In the second of a two-part series, Viv Wilby looks at the way Gone With The Wind tells its story through costume. Read part 1 here:
In the first of a two-part series Viv Wilby looks at the way Gone With The Wind tells its story through costume
I first saw Gone With The Wind when I was young and impressionable and I’ve loved it ever since: the spectacle, the melodrama and, yes, the frocks. Watch a movie as often as I’ve watched the Wind and you start to notice things, little patterns and parallels. I’m no fashion historian, but it seems to me that Gone With The Wind tells its story as much through costume as through action and dialogue.
Scarlett O’Hara’s story is one of riches to rags to riches again, and of course what she wears throughout the film reflects this. Clothing is a signifier of social status and wealth in any film but in Gone With The Wind this fact has particular resonance. The wealth of the South came from cotton. Strict dress codes apply, particularly for women. At key points in the story, items of clothing are given as gifts or rewards or tokens of affection. They are the means through which a woman can recreate herself, the key to a better future, badges of success, markers of disgrace. They can oppress or liberate.
With all this is mind, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at some of Walter Plunkett’s stunning costumes for the film, chiefly those worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett, what they say about the character at different points in the story, how they link her to or set her apart from other characters.