As soon as my mind wanders to the image of Scarlett in one of her costumes, which happens about five times on an average day, I let out a loud, dreamy sigh like a middle school girl thinking about her crush of the month. These exquisite costumes are among the very best that Hollywood has ever put forth into our world, and the evidence is in the amount of attention that goes on still today in preserving these magnificent creations.
But some of my favorite Scarlett costumes, or at least the ones I dream of keeping in my closet, aren’t the ones that are talked about nearly as often as the curtain dress, or the velvet evening gown worn to Ashley’s party. So I made a list of the five most underrated costumes of the film, an extremely subjective list I’m aware but who cares when they’re all so incredibly beautiful.
5. The “Stairs” Dressing Gown
Many of Walter Plunkett’s designs for the film “cheated” a bit by incorporating late 30’s trends. For instance, the velvet evening gown worn during Ashley’s birthday party has a silhouette and embellishments that, while historically accurate enough, are also very late 30’s. This dressing gown is a bit of a middle ground, in that it fit into the fashion trends of both eras very well.
In many ways this dressing gown better displays what’s happening with Scarlett’s character more than the other costumes she wore post-marriage to Rhett. At this time Scarlett was incredibly wealthy overnight, and she wanted the world to know. The book goes into greater detail to mock her for her lack of taste when it came to designing her new mansion, as her only concern was showing off how much money she had to those who came to visit. The fur trim on this dressing gown would, in the post-Civil War era, usually only rival that of the dressing gowns of royalty. The printed material, we can imagine, was incredibly expensive, as it was most likely imported from across the world.
4. Scarlett’s (Mother’s) Wedding Gown
It’s interesting to note that in the year Scarlett married Charles Hamilton, this dress would have been considered out of style. The type of sleeve and the skirt silhouette would have been more in fashion at the time that Scarlett’s mother was married. However, those who read the book know that Scarlett rushed into the wedding with Charles very quickly and had to wear her mother’s gown, a detail not lost on Plunkett.
The narrower skirt was also a technical necessity; to get all the actors in this shot, the skirt had to be taken in so that the rest of the cast could fit.
3. The Red Velvet Dressing Gown
This costume is another Victorian-1930’s hybrid in terms of the silhouette. But the incredible bell sleeves give this gown the over-the-top glamour that makes me drool. Those same sleeves hang so dramatically as we watch a hostile Rhett carry his wife up the stairs.
2. The “Melanie’s Death” Dress and Cameo
The legend goes that Walter Plunkett had much difficulty trying to come up with a suitable brooch for this gown, until he found this one, which belonged to his own mother. In true Scarlett style, she could not resist adorning the somber mourning ensemble with something so remarkably big and attention-grabbing.
As for the dress itself, it’s one of the most historically-accurate dresses of the film. One can find nearly-identical mourning gowns from the same year in which this scene takes place.
1. The Green Wrapper
As I said, this list is ultimately subjective, and this is definitely my favorite piece from the entire film. I want to wear this every day. The incredible embroidery looks stunning close up, and those sleeves…those sleeves.
Much recent effort has gone into restoring this gown, as decades of exposure to natural elements has resulted in a loss of color and material sturdiness. The gown is silk velvet and the sleeves are floor-length, which gave Scarlett a queenly appearance (she wouldn’t have it any other way).
The truth is, every costume in this film was an achievement. Walter Plunkett’s attention to detail was unprecedented, as was the budget. The result was hundreds of original designs that brought this complex story to life.