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Vivien Leigh's floral gown

Vivien Leigh’s floral gown

Feb. 29, 1940: Actress Viven Leigh with her best actress Oscar for her role as Scarlett O’Hara in the 1939 movie “Gone With the Wind.”

In accepting the Oscar, Leigh wore a gown directly opposite of the “Gone With the Wind” fashion. Writer Julie Niegher explained in a Feb. 28, 2010, Times story:

Along came 1939’s “Gone With the Wind,” and every girl in America wanted to dress just like Scarlett O’Hara. Except Vivien Leigh. The production of the film had been long and tumultuous, and Leigh, who wore Walter Plunkett’s antebellum costumes, had been anything but comfortable. …

Though producer David O. Selznick had been a nightmare to work with, as compensation, for the awards he treated the film’s leading ladies to clothes designed by Irene Gibbons, known then as the Coco Chanel of America. Gibbons had saved her best gown for the English actress. It was described in the printed leaflet simply as “Look 14,” and it was later referred to as “the red poppy evening gown.” In photos, you can see the silk, spaghetti-strapped dress, with oversized flowers bursting on the fabric.

But it was the fit that made the strongest impression on the actress. Gibbons had freed her from the constricting corsetry of Scarlett O’Hara’s wardrobe. Instead, the gown was all about comfort, featuring a built-in soft construction underneath the bodice. According to [Bronwyn] Cosgrave (who wrote “Made for Each Other: Fashion and the Academy Awards”), “When she won the award, she gracefully accepted and set the trend for floral patterns for celebrities.” The actress’ extreme discomfort in her role had become the impetus behind a winning fashion statement.

This photo was not published in 1940 but was later used in The Times’ 1999 book “High Exposure: Hollywood Lives – Found Photos from the Archives of the Los Angeles Times.”

Vivien Leigh on the Hollywood Star Walk.

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