THE GREAT GATSBY

The Great Gatsby Movie Review

The other day, I presented some of the costumes worn in the latest Gatsby movie and discussed the film’s Brooks Brothers collection. As promised then, I would like to share a short review of Baz Luhrman’s new film and discuss the outfits as they were worn in the movie.

The Plot – Spoiler Alert

Chances are you already know the plot, and if you haven’t already done so, I suggest you hold on the film and read the book first. St. Paul native F. Scott Fitzgerald was a divine writer and he rewrote the novel  more than a dozen times, creating a literal masterpiece that portrayed many of the concerning social, economic and political issues of theday. Below, you will find a Gatsby infographic as a reminder of the story. The interpretation in the movie is mostly in line with the book, but just like with every film, the director always adds a few adaptations.

The Great Gatsby Infographic

The Great Gatsby Infographic

Just like Luhrman’s other movies Romeo & Juliet or Moulin Rouge, The Great Gatsby is a surreal interpretation of the real world, which is emphasized by the strong colors, flying camera angles and exaggerated, stylized settings. Just take a look at the Buchanan residence. The garden as well as the interior is over the top, but personally this approach it doesn’t bother me at all.

The gorgeous Buchanan residence

The gorgeous Buchanan residence

At the stunning Buchanan residence

At the stunning Buchanan residence

Jay Gatsby’s residence is more of a castle than a mansion and the lavish parties seem staged and out of this world. It seems like it was inspired by Oheka castle, but still overly pretentious compared to the real houses of the Gold Coast.

The Gatsby castle

The Gatsby castle

The fabulous lobby of the Gatsby mansion

The fabulous lobby of the Gatsby mansion

The Gatsby Residence

The Gatsby Residence

Gatsby’s residence is located across the bay from Daisy Buchanan’s home and in the hope of catching her attention he throws enormous parties every weekend that are seemingly attended by all the party animals of NYC. The parties themselves are extravagant, over the top and simply unreal – something the Roaring 20′s is known for, but seems a bit outlandish in practice. In any case, I’d personally much rather attend a lavish black tie party à la Gatsby than most other parties.

Gatsby & Daisy enjoying a day in the bay

Gatsby & Daisy enjoying a day in the bay

Glamouros Party at Gatsby's mansion

Glamorous Party at Gatsby’s mansion

Daisy with fur, pearls & diamonds

Daisy with fur, pearls & diamonds

When it comes to the main characters’ wardrobe, I tried not expect too much, though I was still a little disappointed. As with many other films, the costumes may be accurate but the fit always leaves something to be desired – I’m not sure why the critically important element is so frequently overlooked! For example, take a look the image below: Leonardo DiCaprio, as Jay Gatsby, is wearing a tuxedo in a lighter shade of midnight blue with black satin lapels that gape around the collar, which is only dragged further down by a shirt collar underneath that is likewise many sizes too large. His large, white gold chronograph is totally out of place with evening dress. Just based on this outfit you can tell that it was an American production, because the British tend to produce period costumes so much better. Also, in the 1920′s pleated soft front shirts and soft turndown collars were the exception to starched bib shirts with detachable collars. Considering the Gatsby works hard to create and further the illusion of himself as an educated gentleman, you’d think the costume design would be more in tune with his character’s likely psychological desire to perfectly fit the gentleman mold.  However, the costume designers probably thought about the commercial viability of such shirts and choose the more contemporary soft shirt option since that could be sold today.

Black tie party at Gatby's

Black tie party at Gatby’s

One of the grand Gatsby parties

One of the grand Gatsby parties

A  recurring camera angle is the zoom in from above just like in this pool party scene.

Partying as if there was no tomorrow

Partying as if there was no tomorrow

Nick & Buchanan enjoying a private party

Nick & Buchanan enjoying a private party

 

The Outfits of Jay Gatsby

Throughout, the fit of Gatsby’s clothes is pretty poor. The gapping collar is omnipresent and it just looks like off the rack clothing that hasn’t been altered. To be fair, that’s probably what it was.

