Costumes of The Great Gatsby: Then & Now

Top notch costume design is key in producing a period piece as grand as The Great Gatsby. This great task of dressing a whole cast in Jazz Age garb was accomplished once in Coppola’s 1974 adaptation and once more in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 adaptation, but each film had a different approach in dealing with their costumes, and contemporary fashions were a major influence. In-depth comparisons of the major characters’ costumes in both films will show just how differently each adaptation tackled costuming.

4/23/15

My original plan for today was to find specific clips for my video essay, but because my script is longer than originally planned, I spent most of class looking for another song to fill up the time. I wanted something modern yet jazzy, and preferably instrumental (so as not to distract from my voiceover). Thank goodness for Bryan Ferry; he is involved in every track I’m using.

Script

It’s a bit late and a little lengthy but it’s here.

I N T R O

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 film The Great Gatsby was one of the most well-known adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name. But in 2013, Baz Luhrmann gave new life to the 90 year old story, stirring a resurgence of nostalgia for the Roaring 20’s era and all its glitz and glamour. The fashion of the 1920s featured drop waists, short skirts, gaudy jewelry, sleek suits, and hats of all sorts; costume designers Theoni V. Aldredge (of the 1974 adaptation) and Catherine Martin (of the 2013 adaptation) took home an Oscar for their excellent work in  bringing these styles to their contemporary audience. However, this does not mean the costuming in these adaptations were completely free from the stylistic influences of the decades in which they were created. Let’s take a look at some of the costume choices of the major characters in each film and you’ll see what I mean.

N I C K

Let’s start with the story’s narrator, Nick Carraway. He’s a young writer-turned-stockbroker who recently relocated to New York from the Midwest. He’s staying in West Egg for the summer, next door to the mysterious Gatsby and across the bay from his cousin Daisy and her husband, Tom Buchanan, his old Yale classmate. Nick’s account of that summer’s events begin when he pays them a visit. In the 1974 adaptation, Nick, played by Sam Waterston reaches the Buchanan Mansion wearing a white suit with large white notch lapels on the jacket and a black pocket square. Out of the water, he fished his white fedora wrapped with a black band. His shoes are white with black soles, matching his suit and tie. Layered underneath his suit, Nick is wearing a pale, silvery pin stripe shirt with a sharp collar, a gold tie, and a white vest. His outfit is very light and summery; in a way, it’s almost optimistic, expecting fun and relaxation in the during the summer ahead.

In the 2013 version, Nick, played by Tobey Maguire, doesn’t have the same watery entrance but his appearance at the Buchanan Mansion still makes a splash. He wears a brown tweed suit with standard notch lapels. The jacket of the suit also has warmer, deeper brown elbow patches. Underneath the jacket, he wears a matching brown tweed single breasted vest with dark brown buttons along with an eggshell dress shirt with rounded collar, also known as a club collar. The most eye-catching item of this look is his red bowtie with white stripes. It pulls the preppy (and almost innocent), collegiate look of Nick’s outfit.

 

T O M

Tom Buchanan, is an intimidating and arrogant man who comes from old money. He believes that his financial status and bloodline are reason enough for him seize power at any opportunity and get what he wants when he wants it. As Nick spends more time with Tom, it is revealed the current object of his desire is Myrtle Wilson, the wife of the lower class mechanic George Wilson. Tom brings Nick to the Wilson’s shop to introduce him and plan a rendezvous with Myrtle. In the 1974 adaptation, Tom, played by Bruce Dern, leaves his care and enters the Wilson shop wearing a gray suit with wide notch lapels. It is worth noting that although wide notch lapels were common in 1920s men fashion, they were also prominent in 1970s men’s suits, which explain why this particular detail was included in almost all the men’s costumes. Beneath the jacket, Tom wears a grey single breasted vest with black buttons, a white dress shirt with a club collar, and a black necktie. He looks very crisp and clean juxtaposed to the dingy colors and looser shapes in the the shop.

In the 2013 adaptation, Tom hops off the train and heads to the Wilson’s shop wearing a navy blue pinstripe peak lapel suit and a straw boater hat decorated with a black band with blue stripes. Underneath his jacket he wears a solid navy double breasted vest over a light blue dress shirt and a dark blue tie with white and red stripes. His outfit is very sleek, sharp, and dark and makes him stand out amongst the muted tones of the environment and the clothing of the surrounding characters. A dominating outfit for this power-hungry antagonist makes perfect sense.

