Dior to dyno-rod, haute couture to home hygiene

TODAY Julia Walton and I listened to Malcolm McLaren’s Christian Dior radio piece by Susan Marling from 2007, to celebrate fifty years since the New Look. McLaren was such a Fashion buff.  It was why Vivienne Westwood loved him and he her. It was fascinating to hear his camp take on important moments in the history of Paris and Versailles, again!

In this week’s earlier blog I write of the wonder that Dior created a gown for Vivien Leigh after her drama of tiny waists and full skirts in Gone with the Wind , set the scene for his ‘flower women’ frocks across the western world in 1947 !



Imagine my delight, web-surfing, to find this actual pic of Leigh in the dress, plunging decolletage and all!

Vivien Leigh’s costume … Red wool and silk, made for the 1956 production of Jean Giraudoux’s play Duel of Angels, at the Apollo Theatre, in London, in which Leigh played Paola.

Julia and I had to stop listening to the wonders of the Fashion world when the men from Dyno-rod arrived.  They were however completely darling, themselves! So win/win, today!

Icons, idols, and icing on the cake!

Scarlett O’Hara and the post-bellum New Look

VIVIEN LEIGH’s own copy of Gone with the Wind sold at Sotheby’s, for £50,000, this week; ten times its estimate.  I spotted the movie’s iconic status when lip-reading technology, in 2008, revealed Hitler charming a loyal follower, saying, “I know you’d rather be watching Gone with the Wind!

Dressed by Christian Dior

When costume curator, Eleri Lynn, told me that Dior had designed a dress for Vivien Leigh, it was the icing on the cake at a V&A ‘Golden Age of Couture’ conference’ in 2007! My ‘New Look’ chapter was all about how millions of GWTW fans were waiting for a designer to turn them into ‘flower women’; Dior’s own description.  After the conference  Eleri sent me the image below.

Vivien Leigh’s costume … Red wool and silk, made for the 1956 production of Jean Giraudoux’s play Duel of Angels, at the Apollo Theatre, in London, in which Leigh played Paola. The character, as the suit, is more complex than it appears to the eye.   The very Dior underskirt made in five layers, used 78 metres of net, to “minimise volume around the waist”



Margaret Mitchell gave Vivien the book when the two women met in Atlanta, Georgia, before the world premiere of the film in the city, 15 December 1939. Vivien wrote to Mitchell on 14 December thanking her for the book and asking her to inscribe it for her. Mitchell replied on 10 January 1940 explaining that she had stopped inscribing copies of Gone With The Wind several years earlier: “there is no one for whom I’d rather do this favour than you who brought Scarlett to life in a way that left me shaken and almost speechless. But I just can’t do it. I hope you’ll understand.”  (The Scarlett Letters: The Making of the Film Gone With the Wind (2011).

By way of compromise, however, Mitchell enclosed with her letter a loose leaf with four lines of verse taken from Robert W. Service’s poem ‘The Revelation’.

To Vivien Leigh | ‘Life’s Pattern pricked with a scarlet thread | where once we worked with a gray, | to remind us all how we played our parts | in the shock of an epic day’ | Margaret Mitchell”)

Vivien replied to her on 8 February, informing her that she had placed the verses in the book. She also told Mitchell that her love for Gone With The Wind long pre-dated her involvement in the film (“…Even if I had not played ‘Scarlett’ I should owe you a great debt of gratitude…”).

There’s no computer program to estimate how much Dior was influenced by Walter Plunket’s designs for the movie. I leave you with the look he created for one of the film’s most significant moments and wonder what you think?