Gatsby, Classic 1920’s Menswear, and the Meaning of a Flapper’s Dress

Australian film director Baz Luhrmann is known for his highly stylized art direction and rich, cinematic visuals. Its no surprise that the costume design and styling of his recently released Gatsby, which garnered $51.1 million during its opening weekend in May, was both lavish and successful in portraying the decadence of the period.

Luhrmann and his head costume designer, Catherine Martin, collaborated with the classic, preppy Brooks Brothers brand to custom make sharply tailored menswear for all of the male cast members, but also for the hundreds of extras as well. The director and costume designer referenced The Great Gatsby text directly to see how F. Scott Fitzgerald had dressed his characters; details such as Gatsby himself in a pink linen suit (played in the film by Leonardo DeCaprio) surfaced. Interestingly, F. Scott Fitzgerald himself regularly wore Brooks Brothers, and was in regular communication with the company, making the partnership all the more appropriate and powerful.

Brooks Brothers took these literary details, inspiration from the collaboration with Martin, and created a limited edition line of menswear: The Great Gatsby Collection. The collection includes classic 1920’s gentleman’s attire including a burgundy wool striped regatta blazer, to be worn with white linen slacks and a straw boater hat. There are also accessories available such as walking canes and black patent leather loafers. Now contemporary gentlemen of the upper echelons can party like its 1921 in the dandy styles of the decadently roaring twenties. Gatsby’s iconic pink linen suit was also available, but seems to be sold out as of the publication of this story.

But Brooks Brothers were not the only brand to add their signature look to the film: Miuccia Prada guest-designed forty women’s gowns for the lavish party scenes: extravagant encrusted silk, beading and crystals, and flamboyant headwear. In the interview below, Martin discusses how Prada’s signature style is influenced by the past, yet looks totally of the moment, which is why they asked her to create the flappers’ party dresses. Prada and Martin were able to capture the defiant and carefree attitude of the flapper through their designs.

A bit of background on the flapper should be mentioned as well. The traditional flapper’s attire reflected her disdain for the more conservative values of society, and instead embraced her love of driving cars, drinking, smoking, engaging in casual sex and “petting parties,” and wearing makeup. The flapper was not an intellectual feminist by any stretch of the imagination, and some suffragettes of the time critisized flappers for being “superficial.”  The flapper’s clothing and style did pave the way, however,  for new aspects of female liberation by asserting that women could enjoy the spoils of society just as men, and with as much vigor.