 

M Y R T L E

Myrtle is the young wife of Mr. Wilson but that doesn’t stop her and Tom from engaging in a steamy affair. She dreams of becoming one of the elite classes, and her clothing reflects her desire for a more luxurious lifestyle. In this scene, Myrtle shows off the new dress Tom bought for her at the apartment party. In the 1974 adaptation, Myrtle, played by Karen Black, wears a light orange drop waist frock. The bottom and the sleeves are adorned with bright orange feathers. The chest portion of the dress is adorned with crystals and a flower made of orange ribbon and a crystal adorns each shoulder. Myrtle is also wearing a light orange headband decorated with bright orange feathers and a silver piece attaching the feathers to the band.

In the 2013 version, the party dress Myrtle puts on is red and has a long trumpet silhouette. The bottom of the dress consists of large red ruffles that flare out near her ankles. The top of the dress has a deep v neckline, showing off her cleavage and top of her lace push up bra. This isn’t historically accurate; cleavage was not en vogue back in the 1920’s. However, it helps amplify Myrtle’s scandalous sex appeal to the 2013 audience. In addition to the deep neckline, the red and coral satin flounces wrap around the collar and a large pale pink and red flower adorns her left shoulder. She accessorizes this outfit with large red, white, and blank bangles on her wrists, red dangling round earrings, and a headband made of red and pink satin wrapped around her bouncy ginger curls.

 

J O R D A N

Jordan Baker is a girlhood friend of Daisy’s and a professional golfer. She’s a glamorous elite woman like Daisy, but she is single, shrewd, and unnervingly cool. Jordan holds a position similar to Nick, often finding herself alongside him as a curious bystander watching events unfold, but she is more accustomed to the shallowness and fast pace of the Jazz Age lifestyle. Jordan fits right in amongst the festivities when she encounters Nick during his first Gatsby party. In the 1974 film, Jordan, played by Lois Chiles, is wearing a shimmery silver sleeveless evening dress that hits right below the knee. The base of the dress appears to be made of grey satin, which is then covered with intersecting diagonal stripes made of silver sequins. The dress also has a daring deep v back, showing off some of her toned athletic shape. The accessories, however, are what really make this look memorable. On her head, Jordan wears a black headband with a thick zigzag stripe that wraps around and slightly under her wavy bob. Around her neck, she wears a silver necklace with blue gems and two strings of pearls. But what really stands out are Jordan’s white evening gloves. She only wears one throughout the scene while holding the other in her purse. It’s uncommon for women to wear one evening glove, but Jordan pulls it off effortlessly.

In the 2013 film Jordan, played by Elizabeth Debicki, emerges out of the crowd in a sleek black floor length halter gown while taking off a mesh band that covers her eyes like a mask. The top of the gown is embellished with crystals reaching all the up to  and around her neck; it matches her dangling crystal earrings and cuff. The dress is completely backless and supported only by the halterneck, which is normal for today’s fashions, but it was a pretty rare during the 1920s.  On her hips sits a thick crystal belt, which segments her tall, lanky frame. Jordan’s outfit is polished and modern, yet severe, a perfect match for her cool, intimidatingly persona.

 

D A I S Y

Daisy Buchanan is Nick’s cousin and the love of Jay Gatsby’s life. She met Gatsby in her hometown of Louisville, Kentucky but she now lives in New York with her husband Tom. Gatsby was enamored with Daisy’s aura of charm,  luxury, and sophistication and strives to win Daisy back by showing off his wealth. On this summer evening, Daisy decides to attend one of Gatsby’s parties. In the 1974 adaptation, Daisy, played by Mia Farrow, emerges of the car wearing a long silver sequin cloak with a white fluffy feather-lined collar. She also wears a silver sequin cap with beaded fringe that completely covers her hair. As she enters the mansion, she takes off her cloak to reveal a shimmering silver sequin dress that hangs just below her knee. Stripes of darker sequins wrap diagonally around her dress. Daisy’s accessories, like her ostrich feather fan, silver choker, and pearl earrings and necklace add even more glamour to her sparkling outfit.

In the 2013 adaptation, Daisy, played by Carrie Mulligan, arrives at the party wrapped in a blue shawl made of fur and feathers with large crystals dangling from its bottom edges. This shawl covers a dazzling champagne colored crystal dress that reaches just under her knee. Daisy’s key accessories include a silver, art deco inspired tiara adorned with pearls, and her slave bracelet that adorned her hands, made of pearls and diamonds; these accessories add even more sparkle to her crystal dress. Compared to some of the other women’s fashions, Daisy’s dress is fairly modest with its simple scoop neck, covered back, and thick sleeveless straps. Touches of champagne satin, like the large bow on the front of the dress or the ribbon used to tie the tiara onto her head, also give the outfit a sense of elegance and softness, two elements that Daisy embodies in the the story.

