Legendary Burnett Costume to Go on View Dec. 1 at the Smithsonian

November 23, 2009
A costume recently donated by designer Bob Mackie and worn by comedienne Carol Burnett from her 1970s’ American comedy show to the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History will go on view Dec. 1. 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 satire that to this day continues to showcase Burnett’s adeptness with parody-laden humor.

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. Leading-lady Burnett said of the dress during the sketch, which first aired on “The Carol Burnett Show” on CBS in 1976, “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,” said Brent D. Glass, director of the museum. “It was his spirit of innovation that made ‘Went with the Wind’ a symbol of this country’s rich comedic history.”

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 of her dress still attached to a brass-plated curtain rod balanced across her shoulders, and a be-fringed valance refashioned as a hat atop her head.

The National Museum of American History collects, preserves and displays American heritage in the areas of social, political, cultural, scientific and military history. To learn more about the museum, please visit http://americanhistory.si.edu. For Smithsonian information, the public may call (202) 633-1000.