Historic clothing is fragile. Never intended to last forever, examples of clothing from the past can perish from poor storage, well-intended but disastrous wear for fancy dress, or a long-ago owner's perspiration. Even the garment's own dye or ornament over time can cause the fabric to disintegrate. Here's an excellent blog on the perils that face historic clothing, including several heart-breaking examples, from the Museum of the Fashion Institute of Design & Merchandisingin Los Angeles.
Sadly the appeals to contribute to save this or that famous garment are never-ending. Restoration and climate-controlled storage are expensive, and the non-profit collections for historic dress are always in need of funding. But when this particular appeal appeared in my email this morning, I definitely took notice. Sometimes the most iconic historical garments don't even date from the period they represent, and such is the case of the famous green "Curtain Dress", left, worn by Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in the 1939 movie Gone with the Wind.
As anyone who has seen the movie knows, the curtain dress is much more than an attractive costume. Sewn from her mother's velvet curtains and worn to seek money from Rhett Butler, the dress represents Scarlett's resourcefulness and determination as well as her sense of style, and is probably the single costume most remembered from the film. Great care was taken with its creation, and like all of Scarlett's costumes, it was closely based on historical examples from the 1860s (such as this fashion print, right.) It's even a accurate color of toxic green that was popular in interior decor as well as fashion. Here's the link to the costume's complete story, plus information about other GWTW costumes.
Unlike most movie costumes, however, the curtain dress and others from GWTW had a life of their own after the movie's release. Over the years, they were often sent out on tour to museums and special showings of the movie, to the point that the originals were finally recreated, and the replicas sent out on the road in their stead. Now the originals are kept at the University of Texas, who has sent out the appeal for their preservation. If you're interested, here's the link.
Many thanks to Michael Robinson for suggesting this blog.
There’s a big difference in how we use history. But we’re equally nuts about it. To us, the everyday details of life in the past are things to talk about, ponder, make fun of -- much in the way normal people talk about their favorite reality show.
We talk about who’s wearing what and who’s sleeping with whom. We try to sort out rumor or myth from fact. We thought there must be at least three other people out there who think history’s fascinating and fun, too. This blog is for them.