Pshaw to the party crashers who hate on The Great Gatsby because it is over-the-top and under nuanced. What did you want from Baz Luhrmann? Critics decry the lack of subtlety, the Jay Z soundtrack and the non-mysteriousness of the mysterious Jay Gatsby. Okay, those things might bug my mom (who bizarrely hates the novel anyway), but the naysayers who claim Luhrmann hasn’t done right by Fitzgerald are dead wrong.
Fitzgerald would have loved this Gatsby and here’s why:
1. This is a Gatsby for our times: Let’s face it. Fitzgerald was no Camus. Despite his desire to be, Fitzgerald was not a novelist of the “big thinking” kind. He was a chronicler of a new era in American culture: “We were the most powerful nation. Who could tell us any longer what was fashionable and what was fun?”
Luhrmann’s Gatsby is a 21st century Gatsby. It’s darker, grittier, and much sexier than the priggish Fitzgerald could have imagined. Just as Fitzgerald’s novel documented the shifting social mores of the 1920s, Luhrmann’s gets to those of today: big-bodied girls flaunt their fleshy bits; Gatsby shakes hands with a black man as he enters the speakeasy; sex is everywhere.
In the time it was written, Fitzgerald’s fiction was also accused of being too obvious, making such accusations of the film ironically apropos. And remember, Fitzgerald’s favorite writers were also chroniclers of their time: Wilde, Rupert Brooks, Theodore Dreiser and even the un-lauded Sherwood Anderson. Fitzgerald would have handed it to Luhrmann for decoding our culture, even if critics don’t appreciate the delivery and we’re too distracted by the fleshy bits to see ourselves clearly. more »
Get Your Fix: Luhrmann’s ‘Gatsby Journal, New Stills, And Close-ups From Brooks Brothers Costume ExhibitAisling O'Connor : May 15, 2013 5:00 pm : News
If you appreciate the finer details of the extravaganza that is The Great Gatsby as envisioned by the fabulous threesome of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin, you’ll love the latest goings on over on the official movie website.
If that nifty little monogram maker didn’t tickle your fancy, you might appreciate Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby Journal, an interactive resource where he shares the inspirations behind the project, the early artwork, his pitch, and a plethora of character costume vignettes, as well as excerpts from interviews with Luhrmann and Martin. more »
Baz and the Book: Jay Gatsby – A Self-Concocted Castle of ‘Shirts Piled Like Bricks in Stacks a Dozen High’Aisling O'Connor : May 15, 2013 4:14 pm : News
For Baz Luhrmann, Gatsby’s closet is two stories with a spiral staircase and those geometric, Deco details that make you wish you grew up in Miami Beach. Yeah, that feels about right. It is the perfect setting for Fitzgerald’s daunting description.
In the novel, Gatsby:
took out a pile of shirts and began throwing them, one by one, before us, shirts of sheer linen and thick silk and fine flannel, which lost their folds as they fell and covered the table in many-colored disarray. While we admired he brought more and the soft rich heap mounted higher-shirts with stripes and scrolls and plains in coral and apple-green and lavender and faint orange, with monograms in Indian blue. Suddenly, with a strained sound, Daisy bent her head into the shirts and began to cry stormily. more »
This week on The Atlantic, fashion historian, Fitzgerald scholar, and this blog’s momma, Deirdre Clemente reviews ‘Gatsby costume, and takes a look at F. Scott Fitzgerald’s fractious relationship with Hollywood.
The details of the new film’s wardrobe aren’t historically accurate, but its costumes successfully convey the glamour and decadence of the era for a 21st-century audience.
Feathered headpieces? Check. Long strings of beads? Check. More Brooks Brothers than a Princeton reunion? Check. Spectator shoes, cloche hats, and Bakelite bangles? Check, check, check. The Great Gatsby delivers the fashion clichés of the 1920s (and a few from other eras) that we expected to see.
But they don’t look quite as we expected to see them. The colors are richer, the dresses more bespangled, and the flappers less perky. This Gatsby isn’t the Gatsby of John Held, Jr. cartoons, nor is it Boardwalk Empire. It’s darker, grittier, and much sexier than the priggish Fitzgerald could have imagined. It’s a 21st century Gatsby, set in the 1920s, which, paradoxically, ups its connection to the decadent period it depicts. If you want historically accurate costumes, you’ll be better served by PBS. If you want to understand the social and cultural meaning of clothes in the 1920s, then this movie delivers.
