Sunday, August 15, 2010

Something Old, Something New: Everything Related to Scarlett Saying 'I Do' (to Rhett, of course!)

Imagine it's 1868 and you've been invited to a wedding held in one of Atlanta's finest parlors--that of Miss Sarah Jane Hamilton. The event is still a couple of days away, but the entire city is already sizzling with gossip and anticipation. One question is on everyone's mind: What will the bride, Miss Hamilton's scandalous niece, be wearing? She is a widow of only a year after all, how much bolder can she get?  (Though judging by her engagement ring, that perfectly vulgar piece that Captain Butler bought for her in Europe, one can never tell... )

If you're not one of the lucky few who've been privy to all the juicy details prior to the blessed event, worry not! How We Do Run On is here to provide you with a well-informed insight into the soon-to-be Mrs. Butler's toilette, as well as with a gallery of fashionable dresses she can choose from, hidden from prying eyes after the jump. We even have widow wedding dresses for you!

A Victorian Wedding Certificate
The Wedding Dress: White Silk, Lace and "Elegant Simplicity" 

We'll start, of course, with the element that surely has you most preoccupied, that central piece of any wedding and dream of any bride to be--the wedding dress. Regarding this year's bridal style, our trusted source, Harper's Bazar, spells it plainly out for us: "Bridal toilettes are remarkable for their elegant simplicity. The richest materials plainly made embody the correct idea of a dress for a bride." 

Dresses of white silk and lace are, of course, the de rigueur selection for brides (We're looking at you, Maybelle Merriwether!), but for those who cannot afford silk, dresses of grosgrain, poult de-soie, taffeta or faille are also acceptable. You'll find many examples of elegant wedding dresses after the jump at the end.

As one would expect, a wedding dress worn for a church ceremony would be a little more conservative, calling for a "high bodice and close sleeves." But for a home wedding (aka one in Miss Hamilton's parlor), a lower necklace and pannier skirt (a looped skirt draped over the hips) are acceptable, and in this particular case even highly-recommended. However, Harper's, in a moment of regrettable contradiction, declares that pannier skirts are not popular in wedding attire, only to say that they should be worn for home weddings, in the very next breath. So we guess Scarlett, our bride in question, is free to choose after her own taste (or lack thereof).

The Veil: Less is More

Next off is the veil. Now if Scarlett chooses to follow convention for her wedding to Captain Butler, you won't be seeing any veil. Veils are the property of new brides only; widows do not wear them. But if our rebellious bride decides to break the rules, here's the scoop: this year veils are made of plain tulle without trimming, in line with the edict of "elegant simplicity." This style is deemed both "prettiest" and "very much admired" by Harper's.  As custom, veils should also be long, with the front veil coming close to the waist, while the longer back portion reaches nearly to the train of the dress.  

The Flowers: Orange Blossoms, Clematis, Jasmine and Myrtle, Oh My!  

In the last couple of years, our long preferred wedding flower--the orange blossom--registered a certain and regrettable decline in popularity. Harper's certainly takes a dismissive tone about it: "Orange blossoms are losing prestige for bridal flowers. The buds are stiff, and the full-blown flowers large and coarse looking. They are prettiest and least unbecoming when mingled with other small flowers, such as clematis, jasmine, or the bridal spirae." 

White lilies and myrtle are still very much used as wedding flowers. Myrtle blossoms, in fact, are all the rage with young brides in Europe. Not so for European widows: they are the only ones on the Old Continent who still wear orange blossoms, so it's safe to assume Scarlett will wear them too, if only to be in line with the latest European fashion. 

The Hair: Of Curls and Finger Puffs

We've already established that Reconstruction-era ladies love curls and finger puffs in their hairstyles. So it's little wonder, then, that these elements are considered quite stylish for our 1868 bride: "The front hair is crped [sic]. Soft, light, airy curls float at the back over small finger puffs formed of the natural hair."  Below is an "evening dress" hairstyle from the March 7th, 1868 edition of Harper's Bazar that nicely resembles this description and that could just as well be Scarlett's choice: 

The Accessories: Lots of Fancy Finishing Touches 

Accessories make the (wedding) outfit, so we're certain Scarlett will have had some very fancy finishing touches to crown her bridal glory. Here is what Harper's recommends: "The bridal fan is of white silk or satin under lace, with pearl sticks. Handkerchief trimmed with lace of the kind used in the dress. Gloves of softest kid, and boots of the dress material buttoned with Roman pearls and trimmed with blonde lace."

