Friday, November 26, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 13: Suellen's Twelve Oaks Dress

While I'm not a big Suellen O'Hara fan (who really is?), I must say that I find the pink dress with ruffled flounces that she wears to the Twelve Oaks barbecue to be rather pretty. 

Those of you who also like the dress (if perhaps not the owner) are in luck, as Suellen's Twelve Oaks dress is the focus on this week's edition of Doppelganger Dresses.

As always, you can find the matching period fashion plate after the jump for your consideration. What do you think? Does it look like Suellen's dress to you? 

Pink dress with flounced detailing, August 1863. Godey's Lady's Book

Screenshots of Suellen's Twelve Oaks dress in Gone with the Wind.

Gone with the Wind publicity stills of Suellen's Twelve Oaks dress. 


  1. I like her Tara dress better. Thos sleeves.

  2. Good pick ladies. It's easy to see the similarity between the scalloped flounces of both dresses. The model's flounces are trimmed with lace, though it looks like Suellen's dress is trimmed with finely pleated organdy or something like that. I always thought this dress could've been based on one of Scarlett's dresses she considers wearing to the barbecue, but vetoes as she had worn it the previous summer when Melanie visited Twelve Oaks. The dress was decribed as rose organdy with a long pink sash, and I recall that it was becoming.
    Kathleen, I agree, Suellen's Tara dress is very funky (except I wish they hadn't filled in the V). You wouldn't think that yellow and brown could be pulled off so nicely (like my horrible school uniform) - the dress looks to me like a forerunner for Cate Blanchett's Oscar dress she wore when she won for Aviator.

  3. I am going to stand on a limb here, and say that I think everyone is way too harsh on poor old Suellen. I have been rereading that delightful old book, the name of which escapes me at the moment, (my copy is so ragged that there are loose pages to be found in every room of the house) and my opinion of Suellen has started to change. Because the story is told almost solely from Scarlett's perspective and through her eyes, as readers we are given an extremely biased portrayal.
    In chapters one and two, when family history is being given (not through Scarlett's eyes - simply an objective acount), Suellen is described as priding herself on her elegance and ladylike deportment. Also she is a good student for Mammy and Ellen as she is anxious to be attractive. These descriptions hardly point to her being a catty bitch. That impression is created later, through Scharlett's thoughts and words.
    Scarlett paints Suellen as a monster of slefishness, however Suellen herself wonders why Scarlett will never share her clothes or bonnets. Scarlett considers that Carreen would look better in one of her dresses, so was it just Suellen she was nasty to?
    What is apparent from the novel is that there has been an ongoing feud between Scarlett and Suellen, virtually since childhood. I believe this is because they are, in reality, extremely similar.

    When Scarlett returns to Tara in September 1864, everything has changed. I think this excerpt is quite telling:

    Suellen looked with weak loathing at her older sister, feeling sure
    Scarlett said these things just to be mean. Suellen had nearly
    died and she had lost her mother and she was lonely and scared and
    she wanted to be petted and made much of. Instead, Scarlett looked
    over the foot of the bed each day, appraising their improvement
    with a hateful new gleam in her slanting green eyes and talked
    about making beds, preparing food, carrying water buckets and
    splitting kindling. And she looked as if she took a pleasure in
    saying such awful things.

