conservation will probably deteriorate the veil even further.
“We are all organic material. When a costume has come to the end of its life, it is no different than we are,” Varnell said.
Most of the dresses worn by Scarlett O'Hara, described by Margaret Mitchell in the novel, portray her character. The burgundy ball gown Scarlett wears to Ashley’s (her love interest) birthday party is meant to be provocative, explains Varnell, even though Rhett Butler (played by Clark Gable in the film) remarks satirically on the dress, saying, “Wear that! Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion.”
Vivien Leigh portraying Scarlett O'Hara dressed in burgundy ball gown. PHOTO: Wikimedia Commons
Dubbed most famous, the green curtain dress is considered more than just a dress in the American Civil War film adapted from Margaret Mitchell’s novel “Gone With The Wind”. The dress symbolizes Scarlett’s strong will to survive any tragedy and to win anything by her charm. She would not even mind making a dress out of curtains to do that, as she says, “I'm going to Atlanta for that three hundred dollars, and I've got to go looking like a queen,” before meeting Rhett in jail to ask for financial assistance.
Vivien Leigh in iconic Green Curtain Dress in the 1939 epic film 'Gone With The Wind'. PHOTO: Harry Ransom Center
The scence in which Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) asks Mammy to make a new dress from green curtains hanging at the windows. PHOTO: Harry Ransom Center
Scarlett (Vivien Leigh) in her green curtain dress walks through the Atlanta streets with Mammy in a scence from 'Gone With The Wind'. PHOTO: Harry Ransom Center
The Harry Ransom Center acquired the five dresses from the collection of Hollywood’s producer David O. Selznick in the early 1980s, and intends to display the dresses at an exhibit to mark the film’s 75th anniversary in 2014.
Conservator Cara Varnell studies the green curtain dress jacket. PHOTO: Pete Smith/Harry Ransom Center