Gone With The Wind

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Women in the Civil War
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Considered one of the greatest movies ever, Gone With the Wind was a revolutionary movie produced in 1938 and released in theatres in 1939.
GWTW used 8 of the only 9 Techni-Color Film Cameras in the world for filming.
This movie was NOT orignally in black and white and re-touched with color as most black and white films of the 1930's and 1940's have been. It was filmed completely in color, a modern advancement for the era.
Most Civil War re-enactors use Scarlett O'Hara as their role-model. Despite the flamboyant, sexy, scandalous character, Scarlett O'Hara is NOT what a true re-enactor should try to portray. Her character was purposely exaggerated, modified, and dramatized for the film.
Her dresses are beautiful and elaborate to say the least, but one must remember that Southern women during the Civil War were re-using old dresses as the ports and harbors in the South were blockaded by the Yankees, thus making the latest fashion trends from Paris and London, unavailable to most Southern women. Although, a few fashion trends did make their way south via blockade runners and contraband wagons moving south from Canada.
The best thing to take away from the the movie is to understand that while all re-enactors need a good day dress and a nice ballgown, keeping several plain campdress (work dresses) and plain blouses and skirts are ideal for re-enacting.
(We can't all have a warderobe of only dresses modeled after Godey's Fashion Book and Scarlett O'Hara due to actual history authenticity.) Many of Scarlett's hairstyles were also inappropriate for the Era. (She wore bangs, and her hair down a lot with no hat or bonnet or snood. Bangs were NOT in style.)
However, Melanie in GWTW is a better example to follow as she wears her hair properly- a bonnet, hat, or daycap covering her head, and dresses that are not elaborately done up. Her manners and etiquette, as well as role in society are better protrayed through Melanie than Scarlett's scandalous behavior.
Still, despite love for the movie, one should be weary of copying GWTW as a Civil War re-enactor and should strive to be authentic and unique in their portrayal of Civil War Women.
Visit the Tin Type pages for appropriate dress and hairstyle ideas.



Southern Belle "Nevers":

A Southern Belle never wears white shoes or carries a white handbag before Easter or after Labor Day and she never wears velvet after February.

Will never ‘pass gas' in public. (Well... yes, they have been known to on occasion, but they look at the person next to them in shock and smile to themselves coyly.)

She never lets a gentleman know what she's thinking. If she suspects he may know what she's thinking, she must then change her mind.

A Southern Belle will never curse in public beyond Dad-gum-it, Oh my gosh, Shoot or Darn.

Never takes out the trash, mows the lawn or (heaven forbid) changes the oil in the car. Belles simply do not acknowledge that these chores exist.

A true Southern Belle never lets the man she's "after" see her first thing in the morning.

Prefers a leisurely bath to a quick shower.

She never eats large amounts in public—she only nibbles and says she isn’t hungry. She will eat before a date and she will eat after, just not during. (It's not until the 'date' is of fiancÚ status that a Southern Belle orders everything on the menu.)

Does not call men on the telephone.

A Southern Belle would never dream of doing something today that she could think about tomorrow.

She never sweats... she glows.

If she runs out of gas, a Southern Belle will sit in the car and glow until help arrives. Walking down the road for help is just not a role of the Belle.

A true Southern Belle will never, ever walk with a cigarette—or be photographed holding one.

She never blows her nose in public.

Absolutely never sleeps with a man on a first date. (Belles get up and go home to do their sleeping!)

Never has a single gray hair until she’s darn good and ready!


Southern Belle Definite "Do's" :

Use the word "audacity" in everyday conversation.

Call everybody Honey, Sugar, Darlin' or Precious.

Offer a Miny Julep or Sweet Ice Tea to everybody who visits your home.

Belong to a country club. If you don’t, refer to any club you belong to as a country club. No one will know the difference.

Refer to all male visitors as "gentlemen callers", and escorts as "beaux".

Swoon and faint when a Daddy Long-Legs spider comes within 25 feet.

