Iconic costume blows into American History

Carol Burnett as "Miss Starlett" in a costume sketch by Bob Mackie

Carol Burnett as "Miss Starlett" in a costume sketch by Bob Mackie

Designer Bob Mackie and comedienne Carol Burnett recently donated a costume from the 1970s-era television comedy “The Carol Burnett Show” to the American History Museum. The donation, a curtain dress meant to parody the iconic green velvet dress Scarlett O’Hara fashioned from drapes in the legendary film “Gone with the Wind,” was designed by Mackie and worn by Burnett in the comedy sketch “Went with the Wind,” a memorable satire that to this day showcases Burnett’s deft talent.

Mackie, who has also designed for such stars as Mitzi Gaynor, Cher and Diana Ross, is an icon of American fashion, known for his exuberant and glamorous formal women’s apparel. The costume designed for “Went with the Wind” perhaps best exemplifies Mackie’s flair for decadence.

On Nov. 13, 1976, American audiences watched Burnett descend a staircase in a green-velvet dress, as Vivien Leigh had in the classic film more than 30 years before. This time, though, Burnett did so with the drapes still attached to a brass-plated curtain rod balanced across her shoulders, and a be-fringed valance refashioned as a hat atop her head. In character as “Miss Starlet,” Burnett said, “I saw it in a window, and I just couldn’t resist it.”

“Mackie’s design represents an iconic reimagining of Scarlett O’Hara’s curtain dress, and it exists as a worthy reminder of the designer’s unique contribution to a golden era in American comedy,” Brent Glass, director of the museum, said at the donation ceremony.

The costume is included in the museum’s Kennedy Center Honors collection, which is part of the collections in the Division of Music, Sports and Entertainment.

Posted: 4 June 2009
About the Author:

The Torch relies on contributions from the entire Smithsonian community.