At the beginning of the year, both classes discussed Americana, and I was pushed to think about what being American means to me. Being from Georgia, the South is a big part of my America. However, the South has is often given negative connotations and stereotypes by people from other places. I thought about what it means to me to be a real Southern woman, not an idealized belle or a stereotypical redneck, and I sought out something to be a symbol of this and a point of inspiration for me to go forward with. In seminar, I started exploring how Southern women have been portrayed in film, and that’s when I came across Scarlett O’Hara, the heroine of Gone with the Wind and knew that that would be the focus of my research. The more I researched, the more I realized that Scarlett was the perfect example of a non-stereotypical Southern woman. Her character lives in the Civil War era South, a time when most women fit the mold of Southern belle, acting as submissive, fragile wives and mothers, but Scarlett possessed a unique ability to recognize the absurdity of this society, and she strove to maintain her individuality and independence in a world that tried to take that from her.
In my studio work, I tried to combine the visual and conceptual research that I had done, showing a modern take on Scarlett’s gowns and creating a look that reflects strength and self-confidence. I see this look as a modern take on the dress Scarlett wears to the Wilkes’ barbeque. Mammy discourages her from wearing something that shows so much skin, but Scarlett wears it anyways because she wants to. My look pairs a revealing top with a modest skirt, allowing the wearer to feel a sense of boldness without being too exposed. This top and skirt outfit is feminine and elegant, but also a bit sexy and sassy.
There’s a Yves St. Laurent quote that I like that says, “Over the years I have learned that what is important in a dress is the woman who is wearing it.” I try to keep that in mind when I’m designing, because in my opinion, good design does not come from visual inspiration alone, it comes from an understanding of the woman who would wear my clothes—what her lifestyle is like and what her attitude is. For this project, that attitude was that of Scarlett O’Hara, a woman who refused to be defined by society’s standards and didn’t take no for an answer when it came to getting what she wanted. She was a feminist without relinquishing her femininity, a lady without holding back her true feelings, and depended on no one but herself to accomplish her goals.
In my design process, I almost always include a research element. I find a point of inspiration, research it visually and collect information and go forth designing in a way that reflects that. I enjoyed doing that with this project, and I will most definitely continue to work that way in the future. As far as what I would change about this project, I am very happy with how it turned out, so I don’t know that I would make many major changes. Perhaps I would put more details into my illustrations to show more of Scarlett’s personality.