In a week of new and exciting trailers, the first for director Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby must surely be the most thrilling of all, certainly for aficionados of exotic period costume and lots of twinkly things.
Based purely on tone this frenetic footage is likely to upset literary purists, but to those familiar with Luhrmann’s back catalogue (Romeo & Juliet, Moulin Rouge!), the gaudy, flashy visuals and controversial choice of contemporary music (Jay-Z and Kayne West) will not come as a great surprise. Thankfully two time Academy Award winner Catherine Martin’s costumes are showcased in all their OTT glory. Deliberately impossible to miss; this is 1922, the Jazz Age, dawning of the Roaring Twenties, when only the best was fit to squander.
As reclusive millionaire Jay Gatsby, Leonardo DiCaprio wears an particularly visible white linen suit, natural across the shoulders but taut across the chest. Jackets were temporarily tight after World War I, mainly due to the placing of buttons higher and closer together, as evidenced here. Shirts were most contentious however; a fierce debate raging between stiff and soft (often open with no necktie). Colours were riotous in fine silks as light as air. Gatsby actually brings wide-eyed Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan) to tears in F. Scott Fitzgerald’s original novel, flinging shirts above her head like candy. Yet suit flourishes notwithstanding (there are at least two examples of the Edwardian turnback cuff in this trailer), it was always stiff collar for tuxedos and wing collar for tails.
For The Great Gatsby’s female cast, Catherine Martin parades the flapper vibe with abandon. Although the term ‘flapper’ did not really apply until after 1924, it epitomises this hedonistic age more as an attitude than a look. Not every young woman had the courage to bare her legs in raised, asymmetric hem dresses with no waist definition; they were only for the audacious. Sequins, lamé and embroidery abound (lot of partying in the trailer), with glimpses of modernist and cubist prints popularised by Jean Patou and Jeanne Lanvin. Note too Daisy’s fur and feather shrug; this is intentionally outlandish, almost unimaginable opulence.
The Great Gatsby is likely to inspire a return of the Roaring Twenties to the catwalk and eventually the high street (Martin used patterns from the Brooks Brothers archive for DiCaprio’ costumes and Prada/Miu Miu for Mulligan). That said, with the film’s Christmas release date and flapper/jazz fashion predominantly suited to balmy summer nights, it may not take off as well as hoped. Important to remember though that these are costumes first, fashion second; they will not just be part of Baz Luhrmann’s story, they will undoubtedly help tell it.
The Great Gatsby is released in 3D on 26th December. UPDATE (07/08/12): Release date has been pushed back to summer 2013.
© 2012, Christopher Laverty.