Why that hat?

GWTWset4One of the more enjoyable things I get to do when a new book comes out is share all the inside stuff about how the story came to be. Those details aren’t usually included on a book’s back cover and yet I think most of us novel-lovers like learning about a book’s genesis, how the author came up with the storyline, and why she made the decisions she did in the telling.

I will be sharing with you the inside scoop on STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD for the next few weeks as its launch into the wild is celebrated – at least by me! Today I want to tell you why, of all the Gone with the Wind props and costume pieces I could have chosen to make a mysterious reappearance in the 21st century, I chose Scarlett’s curtain dress hat.

I am a huge fan of metaphor. For me, that curtain-dress hat is emblematic of what dire circumstances can lead someone to do when what she loves most is in danger of being taken from her. If you’re familiar with the scene in the movie, you know that Scarlett is in a place of decision when she pulls down her dead mother’s curtains so that she can dress the part of someone she is not.  I think what’s being communicated through imagery here is that when we’re afraid of losing what we treasure most, we sometimes do things that we would never do in an ordinary situation.

I don’t think it’s any accident that that hat is part rich velvet and gold braid and part barnyard rooster feathers. It’s an amalgam of Scarlett’s strength and her weakness. She will do what no one else will do because of how afraid she is of losing everything.

You might find it interesting that the actual hat worn by Vivien Leigh is part of the museum collection at the Harry Ransom Center at the University of Texas at Austin. When I spoke to the curator about my premise way back at the idea stage (I told him I was going to have the curtain dress hat show up in a vintage clothing store on Sunset Blvd in the current day) he  told me there was indeed a second hat made – a back-up – and no one knows what became of it. I didn’t have to use any literary license in getting the hat out of the museum and into a boutique in Hollywood. Pretty cool, huh?

The sketch at the top of this post is costume designer Walter Plunkett’s original concept for this dress and hat. You can see many more of those costume designs, and much more info on GWTW, on the University’s wonderful website. Here’s the link.

And now let’s have a giveaway, shall we? I will give a signed copy of STARS OVER SUNSET BOULEVARD to two randomly-drawn winners who comment below. I’d love to hear what your favorite GWTW costume or costume piece is. No worries if you haven’t seen the movie and don’t have a favorite (but really, what are you waiting for!? Watch the movie!). Leave your comment by noon PST on Monday, Jan 11. If you share the link to this post on Facebook or Twitter, your chances will double. Do let me know in your comment that you shared so I will know.

Have a great weekend!

p.s. Did you know the infamous mock curtain-dress Carol Burnett wore in her parody WENT WITH THE WIND is on display at the Smithsonian? With its curtain rod no less!



Author: Susan

This post has 48 Comments

  1. Cheraw Sievers on January 8, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    I loved the beautiful white and green gown Scarlets wore when she came running down the steps of Tara. I saw this movie many, many years ago on my 12th birthday. I loved the soundtrack too and was finally able to convince my piano teacher to allow me to learn “Tara’sTheme”. It became my signature piece, much to my piano teachers dismay. She preferred the classics!

  2. Shari on January 8, 2016 at 6:47 pm

    Hi Susan! Love your books. Looking forward to reading this one. Can’t wait to hear what you are going to do with it. Hmmm, I think I always liked the red dress. Just watched this youtube video of her in all her dresses. Wow, they say so much. Her innocence, her jealousy, stripes on her dresses while married to Rhett (hmm, imprisoned?). Never found her to be a very likeable character, but she sure was a fighter.

  3. Teresa on January 8, 2016 at 7:18 pm

    I think my favorite dress was the white ruffle dress with the red belt. I will be sharing your Facebook post as soon as I finish here. I love your books!

  4. Sherry Anderson Arritt on January 8, 2016 at 8:15 pm

    The Green dress made from the drapes is my first choice because I found it intriguing that such a beautiful gown could be created from the velvet drapes. In the early 70s, I knew of a lady who made her business suits from drapery and upholstery fabrics. Perhaps the movie was her inspiration? Amelia and I have followed suit because the same fabric she used to make dining room window treatments; we also made ourselves dresses. That fabric happened to be green silk taffeta…Amelia created a gown to wear to the 2015 Tartan Ball and I made myself an A-line dress with a square neckline and three quarter length sleeves. The Carol Burnett skit is my all time favorite and we use the same line when receiving a compliment on our attire, “I saw it in the window and had to have it!”