Leaonardo Di Caprio in Gatsby tuxedo with gapping collar and tipped bow tie

Leaonardo Di Caprio in Gatsby tuxedo with gapping collar and tipped bow tie

Interestingly, specific items such as the pink suit with white stripes are recurring items from the 70′s editon with Robert Redford.

The pink striped suits with cuffs

The pink striped suits with cuffs

Robert Redford in Pink Striped suit with 6x3 double breasted vest

Robert Redford in Pink Striped suit with 6×3 double breasted vest

Gatsby is no understated gentleman but someone who made a fortune with shady business practices that likes to show off his wealth. As such he drives a custom-made supercharged Duesenberg 8 SJ Type with a phaeton body made by Murphy Cooachbuilder, which was faster and much rarer than any Rolls Royce back then (the car Gatsby drives in the novel). In the movie it came with  centrifugal supercharger, that boosted the horsepower to 320, which would have been astonishing in 1920. However, neither the Duesenberg SJ nor the SSJ were available before 1932.  The color of the car is bright yellow, which is consistent with his light colored suits, boater hats and spectator shoes.

 

The supercharged yellow custom Rolls Royce

The supercharged yellow custom Rolls Royce

Gatsby in beige suit

Gatsby in beige suit

When Gatsby finds out that his neighbor Nick Carraway is Daisy’s cousin, he asks him to invite her over for tea, and when Nick agrees, Daisy is welcomed in house full of flowers. Collar pins and bars are a popular accessory of all the male characters in the movie, including Gatsby. Apparently the tie designs are based on vintage ties and while that’s fine, I think some of them look rather unattractive, such as Gatsby’s yellow tie. Since the ties were made commercially for today’s market, they are cut like modern ties and tipped, rather than being tipped and flared like original twenties ties.

Gatsby in tan windowpane suit & collar pin, Carraway in winchester shirt and note the brim of

Gatsby in tan windowpane suit & collar pin, Carraway in winchester shirt and note the brim of

Gatsby meets daisy for tee in white peaked lapel linen suit, grey shirt with single cuffs and collar pin, brown vest & pocket square & yellow striped tie

Gatsby meets Daisy for tee in white peaked lapel linen suit, grey shirt with single cuffs and collar pin, brown vest & pocket square & yellow striped tie

Looking at the (off) white linen suit from Brooks Brothers, I was quite disappointed. The fit and proportions were just off, especially compared to the Ralph Lauren campaign last year. Overall, Gatsby’s outfits may look dapper to the average observer but anybody interested in classic men’s clothing and 1920′s period dress will see the shortcomings in his outfits.

White Summer Suit with Boutonniere - the better Gatsby suit

White Summer Suit with Boutonniere - the better Gatsby suit

Ralph Lauren Gatbsy Style

Ralph Lauren Gatsby Style

Nick Carraway’s Outfits

Nick’s social status is several steps below Gatsby’s and accordingly, his suits are less flamboyant and include tweeds, simple herringbones, striped ties, flat caps and cardigans. Even though his outfits are not 100% authentic either, his overall appearance resembles the 1920′s the most. Below, you see him in a classic herringbone flannel with a white oxford button down shirt and club tie – note there is no visible shirt cuff.

Carraway in grey herringbone flannel and button down shirt

Carraway in grey herringbone flannel and button down shirt

Nick’s cardigan was also available from Brooks Brothers but is now sold out. It was a bit boxy but overall, it was one of my favorite pieces of the collection. Note his diamond pointed butterfly bow tie in the picture below.

Nick Carraway in bow tie and green cardigan

Nick Carraway in bow tie and green cardigan

Beautiful mid brown three piece herringbone suit.

Carraway in herringbone three piece suit

Carraway in herringbone three piece suit

Interesting combination of boater hat and trench coat.

Nick waiting outside in the rain with boater hat and trench coat

Nick waiting outside in the rain with boater hat and trench coat

Boater hats and bow ties

Boater hats and bow ties

The Looks of Tom Buchanan

Tom is a Yale graduate, millionaire and blatant racist who is always good for an affair. His suits are darker than Gatsby’s and scream business. Solid navy, grey, pinstripe etc are what he wears when he is not playing polo or riding his horse. The picture of the grey three piece suit below is a perfect example of his outfits. Classic light blue shirt, muted pocket square and tie with a vest and single cuffs with gold cufflinks. The sunglasses have a great vintage look to them.

