Conserving Costumes: Green Curtain Dress

Conserving Costumes: Green Curtain Dress


NARRATOR: The Harry Ransom Center spearheaded an effort to conserve dresses from “Gone With The Wind” that are part of the Center’s David O. Selznick collection. These four videos offer a glimpse at the task of increasing the longevity of these important costumes. Wilson: Costumes are valuable because they contain a wealth of information about the character and about the story. And I believe that they are very often as evocative of the story as a storyboard or screenplay or film stills. Morena: The curtain dress is one of the most iconic dresses from “Gone With The Wind” and it’s possibly the most well-known costume in the history of Hollywood film. Wilson: The costume designer for “Gone With The Wind” was Walter Plunkett, who is now known as one of the great costume designers ever. He specialized in historical costumes, but his real genius was in developing the character based on what they’re wearing. An example is Scarlett’s green curtain dress. It’s really a symbol of her survival instinct, and her tenacity, and her resourcefulness in using what she has at hand to survive the horrors of the Civil War. Varnell: The green in the dress has changed in areas to an ochre color. Why that’s happened, we don’t know. Initially looking at it, you would think that it was light damage. But when fibers are exposed to the amount of light that it would need to be exposed to lose that much color and to lose the color in that way, you would feel it in the fiber. But the fibers haven’t lost their suppleness. It is possible that it happened because it was sprayed with something, which is one theory. There is a label in the inside that says, “Sprayed with Sudol.” Sudol is a disinfectant, we found out, similar to Lysol. Varnell: When we conserve an object, we always want to keep in mind what the original maker’s or the original artist’s intent was. And want to make sure that we minimize our 21st-century influence on that object. I always say that my goal is to make them strong enough to last 500 years. We do everything very carefully and considered. Wilson: Careful storage of the dresses is one of our most important responsibilities and one of the most critical steps in the long-term preservation of the dresses. The “Gone With The Wind” costumes are packed in acid free tissue and housed in archival boxes and are stored in a temperature and humidity controlled area. We really want the dresses to be there for future generations to see, appreciate, and enjoy. FOR MORE INFORMATION VISIT WWW.HRC.UTEXAS.EDU/CONSERVEDRESSES

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