"New York in 1922. The tempo of the city had changed. The buildings were higher, the parties were bigger, the morals were looser and the liquor was cheaper. The restlessness approached... hysteria." -Nick Carraway (Great Gatsby narrator).
All hail director Baz Luhrman (Romeo and Juliette, Moulin Rouge) and his clever, Oscar-award winning producer and costume designer wife, Catherine Martin. In wanting to create a 1920s that is 'as vibrant and sexy and visceral and modern' as it would have been to The Great Gatsby author F. Scott Fitzgerald, they have given us an exquisite fashion world in which to lose ourselves.
"I don't want it to look like a 'gangsters and their gun molls' 21st birthday party," Luhrman told Martin. "I don't want to see people swinging pearls and twirling their feather boas."
The result is an hypnotic ensemble of every beautiful 20s fashion item you can think of: fur stoles, hip/back of hand/shoulder bows, pave diamonds, lace, peacock feathers, low backs, devore and barrettes. And for men, suspenders, pinky rings, pocket squares, shawl-collared cardigans, two-tone shoes and three-piece suits. Luhrman and Martin allowed themselves to draw from the entire decade (the book was published in 1925 and set in 1922).
Plot-wise, The Great Gatsby sees Nick Carraway, a Midwesterner now living on Long Island, developing a fascination for the mysterious past and lavish lifestyle of his neighbour, Jay Gatsby. He is drawn into Gatsby's circle, becoming a witness to Gatsby's obsession with his former love, the now-married Daisy.
In fashion stakes, Jay Gatsby, played by Leonardo diCaprio, is a dandy who has based his style on English royalty. Daisy Buchanan, played by Carey Mulligan, is ethereal, but she's also half of the most powerful, wealthy couple when she walks into any room with her (super-establishment, philandering) husband. Narrator Nick Carraway, played by Toby Maguire, becomes more sophisticated as the film progresses.
Some powerful collaborations contributed to the stunning costumes. Brooks Brothers (actually the purveyors of author F. Scott Fitzgerald's suits) allowed Catherine Martin to reference their archives and their manufacturers made the men's suits to measure, generating a 'stylish crispness' that Martin says is hard to achieve via genuine vintage. Extraordinary attention to detail upheld Martin's belief that "it's all about being true to the world you have created." For instance, Daisy's husband's suits were all lined with his club's skull-and-crossbones motif, although the linings are highly unlikely to be caught by the camera.
Miuccia Prada, an old friend of Lurhmans', designed 40 of the dresses for the background party scenes, as well as the 'chandelier dress' that Daisy wears when she appears at one of Gatsby's parties.
Tiffany & Co was selected to collaborate on the jewellery for the film, because F Scott Fitzgerald was one of their customers. They allowed Martin access to their archives and use of archival pieces, as well as recreating pieces from archival drawings and inventing pieces from scratch - the daisy motif on Gatsby's signet ring, his cuff-links, Daisy's pearl and diamond hand jewelry, which Carey Mulligan says changed the way she moved.
You can purchase the pieces from Tiffany.com, with prices ranging from NZ$168 for sterling silver, black onyx earrings, to NZ$249,000 for the Savoy Headpiece (including a detachable brooch, and with a total carat weight of 25.04 in round brilliant diamonds).
Unless you are going to a costume party, if you want to channel a Gatsby character our advice is to study carefully - there's a world of video on the net if you haven't seen the movie - and then start with no more than a couple of pieces. Avoid pearl-swinging and boa twirling - it's probably the ethereal yet powerful Daisy you would like to evoke and not some loose 'Myrtle Wilson' who lives in the Valley of Ashes - that's a whole other look, and article.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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