  5. Chery Barker on January 8, 2016 at 9:11 pm

    I’d say the green dress made from the drapes because it’s so memorable. So looking forward to reading your book, Susan. Hope I win! 🙂 (By the way, I just shared on my Cheryl Barker, Writer page on Facebook.)

  6. Pamela on January 8, 2016 at 9:51 pm

    The red dress – nothing compares.

  7. Susan on January 8, 2016 at 9:58 pm

    Oh, how I love all these comments!

  8. Shaela on January 8, 2016 at 10:15 pm

    I love reading all your little tidbits! I wish you wrote a separate “Beyond the Words: A Deeper Look into (insert favorite Susan Meissner title here)” book for all of your novels, haha.

    I am ashamed to say that it has been so long since I watched GWTW that I can’t recall my favorite dress! I know I loved the red one, and since that’s the only one I remember I guess it’s my favorite, lol. I need to reread the book and then watch the movie again!

  9. Tahnya Ford on January 8, 2016 at 10:22 pm

    I so enjoy reading your books Susan! Can’t wait to read this one as Gone with the Wind is one of my all time favorites!! Scarlett is also one of my favorite characters—one STRONG woman, and ornery to boot.

    Quote: Scarlett O’Hara – “After all… tomorrow is another day!”

    And my favorite scene of Scarlett is when she walks into Ashley’s birthday party in the RED dress and she arches her eyebrow as she steels herself because Rhett left her to the cats. What a scene! Who of us hasn’t done that same scene at least one time in their life?

  10. miriam sarzotti on January 8, 2016 at 11:38 pm

    This is my fav movie and the dress I like best is when Scarlett appears at Ashley’s Birthday party in that blood red sequined dress with matching boa and one eyebrow raised as to dare anyone to say anything about the hug in the wood mill earlier that day. I can’t wait to read your book Susan….I hope I win!

  11. Susan on January 8, 2016 at 11:46 pm

    Oooh, that red dress. So beautiful and sparkly and audaciously sexy for a birthday party. Rhett, thoroughly ticked off, yanked it out of the closet for her to wear, but she could have grabbed a different one when he left the room. And yet she wore it, even though she’d done nothing wrong – that time. So very interesting…

  12. Beth Caroll on January 9, 2016 at 12:01 am

    i love your books and would like to read this newest one, I shared it on my page.
    Its a tough choice to pick a favorite dress because the costumes were so beautiful. But I think i love the red one best.

  13. jill hoke on January 9, 2016 at 12:40 am

    I’m loving the book so far. My favorite costume in GWTW is the red dress she wears when Melanie introduces her to her guests.

  14. Carol Boyer on January 9, 2016 at 1:10 am

    Oh I would have to say the green velvet dress made from the drapes…just remembering the image of Scarlett wafting down the stairs in that dress is a memory I don’t think I will ever forget! Like a dream…so beautiful.

  15. Susan Peterson on January 9, 2016 at 1:16 am

    My favorite dress is the white dress with flowers that she wears at the picnic at the beginning of the movie. I love that it screams “southern belle” and it was worn at such an innocent time in her life.

  16. Kim Tuten on January 9, 2016 at 3:04 am

    My favorite dress is the white and green one that Scarlett wears in the beginning of the movie, I think it is so pretty! I can not wait to read this new book!

  17. Christi Patterson on January 9, 2016 at 4:08 am

    I have to say the scarlet (red) is my favorite. I love them all.

  18. Kristi Thomason on January 9, 2016 at 6:07 pm

    To be honest, it’s been so long since I’ve watched the movie that the only one I could remember was the curtain dress! I checked out the website though, and of the ones featured I liked the red ball gown — the Scartlett woman!

  19. Carol Osborn on January 9, 2016 at 10:17 pm

    Close tie between the green lawn dress and the red dress Scarlett wore to Ashely’s party. To me, the green dress represents the “green” youthful Scarlett while the red dress shoes a matured Scarlett who is woman enough to stand alone!

  20. Dianne on January 9, 2016 at 10:54 pm

    My favorite has to be the green curtain dress. I love being able to make something from only the resources I have available, and remember being so impressed by Scarlett’s ability to create what she needed from what she had when she had very little.

  21. Melissa on January 10, 2016 at 12:10 am

    I always thought the white and green dress that Scarlett wore was so feminine and pretty

  22. Eleri on January 10, 2016 at 5:39 am

    I love classic cinema and GWTW is my favorite for its scope and the artistry of the sets and costumes. Of all her beautiful wardrobe, the green drapes dress always captured my imagination. I even used Scarlett’s idea myself, making my wedding dress with my mom & aunt, fashion design and costume majors in college. I incorporated antique lace and other similar textures into the train using curtains and tablecloths! I tweeted the link to share this fun new book!

