Friday, September 10, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 2: The Baby Carriage Dress

We're back with another edition of Doppelganger Dresses, where we feature the possible inspirations for Gone with the Wind costumes from period fashion plates. Today's entry is the pink stripe dress a petulant Scarlett wears to go strolling down Peachtree Street with Rhett and baby Bonnie. Like the Shantytown dress we featured last week, the "baby carriage" dress was a popular style of the time and versions of it appear in many fashion plates. 

We've selected two similar fashions for your viewing after the jump, along with the original Walter Plunkett costume sketch and several publicity stills from GWTW for reference. Do you think they resemble the baby carriage dress? Which one more so? Let us know what you think in the comments! 

Pink and white striped dress, 1872. From Dame Fashion: Paris-London, 1876-1812.
Wrong color but right style: A blue dress circa 1870 from La Mode Illustree.

Walter Plunkett's original sketch of the dress


  1. The second one has the apron front and the solid skirt, as the costume does.

    This is another relatively accurate costume, although the trumpet sleeves are a little exaggerated, and as far as I can tell she doesn't appear to be wearing any kind of skirt support.

  2. The hoop skirts in Birth of a Nation are relatively flat; those in GWTW are huge in the antebellum phase of the film. Which is more accurate?

  3. Hmm. I don't think Scarlett's dress looks much like either of the ones from the fashion plates, but I'll go with the first one.

  4. I think it is easy and very interesting to see the inspiration for the dresses. Even if the costumes in the film might have had a little bit more of a moderne edge to it in comparison with the actual dresses from the period.

    Is it me or does the drawing of the dress look a lot like something which were used in the derby scene for My Fair Lady?

  5. @ gonewththekimel I am not the fashion expert of our blog, but I think both could be accurate in their own way. The crinoline did reach its maximum volume around that time, and the fashion plates from 1861 seem to look more like the costumes from GWTW. But both the period magazines and Plunkett focus on formal dresses, on dresses one would wear to a party, basically on dresses that would have the maximum visual impacts on their respective audiences. I think day to day dresses were considerably more modest and with narrower skirts.

    @M. Oh, the stripes definitely made me think My Fair Lady as well! Love that movie.

  6. @gonewiththekimel- I suppose I can chip in here as "the fashion expert" on the blog, although I don't fancy myself a true expert- more just a connoisseur of period fashion plates. :) Anyway, Bugsie is correct in saying the hoop skirt style reached its maximum heights around the very early 1860s. Skirts were massive during this period- so much so that their outrageousness was frequently lampooned in cartoons, songs, and periodicals of the time.

    So GWTW is generally accurate is picturing dresses with huge hoop skirts, but it's important to keep in mind that Selznick did also want costumes that conveyed drama and spectacle. So some of the costuming we see is a further exaggeration of the era to give it the added Hollywood sparkle.

  7. @M- Yes, I agree, it's so interesting to see both the inspirations for the dresses, along with what's been sort of tweaked or "modernized" for Plunkett's costumes, like the somewhat oversized trumpet sleeves as Andrew notes here.

  8. Regarding the discussion of hoop skirts, I thought these two paintings might illustrate the French style of the mid-1860s.

    This painting by Monet, Women in the Garden (1866), gives the sense of movement and size of these hoop skirts. The decorative detail on the white dress of the woman sitting in the grass is so beautiful. According to the entry in Wikipedia, Monet used magazine illustrations to get the right fashionable details for these dresses. It would be tough to imagine what a woman looked like in her shimmy under all those hoops and fabric!

    Here is another Monet, Dejeuner sur l'Herbe (1866), with multiple women in hoop skirts.

  9. @ Iris. Thanks for the links. Beautiful paintings. They actually make me dream of Rhett meeting some of the Impressionists ;)

    As for knowing what a woman looked like in her shimmy, I'd say Rhett scores higher than Superman there. I am sure lead is not an obstacle for him if he's properly motivated :P

  10. Lovely finds, yet again. I can see elements from both costumes in Scarlett's dress. I think the second blue dress is so pretty! Of course Plunkett was a designer, not a plagiarist - he was never going to lift something directly from a fashion plate.
    I do actually think she was wearing skirt support in the finished film, just not in that picture.
    Here's a new topic: the transition from hoop to bustle. When MM mentions that hoops were out and bustles were in during Rhett and Scarlett's honeymoon, she says that Scarlett is embarassed to so clearly outline her abdomen. The novel doesn't really elaborate any further. But to me that gives the impression that it was very much an overnight change, which I don't think it was. The fashion plates we've been looking at here have shown much fuller skirts than seen in GWTW after they marry (save for the green dress she wears when Rhett takes her to Tara after New Orleans, which has a full hoop.)
    So, does anyone have any insight?

  11. I actually had this slip at my house that was worn under the baby strolling dress. A friend that was a collector had purchased it and it was shipped to me before I sent it on to him. I have pictures of it if you would like to see them here

    Pic 1


    Pic 3

    Pic 4

    Pic 5

    Pic 6


  12. @MM- I fear this is a historical point on which Margaret Mitchell is a little bit off. The bustle period is typically thought to have start around 1870, or about two years after Scarlett's honeymoon. One of my favorite resources for Victorian fashion info (Historic Dress in America 1800-1870) offers a good explanation on the emergence of the style:

    "In the winter of 1869-1870 the hoop-skirt, which had been gradually diminishing in circumference since 1865, was super ceded by dress improvers or bustles."

    So, yes, it wasn't an entirely overnight change. Hoop skirts started get smaller in the post war years, with some 'bustle-like' adornments (bows, ribbons, ruffles, etc.) appearing with more frequency on the back of dresses in 1867-69. There was an 'interim' crinoline style, the crinolette, that resembled what would become known as the bustle style. But it wasn't until 1870 or so that the trend really kicked in with full force.

    MM is right, I think, to note Scarlett's embarrassment at the new style though. It was considered a rather shocking development in women's fashion at the time.

    Check out the following links for some additional info about the bustle period:

  13. @iso. What makes me curious is the reason why fashion changed. My guess is that the hoops disappeared because women after the war had to be more practical (work for a living) and so they needed clothes that gave them more room to move.

    Is this a correct assumption or did the style simply change because some popular queen/princess decided that it was time for a change?

  14. @ Dee. That's AWESOME! Thanks for sharing.

  15. But SJ wasn't the fashion change wastly influenced by europe. And though of course there also was warfaring in Europe, I don't know if I by into the "had to change after the war".

    It is a funny thing fashion changes and how the trends wave back and forth

  16. No Prob Bugsie, I ment to say it had big washers sewn all aroud the hemline. It was really neat. Been along time, was about 2001 when I had it at the house.


  17. In the pics above it looks like Scarlett is wearing her hair down, but it's a bit deceptive because of the ringlets and the fact she has hair in a low chignon, which kind of make it look down. I actually can't think of any times she has hair down (outside of the bedroom, or at least house) after her first marriage. Actually forgive me - in the deleted final scene where Scarlett returns to Tara in the low cut green dress, costume stills show she does have her hair down at this point. During the war Rhett mentions that the Empress of France is wearing her hair piled on top of her head now, which suggests the general fashion for low buns, which Scarlett generally wears (in the film at least). The only times she doesn't wear a low bun are in Melanie's death/Rhett leaving scenes and maybe the mill scene with Ashley, but you can't really tell because of all the tulle at the back of the bonnet.
    In the novel, in scenes like the orchard scene and Rhett leaving Scarlett's hair is described as coming loose from its pins, which I have trouble imagining when I read, due to the movie's portrayal.


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