 

G A T S B Y

The lavish parties on West Egg are hosted by the mysterious Jay Gatsby. This young mogul clawed his way from rags to riches in the hopes of building a life of luxury with his beloved Daisy, whom he fell in love with during his younger years. Nick helps the two lovers reunite but all the tension within this tricky love triangle comes to a head when Tom confronts Gatsby about their affair and his past during their excursion in the city. This confrontation marks the beginning of the end for Gatsby, but he goes there in style, donning a pink suit as described in the novel. In the 1974 version, Robert Redford plays Jay Gatsby, and and in this scene he wears a muted pink suit with wide notch lapels. Underneath, he wears a white club collar dress shirt with a blue necktie layered under a matching pink double breasted vest. His suit pants flare out slightly, in a manner very similar to of the men’s fashion in the 70s. This is out of place for the 1920’s however. In the twenties, men’s pants usually had a straight or tapered silhouette. So once again, we see the 70s influence on this Jazz Age story within the men’s costuming.

In the 2013 adaptation, Gatsby, portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio, wears a pale pink suit with white pinstripes, standard peak lapels, and white buttons. Beneath the jacket, he wears a matching single breasted vest and a white dress shirt with a pointed collar. But the viewer’s eye has no choice but to zero in on Gatsby’s pink and burgundy tie and his burgundy pocket square. Those splotches of burgundy are an intense contrast to the calm pink of the suit, similar to the underlying intensity of the uneasy stillness of the beginning of the scene. Another important detail is the ring Gatsby wears on his pinky. Both adaptation includes the ring, but they approach differently. In the 1974 adaptation, Gatsby wears a gold ring on his left pinky with what could be gold petals surround a green oval cut gem. In the 2013 version, Gatsby’s ring  is silver and less ornate, rising up to a black glass square with a daisy engraved inside it. This subtle symbol of his devotion to Daisy Buchanan is on his right pinky.

C O N C L U S I O N

Both productions of The Great Gatsby accomplished incredible feats for Costume Design and each film even added their own contemporary flair. Collaboration was also a major part of the successful costuming of each film. Aldredge worked with Barbara Matera and fashion mogul Ralph Lauren to execute the designs of the 1974 Gatsby and Catherine Martin worked with big names like Brooks Brothers, Tiffany & Co, and Prada to dress the entire cast of the 2013 Gatsby in Jazz Age fashions. You may be wondering, “Why focus so much on costume design?” Well, Catherine Martin answers that question and in this bonus DVD interview… So which film had better costume design? It’s hard to say since both adaptations had different goals. While the 1974 film aimed for historical accuracy and had some touches of 70s fashion, the 2013 film focused more on bringing the essence of the Jazz Age to modern viewers and consciously used trends from today’s era. In my opinion, both films were successful in their endeavors.

4/9/15

Today I worked on my final project during class. The script has been taking me a little while but it is almost complete. It’s a little lengthy and I’m wondering if I should prepare for a longer video than initially anticipated or if I should shave my script down. I’m probably going to stick with a longer video; I’m enjoying these comparisons to much, and I think I’m able to keep my audience engaged.

April 2 – Project Update

Today I had my oral presentation which went great.

I still have to figure out how to rip the Great Gatsby (2013). Every time I try there just seems to be a new hurdle.

We also had to post our script/storyboard by the end of today’s class. I posted the beginnings of it in my last post, but I’ll add it to this post too with the addition of an organized list of the characters and which costumes I’ll be comparing.

Script/Storyboard coming soon!

Script/Storyboard – The Beginnings

I N T R O

The 1974 film The Great Gatsby was one of the most well-known adaptations of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel of the same name. But in 2013, Baz Luhrmann gave new life to the 90 year old story, stirring a resurgence of nostalgia for the Roaring 20’s era and all its glitz and glamour. The fashion of the 1920s featured drop waists, short skirts, gaudy jewelry, sleek suits, and hats of all sorts; costume designers Theoni V. Aldredge (of the 1974 adaptation) and Catherine Martin (of the 2013 adaptation) took home an Oscar for their excellent work in  bringing these styles to their contemporary audience. However, this does not mean the costuming in these adaptations were completely free from the stylistic influences of the decades in which they were created. Let’s take a look at some of the costume choices of the major characters in each film and you’ll see what I mean.

  1. (Screen vid) type: the great gatsby. [music fades in]
  2. *start I N T R O*
  3. show scene from 1974 Gatsby //The 1974 film…
  4. show scene from 2013 Gatsby //But in 2013…
  5. reveal pics and gifs of 20s fashion// The fashion of the…
  6. split screen of oscars //…costume designers…
  7. play gg2013 opening zoom in moment //Let’s take a look
  8. -fade out-

(The rest of the video will be alternating between the 1974 and 2013 adaptations looking at each character’s costume in major scenes as we progress to the end of the story.)