The Great Gatsby poster with Tom Buchanan

The Great Gatsby poster with Tom Buchanan

If you look closely enough, you will see that his vest is double breasted and buttons very high. Generally, vest that close this high are single breasted and it is certainly not a popular classic style. Instead it looks more like an interpretation of a bad rental tuxedo that seems out of place in New York’s hot summers.

Buchanan in striped suit with odd double breasted vest & Carraway in the background

Buchanan in striped suit with odd double breasted vest & Carraway in the background

Daisy & Tom Buchanan in Fur and Pinstripe suit

Daisy & Tom Buchanan in Fur and Pinstripe suit

Very classic looks that are not flashy and represent “old money”.

Dinner at the Buchanan's

Dinner at the Buchanan’s

The boater is as flamboyant as Buchanan gets.

Buchanan with boater in the blue car

Buchanan with boater in the blue car

Old sport Tom in riding boots

Old sport Tom in riding boots

Altogether, the Great Gatsby portraits a debonair world that probably never existed. Unsurprisingly, the men’s clothes are nothing to rave about and compared to the Ralph Lauren summer suits last year, the question arises whether Purple label did not create a better Gatsby style than they did in the movie. Nevertheless, I’d be more than happy to explore this fantasy world and parties in person.

As for the plot, newcomers to the story might find themselves asking “why?” at the inevitable conclusion, while those familiar with the story will already know the story Fitzgerald was really trying to tell. The director’s obvious belief in his own extravagant interpretation makes the implied dangers of reckless wealth, substance abuse and obsession appear deliberately skin deep.   Baz Luhrmann’s work is best accepted for what it does best – visual interest and intensity – and then ignore the rest. My hope is, that whatever this Gatsby’s plot and sartorial failings, that you’re inspired to re-read this fantastic book and investigate how you can add a touch of 20′s style to your own wardrobe.

What did you think of the outfits? Has Ralph Lauren created a better Gatsby?

Date Published: 05/29/2012
2.5 / 5 stars
Photo credit Time Warner
30 replies
  1. Brock
    Brock says:

    It blows my mind that a movie (and budget) that big could screw up fit and proportion. It’s like when you see someone in a tux that costs thousands on the red carpet with pants that need to be hemmed. Where are the style experts? How can you overlook these things??

    Anyway, great write up! As far as the overall movie goes, I thought it was way too produced. With a story that classic and that much talent in the cast, why all the CGI? It’s like auto-tuning Adele… unnecessary.

    -Brock

  2. R. Scott Purdy
    R. Scott Purdy says:

    The Brooks Brothers outfits for the film are rather poorly fitted. Ralph Lauren’s are more meticulously designed, cut, and tailored.

  3. DukeTrader
    DukeTrader says:

    Movie was terrible. Dancing the Charleston to Jay-Z? Come on. In one scene I saw that Gatsby’s pocket square was on the right side if his coat. Switched to another view, back to Gatsby and guess what! Square back on left side. That should have never made it out of editing. One of the worst acting jobs by McGuire I’ve seen yet. Wilson was absent the entire story until the last 30 minutes. Major lines were either left out or botched. Pathetic. Only watch this movie on the cheapest ticket you can find. I went to a non-3D showing at 2 in the afternoon.

  4. Sam Brunel
    Sam Brunel says:

    I thought the clothes looked pretty awful an inauthentic, particularly compared to those made by Ralph Lauren for the 70′s film. Di Caprio was OK but Redford remains my favourite Gatsby. BTW, in this movie Gatsby doesn’t drive a yellow Rolls Royce, but a Duesenberg, the American equivalent, back in the days.

