Carol Burnett, the actress, comedian, singer, and writer, is probably best known for her sketches on her variety show, The Carol Burnett Show. One of those sketches, “Went With The Wind!” includes one of the most recognizable outfits from television history.
“Went With The Wind!”
The green velvet dress with those long gaudy tassels…and who could forget that curtain rod?! The infamous dress that Burnett wears in her hilarious variety show skit that riffs Gone With The Wind was far from an afterthought. The original description of the dress included Ms. Starlet, the character Burnett plays in the skit, announcing herself at the top of the staircase with drapes from a window hanging off of her.
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You would think that would be a good enough gag for a 1970s variety show. But it wasn’t. Burnett enlisted a famous designer to create the notable dress. Just who is the famous designer?
“That was Bob Mackie,” Burnett shares in an interview with The Interviews: An Oral History of Television. “The original gag about the curtain rod was that Starlet pulls the curtains down and says, ‘I’m going to make me a dress.’ And it had been written that I come down the stairs with everything just kind of hanging, which would have been funny. But I went into costumes that day, and Bob says, ‘I have an idea.’ And he brought out the curtain rod with the green curtains on it. And I fell on the floor. I said, ‘this is the most brilliant sight gag I think, ever.’”
‘It Will Be On My Tombstone’
Turns out, Burnett is right. The green curtain dress with the stiff curtain rod is not only the most brilliant sight gags of all time, it’s also one of the most notable fashion pieces in television history. Regardless of your age, you’ve probably seen the skit. Even after all these years, it’s hard not to roll over laughing at the sight of Burnett in that gaudy, velvet curtain of a dress.
Why was Mackie the designer of the dress? During the first season of Burnett’s variety show, Mackie was hired as the show’s wardrobe designer. Now, with a design career spanning more than five decades, you might assume that the legendary fashion designer is best known for dressing entertainers and celebrities around the world. In a sense, you would be right.
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In an interview with The Interviews: An Oral History of Television, Mackie shares his memories of the infamous green dress. “I had an exhibit in New York of my whole career, and what was in the front window? That [Ms. Starlet] outfit. It will be on my tombstone.”
Mackie may be right. After all, it’s been more than fifty years since Ms. Starlet made her way down the staircase in those green drapes.