Despite the fact it’s been 72 years since Scarlett O’Hara first pulled down a green curtain to make herself a dress in “Gone With the Wind,” that outfit has remained one of the most iconic looks in cinematic history. It’s going to stay that way for many more years, too, as that dress and the burgundy ball gown from the 1939 film have been restored by the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas.
The Center has been part of a $30,000 conservation effort to protect the two costumes from deteriorating. Now both of the dresses, which were famously worn by Vivien Leigh in “Gone With the Wind,” are on display at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. This is the first time the public has been able to see them in nearly 30 years.
After first being announced in 2010, the team at the Ransom Center set to work on making sure that the weak stitching and other problems with the dresses were repaired. The goal of the conservation was to make the costumes last, not return them to new conditions, so there still are stains and other imperfections. Other pieces, like Scarlett’s wedding dress and veil and her blue velvet night gown, were too fragile to be repaired and are being returned to storage with no plans to work on them in the future.
“All of those areas would have gotten worse. All the vulnerable parts have been stabilized,” Jill Morena, the Ransom Center’s assistant curator for costumes and personal effects, tells the Associated Press. “It has been a success. We would not be able to display them without this effort.”
The Harry Ransom Center first acquired the outfits in the 1980s. Following their time at the Victoria and Albert Museum exhibit, which runs through Jan. 27, the two “Gone With the Wind” dresses will be shown at the Center’s 75th anniversary celebration of the film in 2014.