  5. Kellfire Desmond Bray
    Kellfire Desmond Bray says:

    Hey Sven
    We met a few years back in NYC with my wife Rose Callahan when she photographed you at The Smith. Great article, nice and fair. The glasses Tom Buchanan is wearing are from giantvintage.com http://bit.ly/134mgtO
    I’ve been wearing various pairs of them for about 6 years and even though they aren’t vintage, they are super cheap, which is good since I break and/or lose glasses a lot. Boy was I shocked to see them on the big screen. Probably the best part of the film. Keep up the gazettin! Ttfn

  6. Rob
    Rob says:

    Fine article sir, but don’t be too harsh, we all of us make mistakes. As I am sure many wiser than myself may have mentioned, the car is a Duesnberg not a Rollsroyce, though by the look of it a 1930s Lebaron bodied speedster. So a little out of it’s time.

  7. PATRICK LESUEUR
    PATRICK LESUEUR says:

    Dear Sven Raphael,
    As affirmed by Sam Brunel Gatsby drive in the movie (as a devil, without looking the road, as in old films tradition !) a Duesenberg Eight SJ Type, the phaeton body is certainly made by Murphy Cooachbuilder, a machine faster and well much rarer than any Rolls Royce of the day. the Duesenberg is equiped with a real race engine (as was the tradition in the Duesenberg brothers’ Indianapolis workshop) double overhead camshafts operating four valves by cylinder, developing 265 hp, an real impressive power in the twenties !
    In the movie Gatsby drive a SJ model fitted with a centifugal supercharger, that boosted the horspower to…320 hp! The problem is than the Duesenberg SJ and SSJ were not available before 1932, is than possible in a story acting in the twenties ?
    Other amusing thing, we can also divine in the movie a nice Ford A roadster, with a steering wheel placed on the right side, a repercussion of the australian shooting no doubt.
    Good day
    Patrick LESUEUR

  8. Ahmed Sajeel
    Ahmed Sajeel says:

    Such generous praise discourages me further towards the movie :-) In fact already I had no intention of watching it.

    I am a fan of the original ’74 version and like I always say, Ralph Lauren did a much superior job in carrying the wardrobe through, And I shall not hesitate a moment to say that Purple Label can trace its origin to the movie. Better still the line remains true to its roots and has not sold itself out to the whims of fashion.

    If anything, my respect for Ralph Lauren is further strengthened in this bargain.

  9. Ian
    Ian says:

    A great read as usual. I haven’t seen the film yet but I’ll be sure to notice DiCaprio’s sloppy suiting now! Perhaps he insisted on the too large collars for the same reason most misguided men do – i.e. for supposed comfort during long shoots?

    Thanks for the hat tip to British productions – I don’t know if it made it to the States via BBC world but there was a drama “Dancing on the Edge” (http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p013qqwt) following the fortunes of a 1930s Jazz Band in London. I thought the suits were fabulous, I’d love you to run your expert eye over them.

  10. Ian Brackley
    Ian Brackley says:

    On Tom’s clothes,

    The double breasted waistcoat seems just too 1890s and, I agree is a bit jarring. I’ve seen drafts for DB waistcoats of the period that could have been applied. A shame.

    From Tom’s poster picture, the article neglected to mention a nice detail – the laid-on chevron cuffs.

    • Sven Raphael Schneider
      Sven Raphael Schneider says:

      Ian, thanks for your input. Can you send me one of the drafts of the DB waistcoats via email?
      A lot of the suits had cuffs – for example look at the pink suit. Since I mentioned it once, I did not want to point it out every single time…

  11. Paul Pensom
    Paul Pensom says:

    Thanks for the attentive review. I was wondering when somebody was going to mention the fit of Gatsby’s suits, and am surprised they haven’t attracted more attention. In most scenes they look appalling.

    The idea that someone who had his shirts sent over from ‘a man in England’ would be seen in jackets with necks gaping wide enough to hide a cigarette packet is simply astonishing. Almost as astonishing as the knowledge that a film with a budget of millions couldn’t stretch to a single tailor.

  12. Wolf
    Wolf says:

    I haven’t got round to seeing it yet, but I can’t help thinking that one of the issues with the costuming here is that it doesn’t help to tell the story. Old money looks like new money. Would Tom really wear sunglasses with a suit in the 1920s? Gatsby might have but Tom wouldn’t’ve considered it.