    And we know that Scarlett did. I feel that this line of thinking is completely valid on Suellen's part, and I can totally sympathise with her. Scarlett's hellish journey from Atlanta to Tara changed her into a different person, but Carreen and Suellen didn't have anything like that. They became sick, took to their beds, lost consciousness and when they woke up their mother was dead, their father was mad and their world was overturned. Scarlett was really hard on them and never gave a thought to how they felt.
    After the war finished, Suellen took great pleasure in dressing up in the assembled best of the household and going to Jonesboro with Will. There is also an ever present feud over the horse. Scarlett says she can walk or stay home. Scarlett stays home so it doesn’t matter how she dresses. When she finally does leave the plantation, she has a brand new dress made, because she can’t be seen in rags. Yet she thinks less of Suellen for her dressing up and wanting to look nice. Suellen even gives Scarlett her lace collar and then Scarlett, without any qualms or second thoughts, steals her fiancĂ©, whilst wearing it!
    With Scarlett it’s very much out of sight, out of mind. Once she is in Atlanta, it’s as if everyone at Tara ceases to exist, or at least have thoughts and feelings. It seems not to have occurred to Scarlett that Suellen wouldn't get over what she did easily, in fact that she would've stewed and stewed and ended up doing what she did. Scarlett was an incredibly scheming person, and so was Suellen. If I could get my hands on $150 000 I would do what Suellen did. Even Scarlett conceded in that instance...
    Any thoughts on the matter?

  4. I think you have a point here. Much of what we know about Suellen comes from Scarlett and it's clear that there is some sibling rivalry going on there. The difference between Suellen and Carreen was first of all one of personality. Carreen seems to be more like Ellen and she was probably easy to live with, which explains why Scarlett likes her better. Even before Scarlett's transformation during the war, I imagine Carreen as listening to her older sister without problems. Suellen on the other hand was, I think, an attenuated version of Scarlett. She seems to have inherited some features from Gerald too, but not the whole package, so she's more pliable than Scarlett and willing to play by society's rules. I also think that in the beginning of the novel their relationship is shaped by the competition factor. Carreen was too young to be any competition for Scarlett, whereas Suellen wasn't. It would have been interesting to see Scarlett interact with a Carreen that was old enough to begin attracting some of her sister's beaux. (In fact, we do know that Scarlett was irritated at the news that Brent was courting Carrreen.)

    The problem with Suellen in general is exactly that she doesn't have Scarlett's entire personality. She basically has some of Scarlett's worst features (she is kind of self-centered, stubborn and scheming), but without Scarlett's redeeming qualities (loyalty to her family, for example). Or is this just b/c we don't get her side of the story? It's Scarlett's opinion that Suellen wouldn't give them the money for Tara if she had it. I tend to agree with Scarlett here, but who knows?

  5. Oh I agree; Suellen's Tara dress is a truly interesting design. I like it a lot, even if the color combination is kind of questionable. That dress was actually very high on my "doppelganger wishlist" but, alas, I have yet to find anything that vaguely resembles it.

    Interesting point too re: Scarlett's rose organdy dress. In a few weeks, we'll be featuring a doppelganger post on that dress and some of the others MM mentions in that passage.

  6. I'm an agnostic on the Suellen matter. I don't hate her, but she doesn't inspire much of an impression in me either. But I do believe she did truly love Frank and it's hard not to feel terribly for her in that matter. Moreover, I don't think it would have been easy to have an older sister like Scarlett. It would have been impossible to measure up to her in terms of popularity, and Scarlett didn't have any interest in playing nicely with her other girls, including her own sisters. I imagine that many of Suellen's unpleasant qualities--her pettiness, self-involvement, and generally spoiled manner--have some kind of genesis in dealing with a really dominant older sister like Scarlett. That being said, the girl is just plain annoying at points and, well, I trouble myself thinking about her very much. :)

  7. Recollect that Will Benteen, portrayed as having a sixth sense about people including Scarlett and Ashley, remarked to her on the way home when Gerald died that he didn't think Suellen cared all that much for Frank and that the episode touched her vanity. Speaking of Gerald he didn't like Suellen either including her busybody tattling ways at the start of the book. Also his mistrust of her reared up from his senility during the Iron Clad Oath episode. Then, instead of holding her breath when he picked up the pen she bragged about their imminent prosperity on the par of the MacIntoshes and Slatterys of all people -- naming names -- knowing already that her father's mindset flitted in and out of senility and not thinking ahead to his reaction. Instantly he snapped out of it and backed out of it. Not too bright was she? Anyhow Scarlett and her dad had the same opinion of Suellen essentially and Will had her number.

    Love her Tara dress though. The colors suit the actress who played her.


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