A self-promoter, a true-blue Princeton party boy, a charmer with the right clothes: F. Scott Fitzgerald in his prime would have loved all the cultural hoopla associated with the release of Baz Luhrmann’s The Great Gatsby. F. Scott Fitzgerald before or after his prime, though? That’s less of a sure thing.
The prime chronicler of the jazz age—a term he coined—came up around the same time that the American movie industry did, and spent much of his career linked with Hollywood. But Fitzgerald’s intellectual snobbery and Puritanical prudery made for a strained relationship with the film world, one that began as dismissive and ended as dependent.
Images Warner Bros.
Myrtle Wilson is the woman who will do the stuff in bed that your wife won’t. She is (like Dot in The Beautiful and the Damned) the hapless other woman, dispensable and slutty. For Fitzgerald, Myrtle is to be touched. The author literally uses fabric to give the character texture.
When Nick first meets Myrtle in her husband’s garage, she is wearing “a spotted dress of dark blue crepe-de-chine” (27). The delicate crepe-de-chine is juxtaposed with the cotton dress she is wearing to get on the train. That fabric is described as “brown figured muslin, which stretched tight over her rather wide hips” (28). more »
At some point in this movie, Nick Carraway must wear white flannel pants.
Spectator shoes; white bucs; button-down collared shirts. They all started in the Ivy League in the years before WWI, but white flannel pants were par excellence of Ivy Style. Since the early 1900s, Princeton graduates wore blue blazers and flannel pants on commencement day, and it became closely associated with the university. In This Side of Paradise, Amory Blaine observes the ensemble in its campus context on his first day at Princeton:
“Several times he could have sworn that men turned to look at him critically. He wondered vaguely if there was something the matter with his clothes…He felt unnecessarily stiff and awkward among these white-flannelled, bare-headed youths who must be juniors and seniors, judging by the savoir faire with which they strolled.”(230)
Across the Ivy League, white flannels were an upperclassmen thing. Freshies hadn’t the gall to don them.
Nick Carraway went to Yale. His flannels to Gatsby’s party say what Gatsby’s clothes do not: “I fit in.” Everyone at that party knew the cultural meaning of those flannel pants: privilege and education. A powerful combination in American culture.
Fitzgerald was always at odds with that combination. In his own life, Fitzgerald was, as leading scholar Matthew Bruccoli said, “in the club on a guest membership.” Fitzgerald’s keen eye for detail, his charm, and his Princeton degree gave him entrée to a higher socioeconomic stratum. But he and Gatsby didn’t belong there. Nick does and his clothing tells us that.
Images Warner Bros. thegreatgatsby.warnerbros.com/
Read more on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Princeton Style.
Well, it’s out there. The Great Gatsby‘s first big night out was at Lincoln Center, New York City yesterday. However, the ’20s did not come roaring back as would be expected on such an occasion, at this world premiere. As obsessed as we (the royal ‘we’ included) have been with Gatsby costume, and hanging as we have been, on every mot from that award-winning bouche of Catherine Martin, the only question on the internet’s lips this morning was, ‘what did they wear?’.
The movie’s leading lady, Carey Mulligan, certainly surprised us in a red statement minimalist strapless cocktail from Lanvin Fall 2013.
Tom Buchanan is about as masculine as Fitzgerald gets. The author was small and slight of build, but he adored such physicality in men. He worshiped athletes, followed Princeton football long after the team was any good, and trailed behind the bulky Hemmingway like a little brother.
Despite his grid-iron records at Yale, Tom Buchanan is not a hero, but rather a thick-necked oaf. His physical form is central to Fitzgerald’s descriptions: “Not even the effeminate swank of his riding clothes could hide the enormous power of his body.” Shiny black boots with strained laces hold back his hulking calves. But he doesn’t like that word—hulking.
For Fitzgerald, Tom is about the body. For Baz Luhrmann, Tom’s masculinity is shown in his clothes that distinguish him as an outsider, much as Gatsby’s clothes do. Tom is the only character in a double-breasted vest and suit—no, Brooks Brothers four-button sack for him. Navy blue and a brown tie. Very East Egg, and not the fun East Egg, but the boring, banker East Egg. No flashy tie pin or bejeweled cuff links. He doesn’t need to show what everyone else knows.
