Harry Ransom CenterThe University of Texas at Austin

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Spring 2013 Newsletter

Conservation work completed on Gone With The Wind dresses

Dress. Click to enlarge.

The conserved green curtain dress worn by Vivien Leigh as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone With The Wind.

Conservator working on dress. Click to enlarge.

Conservator Cara Varnell works on the burgundy ball gown from Gone With The Wind. Varnell determined that some feathers were original and some were replacements.

Conservator working on dress. Click to enlarge.

Looking through an opti-visor, conservator Cara Varnell studies the green curtain dress jacket.

In 2010, the Ransom Center raised funds to conserve original costumes from Gone With The Wind, which are part of the Center's David O. Selznick archive. Donors from around the world graciously contributed more than $30,000 to support the conservation work, which will enable the Ransom Center to display the costumes safely in its fall 2014 exhibition, loan the costumes to other institutions, and display the costumes properly on custom-fitted mannequins.

Prior to the collection's arrival at the Ransom Center in the 1980s, the costumes had been exhibited extensively for promotional purposes in the years after the film's production, and, as a result, were in fragile condition.

The Ransom Center's detailed and careful conservation work took more than 180 hours and occurred between fall 2010 and spring 2012. Cara Varnell, an independent art conservator who specializes in textiles, historic clothing, and performance costumes, was the key conservator. She led a team of Ransom Center conservators and professors and graduate students from the Division of Textiles and Apparel in the College of Natural Sciences' School of Human Ecology at The University of Texas at Austin.

Both the green curtain dress and the burgundy ball gown had vulnerable areas stabilized to prevent further damage. The conservation work allowed the Ransom Center to loan the green curtain dress and burgundy ball gown to the Victoria and Albert (V&A) Museum in London for the exhibition Hollywood Costume, which ran from October 20, 2012 through January 27, 2013.

The conservation work will also enable the Ransom Center to display the original burgundy ball gown, green curtain dress, and green velvet dressing gown as part of a 75th-anniversary Gone With The Wind exhibition at the Ransom Center in 2014.

"The majority of the conservation work performed on these costumes would not be obvious or visible to one viewing the costumes on a mannequin," said Jill Morena, assistant curator for costumes and personal effects. "It is the interior of the costumes where meticulous work occurred and vulnerable areas were reinforced with archival support material and extra stitching."  

View a more detailed description of some of the conservation work conducted on these costumes and watch four videos that give a behind-the-scenes look at the work conducted on the green curtain dress, the burgundy ball gown, the wedding veil, and the green velvet dressing gown.

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