  23. Judy Jordan on January 10, 2016 at 11:07 pm

    Mammy’s red petticoat!

  24. Rhonda on January 10, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Her beautiful reddress but allege costumes were gorgeous.sharing on twitter@rhondareads,

  25. Rhonda on January 10, 2016 at 11:29 pm

    Shared on Facebook Rhonda Lomazow

  26. Cheryl on January 11, 2016 at 12:46 am

    Susan, I loved your description of the duality; and thus metaphor, of the life Scarlett was living at the time she created the green dress. I’ve never heard it expressed that way and yet we all knew that she was unrelenting in keeping up appearances.

    Given her vulnerability in the scene in which she wore this dress, I’d have to say it was my favorite. Although she did indeed present herself to Rhett so elegantly and still in control, it was her hands that gave her away. She was shown to have “fallen from grace” and joined the working class. It was her moment of truth if you will.

    I look forward to reading your book and will share on my Facebook. Thanks for the opportunity to enter this contest. I wish you fantastic success with the book????

  27. Cheryl on January 11, 2016 at 12:49 am

    Somehow the happy face I attached to my former post showed up as question marks. Yikes, not sure how that happened! ; )

  28. Cindy Burnett on January 11, 2016 at 1:53 am

    Definitely the green dress! I loved this article with all of the wonderful information. Now I want to go to Austin to see the hat in person!

  29. Susan Örnbratt on January 11, 2016 at 11:22 am

    To this day, I still remember Scarlett’s red dress! How could anyone forget something so stunning? I’m not sure if I’m allowed to enter your giveaway since I live in Sweden, but I want you to know how much I look forward to reading Stars Over Sunset Boulevard. I will share this link now on Twitter.

  30. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:16 pm

    CONGRATS JUDY JORDAN! You are the winner of the first draw! I will be emailing you separately!

  31. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:20 pm

    CONGRATS SHAELA! You are the winner of draw #2. I will email you. Thanks for entering everyone! I loved hearing all about your favorite GWTW costumes!

  32. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:24 pm

    I love that red dress, too. (and the eyebrow-raise! Wonder if Vivien Leigh had to practice that!) Sorry you didn’t win this time. But I do hope you get a chance to read the book.

  33. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:26 pm

    Ha! Well said. Thanks for the nice words about the books! Sorry you didn’t win this time but hope you will still get a chance to read it!

  34. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:26 pm


  35. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:27 pm

    Thank you, thank you. Sorry you didn’t win this time but I sure hope you get a chance to read it, anyway!

  36. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:28 pm

    I love that, Sherry! And you gotta love Carol Burnett. Sorry you didn’t win this time but I sure hope you read it anyway! Love to Brent and all the fam…

  37. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:30 pm

    I love that dress, too. Selznick shot that scene three other times with the barbecue dress before putting her in that white one with the red belt. He wanted her to look naïve and innocent! Sorry you didn’t win this time but I hope you will get a chance to read it anyway!

  38. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:31 pm

    Ooooh! I love the way you think. When I was writing I made a list of how many times Scarlett wore red or green or blue and what was happening in her life at the time. It’s stunning how color shows up as metaphor in this film. Sorry you didn’t win this time…

  39. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:32 pm

    Yes! The opening scene dress? Love those little red bows in her hair, too…

  40. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:34 pm

    Oh, Susan! Someday I want to come see you in Sweden!

  41. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:36 pm

    Cindy, if you live near Austin, you should go! The GWTW exhibit isn’t always on display, so check to be sure. Sorry you didn’t win this time. But thanks for commenting!

  42. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:36 pm


  43. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:37 pm

    Thanks for your insightful comments, Cheryl! Sorry you didn’t win this time but thanks for commenting and I hope you will get a chance to read it.

  44. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:38 pm

    Thanks for commenting, Rhonda. Sorry you didn’t win this time!

  45. Susan on January 11, 2016 at 9:40 pm

    Thanks for your wonderful comments, Eleri! I loved hearing about your own curtain creation. Sorry you didn’t win this time but I hope you will get a chance to read the book.

  46. Judy Jordan on January 11, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Thank you! Can’t wait to read this book.

  47. Susan Örnbratt on January 13, 2016 at 7:26 am

    You are most welcome to Sweden! I would take you on a lazy boat tour through the west coast archipelagos for some good old fashioned inspiration.

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