During the four years he spent documenting the Civil War for Harper’s Weekly, Winslow Homer also depicted the war’s effect on those back at home. Two months after the conflict broke out, he highlighted the domestic role of women in this illustration of a sewing circle in which respectable young women diligently sew uniforms and attach havelocks (sun-shielding coverings) to the back of military hats. Though the image seems to be one of tranquillity and comfort, the ladies’ somber expressions hint at the emotional restraint exercised at this urgent and uncertain time. The large flag at right and the portrait of the soldier at left suggest both the patriotic and personal devotion behind the women’s work.
An iconic gown from 1939 film Gone With the Wind will hit the auction block at Bonhams in New York this November—and is expected to bring in between $50,000 and $70,000.
The blue accordion-pleated silk sleeping gown features angel sleeves and blue satin ribbon detailing—the dress is inscribed "Name Scarlett / No. 108-W.W. 381" in the back, where it also bears the label "Selznick Int. Pictures Inc." The dress is worn in a tragic scene in the film where Scarlett and Rhett Butler's daughter, Bonnie Blue, falls off a horse and dies.
What's so exciting about this dress is that, for nearly 40 years, it was assumed lost. According to a report in the Daily Mail, instead of archiving this costume, the costume company gave the dress to one of the seamstresses working on set—and the dress didn't surface again until the '80s, when it was purchased by a memorabilia collector.
"She wears this negligee under a fox fur in the scene where Bonnie Blue Butler has the fall off the pony and dies," Catherine Williamson, Bonhams' director of fine books, manuscripts, and entertainment memorabilia, tells the Mail. "For many years collectors thought this piece was lost—no one could find it. It wasn’t at the big MGM auction in the ‘70s and it wasn’t at the Western Costume Company, the company that made the costumes for the film."
Date: ca. 1865 Culture: American Medium: silk, metal Dimensions: Length at CB (a): 20 in. (50.8 cm) Length at CB (b): 56 in. (142.2 cm) Credit Line: Brooklyn Museum Costume Collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Gift of the Brooklyn Museum, 2009; Gift of Dr. and Mrs. Edward N. Goldstein, 1983Accession Number:2009.300.1000a, b
The influence that military uniforms played on women’s dress during the years of the Civil War is evident here. Women reflected their patriotism readily in their mode of dress to help encourage the soldiers on to victory. The bands ending in rosettes on the skirt are reminiscent of swags and decorations at military ceremonies while the shoulder and sleeve decorations are taken from stripes and epaulets on military jackets.
The female silhouette of the middle of the 19th century consisted of a fitted corseted bodice and wide full skirts. The conical skirts developed between the 1830s, when the high waist of the Empire silhouette was lowered and the skirts became more bell shaped, to the late 1860s, when the fullness of the skirts were pulled to the back and the bustle developed. The flared skirts of the period gradually increased in size throughout and were supported by a number of methods. Originally support came from multiple layers of petticoats which, due to weight and discomfort, were supplanted by underskirts comprised of graduated hoops made from materials such as baleen, cane and metal. The fashions during this time allowed the textiles to stand out because of the vast surface areas of the skirt and a relatively minimal amount of excess trim.