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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
A recurring camera angle is the zoom in from above just like in this pool party scene.
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.
Interestingly, specific items such as the pink suit with white stripes are recurring items from the 70’s editon with Robert Redford.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Beautiful mid brown three piece herringbone suit.
Interesting combination of boater hat and trench coat.
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.
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.
Very classic looks that are not flashy and represent “old money”.
The boater is as flamboyant as Buchanan gets.
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?