Conserving Costumes: Burgundy Ball Gown

Conserving Costumes: Burgundy Ball Gown


NARRATOR: Conservators were committed to returning the “Gone With The Wind” costumes to designer Walter Plunkett’s original version, and they faced a special challenge with Scarlett’s famed burgundy ball gown. Morena: The burgundy ball gown is one of the most lush and extravagant gowns that Scarlett wears in the film, with the combination of the silk velvet, the ostrich feathers, the jewels and glass beads of the bodice. And again, Plunkett gives this gown the streamline, 1930s, Hollywood glamour goddess treatment, and it’s just stunning. At some point many non-original feathers were added, resulting in this really overly busy, almost fussy look, especially around the shoulders. And we’d really like to bring this gown back to the way it looks onscreen and the way Plunkett envisioned it. Varnell: So we’ve taken the feathers off. And we could determine which were real and which were not by the color, by the texture, and by the way they were curled. The curl on the original feather is created by a thread that was worked on the inside of the feather. There is no thread in the replacement feathers, so it becomes obvious which ones are which. Varnell: The burgundy ball gown had weights in the train. And that’s again—weights, they’re dress weights and you often find them in couture skirts or dresses. They help keep the skirt hem in place, or in this case, keep the train trailing behind her in whatever elegant way that they wanted it to. The problem with that is that it helped to pull on those areas that were really fragile around the bustle. And those weights helped cause some of the tearing that ultimately happened. So we decided to take them out. But we don’t just take things out. You have to honor this piece. They are stored in an archival, specially made envelope. Their position is listed on that envelope and they’re housed now in a little box that will be stored with the dress. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT WWW.HRC.UTEXAS.EDU/CONSERVEDRESSES

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