The set of costumes Scarlett wears throughout the film are all iconic in a sense that they fit the moment entirely. One main theme that seems to occur with Scarlett is the color green. Green has many meanings. According to gem psychology, green can mean money, growth, and/or the desire to expand or increase. This meaning can obviously be attributed to when she is expanding and doing all she can for Tara. This particular green meaning is seen in the curtain dress. It can also mean full of life and spirit, which is the vivacious Scarlett seen in the first dress. The three main green dresses Scarlett wears all have a very different relation to her character, the situations she is in, the purpose of the scene and her inner conflicts that are left unsaid in the film.
The first green dress is worn at the barbeque at Twelve Oaks, Ashley Wilkes’ plantation home. While getting ready for the barbeque, Scarlett fights Mammy, her governess, on pulling down her neckline even though she should not be trying to “show her bosom,” as Mammy puts it. She wants to “steal the hearts” of “more than one” eligible bachelor at the party, and especially wants to attract the attention of Ashley Wilkes, her main love interest who just cannot seem to return the same devotion she makes known for him (Roberts 7). She bats her eyelashes and lies about having fake devotion and interest to numerous men at the party.The layers of ruffles along the neckline which can be thought to illustrate her young, flirty personality.The low neckline stands out tremendously in the midst of the other ladies at Twelve Oaks. This shows how she is obsessed with the superficial aspects of attracting a man.
She wants to be seen as an object of sexual attraction, because she thinks this is the only way she will be able to get Ashley once and for all. She is the only girl there with bare shoulders and her chest showing, as well as the only one with an extremely poufy skirt. The actual features of the dress: the thick velvet waist to emphasize her slenderness, the large skirt to attract more attention and the low-cut neckline to objectify her as older and more desirable all contribute to the drama Scarlett wishes to convey while wearing this scene. She is over the top and her actions seem to be over exaggerated, letting the dress extend and proliferate her foolishness around others. One of the girls makes a comment that women like Scarlett are the type that “no man ever marries,” just “flirts with.” This is definitely seen when you put Scarlett in contrast to the other ladies at the party.
The detailing on the bodice and skirt is more white than green. This is showing her innocence. White is virginal, while green is full of life. She is supposed to be the young age of sixteen in this scene, so trying to illustrate that on screen with such an older actress can be quite a challenge (Maeder 25). This dress is supposed to set the audience with the impression that Scarlett is a love-sick, jealous, spoiled, immature, yet passionate young lady. Mixing these traits together does seem very promising for getting her through in bad situations—it is genuine ambition, but her stubbornness and arrogance for being of high status in life that allows for her to evolve into the heroine American recognizes her as today.
The second green dress is one of the most memorable costumes in film history: the green curtain dress. She wears this dress when going to visit Rhett in jail to ask for money to pay the taxes on Tara. She is going to lose Tara Plantation if she does not come up with 300 dollars to pay the taxes on the property. The deep forest green of the dress reflects a meaning wealth and money. Instead of trying to lure Rhett with sex appeal, like she does Ashley, she tries to look more wealthy and overstated. She tries to equate herself with Rhett in order to convince him to give her money. This costume shows her obsession with money and her relentless attitude toward getting exactly what she wants. In this shot, she is seen by the opening of Rhett’s cell. The bars on the window, the layers and layers of her dress and her elaborate head piece all make for a very confusing, clustered shot. This can be seen as reflecting the motive Scarlett has when going to see Rhett. She goes to lie to Rhett about how much she supposedly cares for him so she can get the money. She then sees Frank Kennedy and the shop he now owns, so she lies to Frank about Suellen’s (her sister) devotion to him in order for Frank to marry her and not her sister so she can get a hold of a potentially lucrative opportunity. Her main motive in this dress is money. It shows her obsession with getting money, making money and having materialistic possessions, headed by the well-being of Tara.
The third dress is worn when she is just married to Rhett and they are touring the grounds of Tara before their honeymoon. Her walking is more exaggerated in this scene, almost making it seem like she is showing off her exterior to Tara. I feel this scene allows for the audience to truly see her connection to Tara. Her and Rhett’s relationship begins and ends with Tara. In this scene, Scarlett tells Rhett she wants everyone who was mean to her in the past to be “pea green with envy” when they get a home together and when she makes Tara even more sophisticated than before. She wants to show off her wealth like never before to make it absolutely known that she has not fallen and will never fail to rise to the top, despite the obstacles she is faced with. The green dress she is wearing is a mostly gray dress (hinting at her tainted innocence, as opposed to a white bodice) with various green lines on the top bodice and then intersecting green lines on the bottom of the skirt. The straight lines on the top indicate that her life with Rhett will go a lot more smoothly than before, due to the fact that he has an immense fortune has finally been linked to her by marriage and the fact that he wants to spoil her rotten. Although she seems to fool Rhett pretty good in to thinking she truly loves him when they are together, she still loves Ashley and sees him daily due to their joint control of the lumber company in Atlanta. The intersecting lines indicate that she is still stuck in the in between with loving Ashley and Rhett. It is the literal illustration of their love triangle. The multiple triangle shapes show how prevalent this theme is throughout the film. Scarlett is controlled by her emotions for Ashley; it eventually leads to her demise. This inner conflict is literally illustrated by this dress. The fact that Rhett’s cane is touching this part of the skirt is showing that he is the one that will come out to be the true match for Scarlett. Unfortunately, she comes to this realization too late. One personality trait of hers that stays the same throughout the film is her obsessive lust for Ashley. As she grows older, she learns to express her wealth in status not by objectifying herself, but letting others see the intricacy of her outward appearance, indicating how high she regards herself in contrast to others.
by Jessica Billings