The Jewelry: Pearls Trump Diamonds 

At least in this year's weddings they do, although, if one thinks of her engagement ring, Scarlett might disagree on this point. Still, Harper's clearly records that "prominence is given them [pearls] in wedding parures even when associated with diamond." 

Engagement rings should be "a solitaire diamond or pearl in crown setting without enamel," a far cry from the tasteless collection of stones Captain Butler presented his betrothed with. (And to think they say he's a man of taste...) Wedding bands are expected to be equally understated: "a plain hoop not very wide, made of twenty-four-karat gold," so we shall wait with bated breath to discover what his choice will be for that.

The Bridesmaids Dresses: Ridiculous This Year as Well  
Now that we've covered the bride's outfit, we can take a quick look at what her bridesmaids could be wearing. Poor dear sweet bridesmaids, the style of their dresses won't probably change for the next two centuries! Their dresses are puffed and tulle-d to the max: "Bridesmaid's dresses are of tulle and tarlatan in successive puffs, with a tulle overskirt looped with flowers. A different flower and a becoming color of trimming is assigned to each bridesmaid."  Bridesmaids sometimes wear short veils, in a style similar to the bride's own. 

You May...See the Bride!

So now, dear readers, you know what to expect from the blessed occasion of Scarlett and Captain Butler's union. We sincerely hope we've kept you one step ahead of this brazen combination, so their sartorial choices won't be a surprise--or even worse, a shock--to you.

If you want to see an assortment of wedding dresses, taken both from last year's magazines, and from some editions we miraculously managed to retrieve for you even before they were printed and available to the general public, take a look under the jump!

Which dress do you think Scarlett would choose? Let us know in the comments! 

An 1867-1869 Wedding Dress Gallery

All Descriptions are excerpted from the listed period source. 

Wedding Dresses from the November 2, 1867 edition of Harper's Bazar

Figure 1: Gored dress of white persane, fastened up the front with crystal beads. Neck high, and trimmed with Valenciennes lace, as are likewise the caps. Tulle, veil and wreath of orange blossoms.

Figure 2: Princesse dress of white mull, worn over a high-necked waist of Valenciennes lace and insertion. Skirt tucked; waist trimmed with bias folds of the same stuff. Tulle veil and wreath of orange blossoms.

Wedding dresses from the December 12, 1868 edition of Harper's Bazar 

These bridal toilettes are partly for young girls and partly for widows. Those for young girls require a veil. The dresses are of white grosgrain or satin, or they may be of fine India or Swiss muslin. The skirts are gored and with trains. Sashes are always of the same material as the dress.

Figure 1: Bridal toilette for a widow. The dress and sash are of white satin trimmed with wide silk fringe. The wreath and bouquet are of myrtle.

Figure 2: Bridal toilette for a young girl. The wreath and bouquet are of orange flowers. The veil is of plain silk lace. The dress is of Swiss muslin, and the waist is lined with silk.

Figure 3: Bridal toilette for a widow. It is of white grosgrain with a high waist, cut from the pattern in this issue. The Marie Antoinette fichu is of white Valenciennes. Myrtle flowers in the hair.

Figure 4: Bridal toilette for a young girl. It is white satin with a high waist (cut from the pattern in this issue) and sash. The trimming is wreaths and sprays of orange blossoms, arranged as illustrated. Orange flowers form the wreath on the head. The veil is of silk lace. 

Figure 5: Bridal toilette for a young girl. It is of white grosgrain. The polonaise is trimmed with Valenciennes insertion and edging as shown. Wreath of orange flowers. Veil of plain white silk lace.

Wedding Dress from a November 1869 edition of Godey's Lady's Book

Bride's dress: made of corded silk with tulle-ruche trim and bouquets of flowers.

Notice the children's clothes. Isn't it cute to imagine little Ella at such an event?


  1. I think the last one is more Mrs. Butler-like. Lots of bows and drapes and everything. A very impressive, expensive looking dress.

  2. Fun article!

    Yup, I agree, the last one screams 'I have lots of money'; just Scarlett's thing. Of course there would be some alterations; shorter sleeves and definitely lots of cleavage. The one in the first drawing with the crystal beads would of course also catch her eye. We can even expect her wanting it all and combining the two dresses into a blinding ensemble (either by the many crystals or by the hideousness of it all).