Always be soft spoken.

Walk in heels like you’re floating on air.

Refer to every party you go to, even a kegger, as a "cotillion."

Cook the greatest meals and throw the best parties.

Be witty and charming.

Never be seen without perfectly applied makeup and a carefully coifed "do".

Maintain a certain air of mystery.

Refer to your house as "The Plantation" no matter how small your house may be.

Be kind, considerate and, above all, always a lady.

Love being a woman and using your femininity to its utmost power.

You must powder your nose whenever you repaint your lips, which is usually no more often than hourly.

Be able to easily chug-a-lug three Mint Juleps  in one sitting.

Call your father "Big Daddy."

Teach your children to call him "Big Daddy."

Keep the parasol industry in business.


The Southern Belle Credo:

All we ask is that you treat us no differently from, say, the Queen.

We don't suffer from stress—we are, however, carriers.

We operate on the rule that it's much easier to apologize than to ask permission.

When something irritates us, we never show it ... we just smile sweetly and say, "How lovely!"

We understand the concept that it's always better to look good than to feel good no matter what the circumstances. For instance, if we have to undergo surgery, we must first get our hair and nails done.

We plan our lives carefully. All Southern Belles have a detailed calendar and strive constantly not to be as late as we were the last time.

We respect the therapeutic value of shopping—for instance, treating depression..

....and these are just a few of the more important rules. Being a Belle is a lifetime of work, so practice everyday


The definition of "Southern Belle" frequently ends up as a tongue-in-cheek list of behaviors or conduct befitting a proper Southern Lady. Definitions are difficult because a Southern Belle is probably really understood only by another Southerner. Certainly, the best fictional portrayals have been by Southern writers.

The main characteristic of the Southern Belle is inner strength and control hidden by exaggerated femininity. The non-Southerner may see only the appearance of the Belle and think her shallow and vain, but she appears helpless and demure when actually she's independent, stubborn, and a survivor. She can be sweet and charming to those she truly dislikes if doing so will be useful. These contradictions contribute to her reputation as a male magnet. Men are never quite sure who she is or how they stand with her, and that's the way she likes it.

Southern men, of course, know how to play the game. They are aware of the Belle's artifice. They don't understand it, but they like its effects. They enjoy the attention, the flirting, the attractive appearance of the Belle. Non-Southern men just "don't get it" most of the time, and a mixed marriage between a Yankee and a Belle requires adjustment. A marriage with a Southern man who has a non-Southern mother can be difficult because the understanding of "Belleness" is passed on through the mother.

Southern men are often close to their mamas—think Elvis Presley, Bill Clinton—and need motherly strength in their women. They don't, however, want to be managed, especially when they're behaving like little boys. Southern women have learned to manage them through guile.

Literature, movies and television often present caricatures and stereotypes, and only a few realistic portrayals of the Southern Belle. The most famous fictional Belle is, of course, Scarlett O'Hara from Gone with the Wind. The worst caricatures are on television where actresses with really, really bad Southern accents play mindless goony birds.

Belles of the Old South such as Scarlett were white and upper class, but the New South Belle is not bound by race or social status. Today's Southern Belle is a strong, independent woman with good manners and charm. She knows how to use her womanly wiles to get what she wants, whether it's better service from her auto mechanic or better behavior from her spouse or children. Because she is educated and has career options, the modern Southern Belle is much less dependent on men. She still loves to flirt, of course, and retains her great sense of humor, but she doesn't have to please men to have a place in the world as did her antebellum sisters. And she doesn't have to wear those darn cumbersome hoop skirts!


Gone With The Wind, its characters and elements are trademarks of the Turner Entertainment Co. & Stephens Mitchell Trusts. (c). Turner Entertainment Co. All rights reserved.

Gone With The Wind Official Site

Scarlett O'Hardy Tribute site

Gone With The Wind Museum

GWTW Story Summary

The Vivien Leigh Pages

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