Monday, December 20, 2010

Doppelganger Dresses, Part 17: Scarlett's Red and White Christmas Dress

Fresh on the heels of Scarlett's green Christmas dress, the Doppelganger Dresses series is delighted to bring you Scarlett's other Christmastime outfit from Gone with the Wind: the charming red and white gown she wears to say goodbye to Ashley as he returns to war. This dress is one of my all-time favorite costumes from Gone with the Wind, and I think Walter Plunkett did an inspired job in creating it.  It hits all the right notes: it's playful without being over the top, girlish without being too demure, festive without screaming "CHRISTMAS" at the top of its lungs.

Little surprise here, it's also grounded in historical style. After the jump, you'll find two dresses from period fashion plates that bear close resemblance to Scarlett's own Christmas gown. One important difference to note: both of our period selections feature long sleeves, as was standard for day dress styles. Plunkett actually did toy with a long-sleeved version of this costume, but opted for the short-sleeved version instead, which he felt made Scarlett look more youthful. 

The fashions are waiting for you after the jump. Check them out and, as always, let us know what you think. Which one reminds you most of Scarlett's red and white Christmas dress? 

Dress with white bodice and blue skirt, June 1861. Godey's Lady's Book.

Dress with white bodice with pink skirt, circa 1862. Peterson's Magazine.

 Screenshots of Scarlett's red and white dress from Gone with the Wind

Photo credit:


  1. Beautiful!! I think both plates are quite similar. But I like Scarlett's the best!! :-) And I LOVE the B&W photo with her shadow.

  2. "...girlish without being too demure..." Uh that's for sure. ; }. There is another theme to this I read somewhere and it is plausible -- that Plunkett was a master at conveying character and mood with his choice of attire, and that GWTW is a showcase for it including the selection of red on Scarlett as a visual cue. You see this as the movie progresses from the porch dress, virginal white accented with a red belt and red bows in her hair, infering a garden-variety tease, to this scene, a dress in which red is the dominant color, the plot implication of a dangerous temptress (Christmas is over now but for her Christmas present, really a pretext for meeting Ashley alone), to the first scene after her marriage to Frank, meeting Ashley in a dress drenched in red. What a flag for a fallen woman. The theme shrieks back at us in the birthday party dress complete with garnets. Red you know. Plunkett may have been playing a little game with his audience because her name is Scarlett. How could he ignore the implication?

    It is lovely and a close match to the plates. But the red is intended to send us a message.

    (Don't care for all those goofy hanging tassels. What's with that? Distracting. That's my only problem with Carreen's Tara dress too. Simpler is better. The visual interest is in the bodice details and the contrast of red and bright white.)

  3. P.S. There may be a font of material on these phenomenal hairstyles too and the extent to which the Hollywood conceptions correlate with fashion history. Godey's may be a reference. Not to pile more work on. Just an idea.

  4. I agree that this is one of the most beautiful dresses of the film. The plates are a great match, though I agree with Beth, Scarlett’s is by far the nicest. Thank God Plunkett did use short sleeves – the sleeves on the models in the plates look like pug dogs. They are so unflattering in my opinion. I think the collar on Scarlett’s dress is much nicer than the plain necklines on the models.
    Kathleen, I have to disagree about the tassels. As I was going down the page I was thinking Scarlett’s was better thanks to the sash and tassels and then I read your comment and it broke my heart! I think the fringe adds that little extra touch of luxury and it’s also a nice thought that she is wearing a tasselled sash as she ties one on Ashley himself.
    The red dress theory I absolutely love!!! I love colours and colour symbolism and that theory has never occurred to me before, but it makes so much sense. How can Plunkett not have taken advantage of her name being Scarlett? MM didn’t, because her name wasn’t Scarlett when she wrote the book. If Plunkett asked MM permission to change the colour of some dresses, maybe this indicates he wanted to give his own spin, as every costume designer does, tell the story through clothes. What then do we make of Scarlett’s red dressing gown after the party or the red dress she wears in the store with Melanie? In that scene Scarlett and Melanie are wearing similar dresses, but one in red and one in blue. Maybe a contrast in their characters was being presented. To me blue is kind of innocent and makes me think of the Virgin Mary.
    Are there any pictures of a long-sleeved Plunkett version?

  5. What a cool theory, Kathleen! It's a great observation and one I really like. Not sure I'd describe Scarlett as a "fallen woman" at the point she marries Frank, though. Certainly, she demonstrates a fair share of moral flexibility in tricking Frank into marrying her. But she actually did marry Frank, and that's not what I think of as a "fallen woman" - I associate the phrase much more with good ole fashion prostitution or adultery.

    Nice suggestion about the hairstyles too. Not sure what's out there on that front, but you never know what will turn up...

  6. I like the sleeves and neckline very much as well. About the tassels it's a matter of taste. That's all. They seem to emphasize those huge hoops and the size of the hoop skirt does not need emphasis do it? If the tassels were shorter and narrower I may not mind.

    That red dressing gown has to be out there somewhere too.

  7. By "fallen woman" I mean what the Plunkett wished to portray. She sold herself in marriage to a man she didn't love was Ashley's line and he was right.

  8. In addition to Kathleen's theory - what are we to make of the outfit worn in the mill scene? It's a fairly significant scene between Scarlett and Ashley. Yet not a scrap of red to be seen anywhere. He has her dressed in white and blue. Going with the blue symbolising innocence, perhaps it was meant to represent the fact she was actually innocent for once and wasn't trying to force a moment. I love the irony. I think the fact that Carreen was always dressed in blue also represented she was the innocent one of the sisters.


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