Walter Plunkett (1902-1982) American
Walter Plunkett was born in California. However, when he decided he wanted to be an actor, he first moved to New York and only after making that attempt did he return to California to try his hand at Hollywood. After a few bit parts, he accepted a job in the wardrobe department at FBO Studios (later RKO) which at the time specialized in Westerns. Even though he had no formal training, he was soon promoted to costume designer and he was chief designer for RKO Pictures from 1926-1939.
For Gone with the Wind, he was responsible for one of the most famous movie costumes ever made; the moss green velvet dress, made from the family drapes, that Scarlet O’Hara wears to entice Rhett Butler to marry her. Plunkett contrasted the changes in Scarlet’s life circumstances by dressing her in light organdy, tulle, and cotton in the first half of the film. In the second half, in order to show her new level of affluence after her marriages, he dressed her in silks and numerous velvet garments of various jewel colors.
His style, innovations, and lasting influence on fashion:
- For Gone With The Wind, Plunkett created more than 5,000 separate items of clothing for more than fifty major characters.
- Walter Plunkett would be nominated for the Academy Award ten times. In 1951, he was finally recognized by the Academy for An American in Paris. He shared the award with fellow designers Orry-Kelly and Irene Sharaff.
Sources: Gone With the Wind Exhibit at the Harry Ransom Center of the University of Texas at Austin; In a Glamorous Fashion: The Fabulous Years of Hollywood Costume Design (1980) W. Robert La Vine; Adrian: Silver Screen to Custom Label (2008) Christian Esquevin.