A couple of days ago we paid a visit to Brooks Brothers in London. Unfortunately for the disappointed staff we were not planning on spending anything, instead we just wanted to see Catherine Martin’s costumes on display from The Great Gatsby. We snapped a few photos but they are largely terrible thanks to an unsteady hand and underpowered camera. Still, they should give you a flavour of the costumes if nothing else.
There are three displays featuring half a dozen dresses with male mannequins dotted in-between – all of which are wearing tuxedos/evening suits. This is a shame because Brooks Brothers provided 1920s patterns of all suit styles for the film. Actually though, the dinner suits were more immediately impressive than the dresses. Martin has already spoken extensively about her work on The Great Gatsby so we know historical accuracy is not especially high on the agenda. That said it is a period piece so nailing the silhouette is essential or it might as well be set in the present day. The suits were not bad at all in this regard; shoulders slope, chests narrow and fabrics are heavy. One even had gauntlet cuffs which was a nice touch.
Generally then the dresses were disappointing. Perhaps because of modern fabrics used they felt more nineties nightclub than twenties flapper. Some were tight against the mannequins too creating a poured-in effect more than taped-down garconne. Appliqué is intricate, however; sequins, fur, discs, jewels – anything and everything goes. If Martin wanted to capture the extravagance referenced in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s novel then she succeeded. Asymmetric hems and fringing also help create the necessary fuss, although there is one dress with a leg slit directly under the buttocks and that’s high enough to be stage wear.
If we hardly seem jumping for joy at these costumes we should qualify that we have no idea who wore them in the film, the context, or even if they made the final cut. Quite possibly some were party guest outfits so never even received a close up. We could not see much Prada or Mui-Mui influence in the designs, well not obviously so anyway (perhaps that’s the point?). Swing by the store and judge for yourself though, providing you don’t need to hop on a plane it’ll be worth the trip.
The Great Gatsby is released on 15th May. Selected costumes are on display in Brooks Brothers until the end of the month.
© 2013 – 2014, Lord Christopher Laverty.