Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Greatest Gown in Cinema

Vivien Leigh
Some of the most beautiful dresses in the world have been made in Hollywood, particularly during the 1940s and 1950s. The most popular have achieved mythical status, like Audrey Hepburn's little black dress in Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961) and Marilyn Monroe's white dress in The Seven Year Itch (1955).

However, for me the greatest gown made in Hollywood is the red one worn by Vivien Leigh for her role as Scarlett O'Hara in Gone with the Wind (1939). Not only is it worn by arguably the most beautiful woman in film, but it is a triumph of dressmaking- with it's rubies, feathers, and overall breathtaking appearance. It mirrored the strength, presence, boldness and striking beauty of it's wearer, and is perfect for the scene it was made for. Scarlett is about to enter a party where all its guests are gossiping about her, maybe even calling her a 'scarlet woman', and definitely believing that she would not have the nerve to come along. But, even though Scarlet was reluctant to go, Rhett forces her, questioning whether she has the brashness to go into 'the lion's den'. Of course Scarlett holds her head high and enters the room with regal defiance and elegance, much to everyone's surprise and annoyance.

If ever a dress succeeded in making a big entrance, it was this stunning red gown designed by Walter Plunkett. All the costumes designed for Gone with the Wind are masterpieces, but this one is the ultimate show-stopper.


  1. I can't say it's my favourite dress, as for me, it's the dress of shame, the "slut dress" Scarlett has to wear and which reflects the 3rd act of the film, but Gone with the Wind constitutes the perfect example of costume designing combined with incredibly dense character development. Each dress and gown worn by Scarlett throughout the epic demonstrates her growth as a character but also her personal demons, her ascension in society and her pride, that came to a halt with this dress! Every dress and pattern and color screams spectacle and may look improbable or ridiculous or over-the-top but definitely suits the tone of the film but shows the character's strength and resistance! Way to go Claudia!

    1. I know for the period GWTW is set in it is supposed to be the slut dress, 'the scarlet woman' gown. But it's not slutty at all - let's face it. I think it shows off Leigh;s figure beautifully, the shades of scarlet are gorgeous, it oozes glamour and a certain pride, which Leigh pulls off brilliantly. I love it. Not everybody could pull off that dress. Only Leigh could in my eyes. Besides, she looks every inch the movie star in that shot.

  2. That dress looks spectacular indeed! I've noticed Scarlet's dresses have been boldier, bawdier and sexier since her marriage with Rhett, so I wonder if she had some sort of sexual awakening to explain that! Didn't he tell me he was an experienced man in that field, plus he spoilt her to death in the last act of the film! At the time of the story, it's supposed to be the slut dress, but by today's standards, it's just full-on glamour and the female guests certainly looked so plain, except Melanie of course!