Gone With The Wind. I read the book before I saw the film. In fact, I didn’t get to see the film until it came out on VHS. And, although it was interesting how some story details were left out (Scarlett O’Hara had three children from her three husbands in the novel; she gave birth only to Rhett Butler’s child in the film), I found it amazing how so much of the visual details described in the book found its way into the movie — from the décolletage of the dress that Scarlett wore to the barbecue at Twin Oaks to the drapes that she tore down to turn into a dress hoping to inveigle Rhett into giving her money to pay the taxes on Tara to the dramatic and tragic scene that was the burning of Atlanta.
Talking casually film with college friends, I always found it amusing that the detail that most of the girls remembered was Scarlett’s brooch in the last scene when she was pleading with Rhett not to leave and divorce her, and Rhett famously replied, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.” Curious, really, because among the many details of the film’s costume design, the one I remembered the most was Scarlett’s hat.
That hat — the one she wore when Melanie was about to give birth and Scarlett went out to fetch the doctor. I’ve always found it interesting how much it resembles the Vietnamese nón lá except for the pointed top. I marvel at the artistry of the designer with the way the ribbon was inserted through the top of the hat.
But enough about hats.
When I started this blog, I knew it was only a matter of time before I wrote about Scarlett O’Hara. I tried to recall her jewelry but only remembered the brooch probably because of the way my college friends gushed over it. I re-watched the movie (on Blu-Ray, this time) and… I must declare that I found Scarlett’s earrings more riveting than the brooch. But then again, that might be because I am an earrings kind of girl.
At Twin Oaks, when Scarlett declared her love for Ashley Wilkes, she was wearing a necklace that appear to be clusters of coral…
… and a pair of earrings with stones that look like amethyst. Modest and age-appropriate. Scarlett was, after all, only sixteen at the time.
The sedate and modest tone of her jewelry continued throughout the first half or so of the film. When she visited Rhett Butler in jail in an attempt to charm him into lending her money to pay the taxes on Tara, she was wearing long dangling earrings.
After the war broke out and Ashley was given a few days furlough, Scarlett wore cameo earrings that matched her brooch.
It was not until after she married the wealthy blockade runner Rhett Butler and she was independently making a lot of money with her sawmill that her taste in jewelry became rather garish.
On their honeymoon, she wore diamond and sapphire jewelry so ostentatious that the term nouveau riche comes to mind. Scarlett’s family wasn’t at all poor before the war. The O’Hara family owned a cotton plantation, after all. But, after the abject poverty that they went through while the war raged, it just might be appropriate to describe Scarlett’s new taste in jewelry as nouveau riche style indeed.
When she was strong enough to leave her bedroom after she suffered a miscarriage, Scarlett takes her morning coffee on the terrace wearing diamond chandelier earrings that are more appropriate for a formal dinner.
Yep, that was the day that their daughter fell off the horse and died.
When she visited Ashley (who had become her partner in the sawmill business) at the sawmill, Scarlett was so bedecked in jewels that she might as well be having lunch at some swanky restaurant with a very strict dress code.
Yep, in the second half of the film, Scarlett was all about jewelry and fashionable clothes.
The obvious question, of course, is just how historically accurate were the clothes and jewelry used in Gone With The Wind? I don’t know about the clothes but the life story of the jeweler who designed the pieces for the film deserves to be made into a film itself. His name is Eugene Joseff and he did for the movie-making industry what Harry Winston would do for the red carpet events. Joseff made jewelry and rented them out to the movie studios.
He dug into historical books and piles of bound magazines like “Ladies Field” and “Harper’s Bazar” from the Victorian Era. He traveled, visited museums, and studied pieces from the Renaissance and ancient times in detail…
In the ’30s and ’40s, Joseff was supplying over 90 percent of the jewelry in the movies…
The oversized cameo brooch, however, was not among the pieces designed by Joseff. According to one website, it was owned by the mother of Walter Plunkett, the film’s costume designer.
So, was it really fashionable for women to wear oversized cameo brooches after the Civil War? Probably.