The rumble in the fashion world started months ago. A new version of The Great Gatsby was on its way to a cinema near you and every manufacturer, boutique, hair salon and bar was prepared to embrace Art Deco design and jump on Baz Luhrmann’s dazzling bandwagon.
I was lucky enough to spend several hours with the Australian director some years ago ahead of his staging of La Boheme in New York and got to see just how focused he is on every detail of his productions.
Notebooks filled with drawings; hundreds of period photographs and a definitive vision of how a film or show should look is what makes Baz an original. Now he has turned his talents to adapting F Scott Fitzgerald’s great American novel and the film opens today.
Regardless of critical reaction, there can be no denying that his interpretation will be a work of art, not least because of the costumes which have been designed by his long-time collaborator and wife, multiple Oscar-winner Catherine Martin. Together with design legend Miuccia Prada, it was Catherine’s job to adhere to Baz’s wishes and not make the film look “like a gangsters and molls 21st birthday party”.
Baz did not “want to see people swinging pearls and twirling feather boas” and so his ingenious missus had to find a fresh way to reflect the period by trawling through the archives.
“We tend to think of 20s fashion as being a beaded embroidered fringed shift, but in reality the silhouettes were incredibly varied and had all kinds of influences from folkloric to Arabic,” Catherine says. “Also just about every style of dress had been invented from bias cut to strapless with everything from feathered skirts, halter necks and V-necks in between.”
This is great news as it expands the choices for anyone wanting to emulate the look with the sort of Jewish figure that rarely suits a shift.
That’s not a problem for Carey Mulligan, who plays Daisy dressed in a lot of lace made by Solstice, a 19th century French company that still works with Chanel.
Carey also got to wear a lot of Tiffany diamonds and jewellery of the time. So if you don’t want to wear a frock for Jay Gatsby, you can opt instead for bangles, beads, watches, headbands and hats. Anything that taps into “Big Egg’”style, be it bespoke heels for as little as £109 from Shoes of Prey, or vintage underwear of the kind you might have partied in on the Gatsby estate. Hopefully I’ve covered all the Baz bases, but to quote Jay Gatsby, if it’s not here “you just ask for it, old sport”.