The Curtain Dress, designed by Walter Plunkett, was a symbol of Scarlett's will to survive, was worn in three scenes: the jail scene in which Scarlett asks Rhett for financial assistance, the scene in which Scarlett walks through the Atlanta streets with Mammy, and the scene in which Scarlett meets Frank Kennedy.
The color of the dress presented Plunkett with several challenges. It had to suit the color of Vivien Leigh's eyes, and it had to conform to Technicolor specifications. Furthermore, the dress had to look as though it were made from the draperies at Tara.
It is believed that Plunkett deliberately treated or exposed the fabric to sunlight to achieve a faded appearance. However, the fading is not apparent onscreen through the vibrant green of the Technicolor process, and the fading and discoloration present on the fabric today is likely not what Plunkett may have attempted in 1939.
Also known as the Drapery Dress and the Portieres dress, the curtain dress is comprised of two separate garments. The green velvet skirt parts in the front to reveal a chartreuse velvet underskirt and is attached to a sleeveless cotton under bodice.
The separate green velvet bodice has long fitted sleeves and a capelet on the left shoulder. The final piece in the ensemble is the distinctive drapery cord belt with two tassels at each end.
1. Margaret Mitchell was inspired by her great-grandmother's curtains. Eleanor Fitzgerald, her great-grandmother, had elaborate velvet curtains hanging in her home. Indeed, the Fitzgerald plantation was the primary inspiration for Tara.
After the fields and farmlands were destroyed in the war, according to the family story heard often by young Margaret, Eleanor's heavy velvet drapes still hung, a remnant of the genteel dignity of the house through the darkest times.
2. The dress was designed to look faded, but it didn't show in Technicolor.
Plunkett knew that real curtains would be irregularly bleached from constant exposure to the sun, and tried to recreate that look. But the heavy color saturation of Technicolor film meant that effect didn't come across in the movie.
3. The total cost of the outfit was $485.
According to the book The Art of Gone With The Wind by Judy Cameron, that price tag includes $400 for the dress and $85 for the two cock-feather hats that were necessary for the production. That would be roughly $8,300 in 2014 dollars.
If Scarlett had had that kind of money lying around, she could have paid off that tax bill without asking for Rhett's help.
4. The original dress was so damaged, restorers weren't sure they would ever be able to exhibit it again.
“There are extensive alterations and it's not clear when or why they were done,” said conservator Cara Varnell in 2010, adding that to restore the faded green color would only damage the dress further.
It was only after the University of Texas raised $30,000 to restore it and other GWTW dresses that the Curtain Dress was finally deemed sturdy enough to display.