    Would Gatsby ever have worn a waistcoat like that with his evening clothes? Obviously not – he is doing his best to blend in and such an immediately obvious gaff wouldn’t be made.

    That said, I’m still looking forward to seeing what they’ve made of it.

  13. Richard Atkinson
    Richard Atkinson says:

    Great post Sven. I love the focus and attention that you’ve paid to the outfits. I’ve seen the movie and loved the clothes but having now read your article I couldn’t agree more that some of the suits did indeed fail to fit and do justice and I have to admit that I didn’t even realise that the Pink Suit was the same as the one worn by Robert Redford!

    • Hal
      Hal says:

      Is it the same though?

      Redford’s is a solid pink, the new Gatsby’s is pink with white stripes. Redford’s has wide notch lapels, the current incarnation peaked lapels. The old one had an impressive double breasted waistcoat, di Caprio’s is single breasted.

      Really the only similarity is that they are pink single breasted suits and the fact that Gatsby wears a pink suit is in the book as Tom Buchanan remarks on it.

  14. Alec Rogers
    Alec Rogers says:

    Raph,

    Your comments are very perceptive. I bet that, indeed, commerical concerns dictated the desing choices, rendering the clothes less than authentic. Another interesting contrast to RL would be the Phineas Cole line at Paul Stuart, which seems very inspired by the 1930s if not actual replicas. I am a Brooks Brothers fan, and look to them first when I need something. They do a LOT of things right these days, and its easy to bash them but where would the well dressed man be if he couldn’t hop over to Brooks when the need arose?

    That said, they’ve struggled to add the sort of sartorial soave faire of the sort that is RL’s hallmark and is a large part of Paul Stuart. INMO their relationship with Thom Browne for the Black Fleece line has been mostly a bust. Accordingly, they were smart to jump at the opportunity to design Gatsby, but while they know the words they don’t quite get the melody. Perhaps its not quite in their DNA? The “Ivy League” and the 1930s are not entirely compatible styles, and perhaps they should stick to the former.

  15. Geo. Winters
    Geo. Winters says:

    On the movie: I have no interest in seeing it. I have enjoyed Baz Luhrmann’s over-the-top style, but I think it’s a poor fit for this story.

    On the clothes: Mostly awful, with scattered highlights (like the green cardigan). I can’t believe how awful the fit and cut are.

    On Tobey Maguire: Lousy actor. Another reason not to see this.

    On the “music”: No more than noise. I get that Baz Luhrmann doesn’t use period music, but the cacophony that sells a million records now makes me want to drill my own teeth with a rechargeable Black & Decker drill that has a half-dead battery.

    On Tom Buchanan: In the context of the 1920s, his views were not racist in the least: they were common-sensical (after all, eugenics and the ideas behind it were not yet discredited). He was more vociferous than most on the topic, but it was mainly his sense of superiority, rather than “racism,” that motivated him, I think. Of course, in 2013, the time that subtlety and nuance forgot, they had to make him a “racist” to make sure everyone knows he’s the bad guy.

  16. Richard de Meath
    Richard de Meath says:

    I was hugely disappointed in the film, which seemed more like a visit to the circus than the cinema. The lack of any sense of good taste throughout robbed the film of any visual pleasure, and the lead actress really did not suit the role.

  17. JC
    JC says:

    I read the novel shorty before seeing the movie and felt they followed the plot tolerably well. Some people were touched by the scene where Gatsby throws all his Turnbull & Asser shirts in the air. All I could think of is the person who had to go behind him and put them back! I’m actually a Jay-Z fan, but having his music in this movie was inappropriate. I thought the movie relied too much on computer graphics, which make it too gimmicky. The party scenes came off more like a bad musical, than anything remotely authentic. There is something about those brown/white spectators though!. I’ve seen them at the flagship Brooks Brothers store here in NYC and I really want a pair. In the novel, Brooks Brothers is alluded to as “Rivers Brothers”..

  18. J.T.
    J.T. says:

    You mention to take note of Nick Carraway’s diamond point bow tie, Is that because it’s a good, or a bad thing?
    I’ve been unable to find out when that particular style came into vogue, is it correct for the time period?

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