On March 13, 1939, David O. Selznick wrote a memo to Production Manager Raymond A. Klune concerning the dramatic use of colors in Gone With the Wind‘s costumes. The producer impressed upon Klune that the costumes should symbolize “the changing fortunes” of the characters wearing them.
In the first part of the film, especially the Twelve Oaks sequences, Selznick wanted to see “beautiful reds and blues and yellows and greens in costumes so designed that the audience would have gasped at their beauty.”
Scarlett’s gowns in the film’s first part certainly caused me to gasp when I saw the:
- White organdy gown with red velvet belt that she wears during the Porch Scene and during the Evening Prayers sequence
- Green sprig silk muslin gown that she wears to the Twelve Oaks’ barbecue
- White satin shirred blouse and maroon taffeta skirt that she wears for Ashley’s farewell when she presents him with the yellow sash.
In the second part of the film, Selznick wanted the audience to feel “a really tragic loss when it saw the same people in the made-over and tacky clothes of the war period.”
Scarlett wears an orchid percale calico dress in various stages of disintegration longer than any other costume in the film. The calico first appears in the Shadow sequence in the Atlanta Hospital and is seen for the last time when Scarlett tears down her mother’s portieres to make the green velvet drapery dress. The calico was accessorized with bonnets, shawls and aprons in various scenes.
In the third part of the film, Selznick wanted to “by its colors alone, dramatize the difference between Scarlett and the rest of the people — Scarlett extravagantly and colorfully costumes against the drabness of the other principals and of the extras.”
This was achieved through Scarlett’s various costume changes, including the:
- Dark crimson gown she wears as the newly married Mrs. Kennedy when she convinces Ashley to come to Atlanta to help her start a lumber business
- Tan bengaline and plaid taffeta dress she wears during the lumber office scene when she hires workers and a foreman for her lumber mill.
- Blue dress with black trim she wears during her ride through Shantytown
- White bengaline dress with black trim she wears during the mules-in-horse-harness conversation with Rhett while on the New Orleans honeymoon
- Cream and green-striped dress she wears while visiting Tara with Rhett
- Burgundy velvet gown with bead and ostrich trim she wears to Ashley’s birthday party — perhaps my favorite of all of Scarlett’s gorgeous Walter Plunkett creations.
Happy 75th anniversary, Gone With the Wind!
Blog Bio: Pauline Bartel is the author of The Complete GONE WITH THE WIND Trivia Book (2nd edition), which will be published in spring 2014, and an expert on the film and its history. Visit the website (www.paulinebartel.com/resources/books/books-available) for further information. Follow her on Twitter @PaulineBartel and “like” her on Facebook (www.facebook.com/TheCompleteGWTWTriviaBook)