    And in the end does it matter? Rhett probably was too high on love that day to notice anything but the fact that Scarlett would finally be his. Aw, the poor guy.

  3. I'm impressed by your access to the old fashion plates! Do you have one comprehensive book on Godey's clothes by issue or is this internet research? I agree that the last plate seems right up Scarlett's alley.
    I like the hairstyle you posted too (I had my hairdresser copy a hairstyle of Scarlett's for my wedding haha).

  4. @Jamie- What I wouldn't give a comprehensive book on Godey's (or Harper's) clothes by issue! But I don't have one and don't think one exists, sadly. So most of the fashion research is done via the internet, although there are some excellent books on fashions from period magazines out there as well. The last image, for instance, is from a small book of Godey's clothes called "Fashions and Costumes from Godey's Lady's Book."

    And speaking of the last dress, I agree with the general consensus that it's the dress closest to Scarlett's style. It's so elaborate, with all the flounces and pleats. Plus, it even has green accents! That says Mrs. Scarlett Butler all over it. Also, doesn't the frilly green dress next to it look like an excellent choice for the New Orleans honeymoon? I can see Scarlett wearing that too. :D

  5. @SJ, You nailed it!

    Marrying for the third time, do you really think she wore white?

  6. "The Marie Antoinette fichu is of white Valenciennes." Ah, the fanciness of these descriptions. I hate to be the one to make a "Say Yes to the Dress" joke, though this post definitely calls for one. I just hope they don't come and steal my co-blogger away :D

  7. Thanks for a really interesting post. I've often wondered about what Scarlett wore, and what colour she wore. Yes, I have my doubts that she would wear white for her third marriage. But also, think about it, she had to wear her mother's hand-me-down gown to her first wedding, she would've worn her green velvet curtains to her second wedding (which she had been wearing almost daily for two weeks, so it's quite likely that she would've wanted to go all out third time round, when she had an unlimited budget. On the other hand, who would've attended the wedding? Aunt Pitty, Melanie, Ashley, maybe Uncle Henry. It's not exactly the glitterati, so would she be that keen to impress?
    On the dresses above, I'd like to think she might choose something tasteful like the one in the second picture with silk fringe (if Rhett had anything to do with it that is).
    Thanks for this great blog!

  8. @Anonymous- Thanks for reading! I'm so glad you liked the post (and the blog). And you definitely raise a great point that, although this was wedding number three, it really was Scarlett's first chance to pick her own wedding dress. Which is why the romantic in me gravitates towards something extravagant like the last dress. But I'm a fan of the two widow wedding dresses too. The fringed one in particular reminds me of Scarlett or, I should say, Scarlett as envisioned through the eyes of GWTW costume designer Walter Plunkett-- that would have been one extraordinary wedding dress for the film!

  9. I think this blog is amazing! I was thrilled when I discovered it a couple of days ago. I had such a good time reading all the various posts. It is great to see that there are other nutters out there like myself, who obsess over the most minute details of Gone with the Wind!
    For some reason I had always pictured Scarlett marrying Rhett in a pale mint green. In my mind I feel that the fringed dress would work in that colour. And, not meaning to be picky, the last fashion plate is from November 1869, almost 18 months after they married. I could envision Scarlett wearing the frilly green dress to Bonnie's baptism, however.
    I just want to say again how great this blog is, and thank you.

  10. @Anonymous/MM- You know, I never considered it before, but the thought of Scarlett marrying Rhett in a pale mint green dress makes me smile. What a nice idea. Yes, the November 1869 dress is of course the least historically accurate of the bunch, but who says Scarlett couldn't be cutting edge in her fashion? :)

    Yep, that's your blogger, iso, forsaking historical accuracy for dress design.

    Also, Anon, feel free to create a login name here, if you'd like! The easiest way is to select the Name/URL "comment as" feature and just type in a name. You don't need to add a URL address and your name will show up in place of anonymous in the comment box.

    Thanks for commenting and welcome!

  11. I can foresee a bit of an addiction with this blog! I will be waiting with breath that is baited for your future posts!

  12. @ MM. I am pretty convinced "pale mint green dress" was what the other MM would have said as well, with her obsession for green dresses. Other than that, welcome!

    @iso. "Yep, that's your blogger, iso, forsaking historical accuracy for dress design." *stores it for later use*


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