Friday, September 8, 2017

Fashion Friday: Scarlett's Red Dress

Today's Fashion Friday post is about Scarlett's scandalous, red ball gown. Rhett forces her to wear the dress to Ashley's surprise birthday party. Earlier in the day, Scarlett and Ashley were caught hugging by India Wilkes. Scarlett doesn't want to go to the party, but Rhett won't have anything to do with her cowardice.

Rhett (Clark Gable) embraces Scarlett (Vivien Leigh)

Rhett: You're not ready for Melanie's party.
Scarlett: I've got a headache, Rhett. You go without me and make my excuses to Melanie.
Rhett: What a white, livered, little coward you are! Get up. You're going to that party and you'll have to hurry.
Scarlett: Has India dare--?
Rhett: Yes, my dear, India has. Every woman in town knows the story and every man, too.
Scarlett: You should have killed them, spreading lies.
Rhett: I have a strange way of not killing people who tell the truth. No time to argue. Now get up.
Scarlett: I won't go. I can't go until this, this, misunderstanding is cleared up.
Rhett: You're not going to cheat Miss Melly out of the satisfaction of publicly ordering you out of her house.
Scarlett: There was nothing wrong. India hates me so. I- I can't go, Rhett. I couldn't face them!
Rhett: If you don't show your face tonight, you'll never be able to show it in this town as long as you live. And while that wouldn't bother me, you're not going to ruin Bonnie's chances. You're going to that party, if only for her sake. Get dressed.

GWTW Publicity Photo

Rhett: Wear that. Nothing modest or matronly will do for this occasion. And put on plenty of rouge. I want you to look your part tonight.

Scarlett and Rhett arrive at Ashley's birthday party

Rhett: Good night, Scarlett
Scarlett: But, Rhett, you've-- 
Rhett: You go into the arena alone. The lions are hungry for you.
Scarlett: Oh, Rhett don't leave me. Don't.
Rhett: You're not afraid? (and then walks away)

As most fans of Gone With the Wind know, all of Scarlett's costumes were designed by the amazing Walter Plunkett. David Selznick, the film's producer, brought Plunkett on board as early as 1936. Walter was a native Californian, who'd been designing costumes for the movies since 1926. The imdb website credits him as costume designer on almost 300 movies.

For his research on Gone With the Wind, Plunkett traveled to the Southern U.S., visiting Atlanta, Savannah and Charleston, in search of inspiration for his costumes. He met with Margaret Mitchell, who gave him a list of books to help guide him in his fashion search. He also met with the Daughters of the Confederacy, where one of the ladies gave him fabric samples of dresses worn during the time of the Civil War (1861 to 1865).

Walter Plunkett and Vivien Leigh

In the book, Gone With the Wind, Margaret Mitchell imagined Scarlett's dress of shame as jade green. [Rhett] drew out her new jade green watered silk dress. It was cut low over the bosom and the skirt was draped back over an enormous bustle and on the bustle was a huge bunch of pink velvet roses. However, the final product was re-imagined in red.

In a memo to Raymond Klune, the production manager, David Selznick wrote: ...The third part of the picture should, by its colors alone, dramatize the difference between Scarlett and the rest of the people-- Scarlett extravagantly and colorfully costumed against the drabness of the other principals and of the extras. ...This picture in particular gives us the opportunity occasionally-- as in our opening scenes and as in Scarlett's costumes-- to throw a violent dab of color at the audience to sharply make a dramatic point.

Front of Scarlett's Red Ball Gown (from the HRC)

The red ball gown recently went through a restoration by the Harry Ransom Center. The conservationists discovered that additional feathers had been added to the gown, which they subsequently removed. There were also weights in the gown's hem, (which is pretty common in skirts and dresses to keep hems from flying up on windy days and to keep trains in place), which over the years had caused damage. They were removed to prevent further tearing of the dress.

Detail of the glass beading on the bodice (from the HRC)

This sleeveless, silk velvet gown is embellished with glass teardrop beads and round, red faceted beads at the neckline and a profusion of ostrich feathers around the shoulders. Rhett's choice of an ostentatious gown in an immodest burgundy-red color is intended to humiliate Scarlett. -description of dress from the Harry Ransom Center.

Back side of Scarlett's Red Ball Gown (from the HRC)

Thanks for joining me for today's Fashion Friday post!

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