The Harry Ransom Center, a humanities research library and museum at The University of Texas at Austin, has introduced an initiative to raise $30,000 to restore and preserve five original costumes from “Gone With The Wind” (1939).
Donations to restore the costumes can be made online.
The Ransom Center holds the film collection of David O. Selznick, a well-known and admired producer of Hollywood’s “Golden Age” of the 1930s and 1940s. Selznick’s production of “Gone With The Wind” is considered one of the quintessential films of the period, receiving 10 Academy Awards.
Among the more than 5,000 boxes of materials in the Selznick collection are five original costumes from “Gone With The Wind”: character Scarlett O’Hara’s green curtain dress, green velvet dressing gown, burgundy ball gown, blue velvet peignoir and wedding dress. Most of the costumes, worn by actress Vivien Leigh, are too fragile to be exhibited.
“An historical garment in a museum collection is often most compelling when it is displayed on a mannequin, and yet each time a fragile costume is removed from storage, handled and placed on a dress form, that garment is at risk,” said Jill Morena, collection assistant for costumes and personal effects at the Ransom Center. “Conservation work and custom supports for storage and display are essential components in ensuring that the ‘Gone With The Wind’ costumes can be enjoyed for years to come.”
Donations made to the Ransom Center will allow for the restoration of the original dresses and the purchase of protective housing and custom-fitted mannequins to allow for proper exhibition. The center hopes to display the costumes in 2014 as part of an exhibition celebrating the 75th anniversary of “Gone With The Wind” and to be able to loan the dresses to museums internationally.
“Nothing evokes the human element in film quite like the costume,” said Steve Wilson, curator of film at the Ransom Center. “A character’s social and economic class, for example, can be represented through the style and quality of her clothes, shoes and jewelry, and whether those clothes are clean and fresh or tattered and soiled. And not only must the costume support and enhance the actor and director’s interpretation of the character, but it must also allow for the actor’s movement and withstand the rigors of shooting. The appreciation of costume design can deepen our understanding of film as an art form and reflection of our culture.”
Concerning the creation of costumes for “Gone With The Wind,” costume designer Walter Plunkett said, “I don’t think it was my best work or even the biggest thing I did. But that picture, of course, will go on forever, and that green dress, because it makes a story point, is probably the most famous costume in the history of motion pictures.”
High-resolution press images of each of the dresses are available.