What’s Going On the Screen
After being plagued with numerous problems and delays, Baz Luhrmann’s much-anticipated spectacular, “The Great Gatsby”, is due for release in the UK next month. The film’s costume designer, Carol Martin, enlisted the help of Miuccia Prada, who provided sketches and her own professional opinion in this brilliant collaboration, which brings F. Scott Fitzgerald’s famous novel into sparkling life on the silver screen. It’s a timely release; after all, when we consider the social and economic situation of the time in which Fitzgerald was writing, it’s easy to see the connections between Gatsby’s story, and our own lives.
Fitzgerald’s masterpiece is set in 1922, a time of great hardship and worry for many, but a good time to be alive if, like Gatsby, you were rich and glamorous enough to illegally drink and dance the night away in the daring new fashions that now define our image of the 1920s.
This image is, for many people, characterized by the glitzy figure of the flapper girl, dancing her legs to the bone in feathered, sparkling dresses which defied the Edwardian austerity of the past. The make-up of the flapper was dramatic, it was vampy; heavily shadowed eyes and painted lips with the emphasis on the cupids bow. Hair was often cut short in another dramatic departure from traditional Edwardian modesty, and dresses were even shorter; wealthy women draped themselves in opulent jewellery, from elaborate headdresses to beaded necklaces and giant cocktail rings. As for the men, think suits, think hats, and above all, think dapper. As with women’s style, men’s fashion was becoming less regimented, but it was still sophisticated, with the preference swinging towards shorter, single breasted jackets with wide, peak lapels. Pinstriped suits were popular, as were sweaters and flannel trousers, whilst the classic tuxedo was reserved for more formal occasions.
Although today’s binge drinking culture seems a long way away from the revels of almost one hundred years ago, there are still ways to bring a bit of that 1920s sparkle into our modern world. I recently went to a cocktail party for which there was a vague overarching theme of the 1920s prohibition, and the whole experience made drinking about a litre of whisky sidecars feel much more glamorous. Everyone was dressed in their own idea of how 1920s fashion should be done, incorporating their own twist or an injection of modern style into classic looks. It proved just how easily the Gatsby fashion can be adapted for daily life in the modern age, and how it can still add a bit of class to our contemporary debauchery.
For the ladies, layering long necklaces can make any outfit feel more glamorous, and elaborate headbands and hair pieces are increasingly appearing on online boutiques and shops along the high street. The cloche hat was a popular choice for women of the day, but tying a scarf around your head can add the same art deco feel. Whilst the silhouette of choice for the 1920s lady was slim and straight, with shift dresses and dropped waistlines being very much in Vogue, curvy ladies need not fear. Loose flowing high-waisted trousers are just as chic, especially when paired with a well-tailored jacket or a stylish blouse, and using a belt to cinch in the waist of a long ‘20s cardigan will flatter your figure, whilst providing a modern slant on a classic look.
As for gentleman, all you really need is a good hat; the fedora is a timeless classic (and can work beautifully for women too, may I add). The wide-legged trousers popular in the 1920s, known as “Oxford Bags” have also been gradually crawling their way back into the fashion spotlight (David Gandy was spotted sporting a pair at London fashion week), whilst the Gatsby influence shines through several Spring 2013 collections for houses such as Ralph Lauren and Alexander McQueen, both of which throw the prohibition into their suave repertoires in the form of pinstripe, subtly patterned ties and single-breasted jackets. Coloured or striped shirts with a white collar, and a sleek pair of brogues or oxfords, are easy ways to capture the feel of the 1920s.
So, although over 90 years has passed since the days of Gatsby, not much has changed. We’re still consumerist monsters, there’s still an economic crisis, and we’re still pouring drinks and throwing parties to forget about it; a demonstration of a desire for escapism which Luhrmann’s film will no doubt also tap into as it looks back to the last time the world was such a glittering, uncertain mess. Times were just as hard in the 1920s as they are now; why shouldn’t we look just as good, too?