Iconic Gone With The Wind dresses restored

The infamous green curtain dress. Photo: AP

Two of the iconic gowns worn by Vivien Leigh in 'Gone With The Wind' have been restored to their former glory thanks to a $30,000 conservation effort by the Harry Ransom Centre at the University of Texas.

The conservation department at the Harry Ransom Centre , a humanities research library and museum at the university, spent more than 180 hours on the two dresses, which are currently on display as part of the V&A's Hollywood Costume exhibition.

Both gowns - a burgundy ball gown and green curtain dress with accompanying green velvet dressing gown, arguably the most iconic from the film - were designed and made by Walter Plunkett for Vivien Leigh's character Scarlett O'Hara in the American Civil War-era film.

The centre acquired the dresses in the 1980s as part of the archive of David O. Selznick, the well-known and admired producer of Gone With The Wind and other films from Hollywood's 'Golden Age' of the 1930s and 1940s, but avoided exhibiting them - except for one occasion in 1984 - due to their fragile condition. They began restoration work on the gowns in 2010 after raising $30,000 from generous donors all over the world.

Prior to the collection's arrival at the Ransom Center, the dresses had been exhibited extensively for promotional purposes in the years after the film's production, and as a result were in poor repair. Constructed of heavy fabrics, the force of gravity had caused strain on the stitching when hung or displayed on a mannequin.

The two gowns will now be able to take centre stage at the Ransom Centre's 75th-anniversary of Gone With The Wind exhibition in 2014.



The majority of the conservation work performed on these costumes would not be obvious or visible to one viewing the costumes on a mannequin," said Jill Morena, assistant curator for costumes and personal effects. "It is the interior of the costumes where meticulous work occurred and vulnerable areas were reinforced with archival support material and extra stitching."

Unfortunately the funds raised were not sufficient to support the restoration of two additional iconic gowns from the 1939 film - the blue velvet peignoir and wedding gown and veil - although the Ransom Centre will continue to store them appropriately to ensure no further damage is made to them. Replicas of both pieces will be displayed in the 2014 exhibition.

Bibby Sowray Telegraph.co.uk

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