Unrepentant and untouchable, Tom Buchanan is last spotted going into a “jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace—or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons,” an action that proved to rid Nick of his “provincial squeamishness forever.” Buchanan is the kind of guy who breaks his girl’s nose. He is the kind of guy who calls your car a “circus wagon,” and the kind of guy whose wealth buys indiscretion.
He is, as my well-spoken father would say, “a total asshole” and his clothes tell us that.
Read more ‘Baz and the Book’ with Daisy and Jordan.
Images Warner Bros.
Inside Tom Bunchanan’s Den of Iniquity, Gatsby Among the Macaroons & the East and West Egg Facade Face-OffAisling O'Connor : April 26, 2013 3:03 pm : News
The good people at Warner Bros. have released more official stills from Baz Luhrmann’s adaptation of The Great Gatsby to satiate the luxe-thirsty public at their gates.
Have another gander at Daisy dripping with Prada and Tiffany.
Jay Gatsby is very comfortable with his manliness (and knows how to wow a little girl masquerading as a woman) in a room filled with flowers and pastel macaroons.
I am a historian of the 1920s, but don’t ask me about Calvin Coolidge.
What I can tell you about is clothes: the rise of the American clothing industry, cloche hats, Oxford bags, and dressing above your station—everyone was doing it. I study clothing and class. That’s the 1920s, and that’s Scott Fitzgerald.
The thing about Gatsby is the thing about the ‘History Channel’. Everyone can “get it.” I don’t own Gatsby and neither does Baz Luhrmann.
So read it, and see it. Reimagine an era of American history that continues to fascinate us because it pushed social mores, unwritten rules of conduct, and standards of dress that had been in place for 400 years.
“Breaks” rarely happen in history. The 1920s didn’t “break” as much as it “pushed.” more »
Just when you thought the good people at Warner Bros. had done their lot providing us with an opportunity to swap our hard earned dollars for the privilege of a couple of hours in the dark with Baz Luhrmann’s latest movie – they’ve only gone and had their techies work up a snazzy ‘Gatsby monogram maker.
Behold Fitzgerald & Fashion in the style of The Great Gatsby movie poster’s black and gold Art Deco glory:
Jaunty; athletic; self sufficient. Jordan Baker might be the closest thing to a modern woman in any of Fitzgerald’s fiction. Fitzgerald’s Jordan wore tennis dresses–a fine-gauge knit, a boxy line, a pleated skirt, v-necked and sleeveless. Fitzgerald’s Jordan is awkwardly masculine, abrupt in her mannerisms.
Baz plays Jordan strong: a black, backless evening dress that feels far too revealing under the arms for the period; a beige cloche hat with an enameled archive Tiffany pin; tortoise shell sunglasses. more »
So Rockerfeller Center had a very blue moment last Thursday evening, and we’re not talkin’ a break-up, The Notebook on DVD and a tub of Haagen-Dazs.
An enormous iconic Tiffany blue box was erected at the foot of the Art Deco landmark to celebrate the annual Blue Book Ball. Here are the top-flight details – more »
Ye masters of menswear and Gatsby contributors, Brooks Brothers did not market directly to women until the 1970s. So women had to shop in men’s stores or steal from boyfriends or brothers.
Brooks Brothers caught the attention of women in 1910 with its polo coat. Vassarite Hazel Hunkins coveted a white polo coat that she intended to wear with an imitation white fur cap. She wrote to her mother in Billings, Montana of the coat’s popularity and utility: “They are wearing them so much and such a hat and coat will serve every purpose I have for evening.”1
Here’s one good thing about the end of the Gatsby era: you are no longer cast as a Nick or a Jay. You’re no longer pigeon-holed as Harris tweed or pink linen; as boots or spectators; chunky knit sweaters with a rolled collar or a cream, fine-gauge jersey.
There was a fundamental shift in the meaning of clothing in the 20th century. Clothing—as theorist J.C. Flugel notes—has been about protection, your profession, sex, but it is most of all, it is about about class. Fashion thrives in cultures with socioeconomic fluidity. more »
If like us, you’ve been stalking Warner Bros. official The Great Gatsby website every two hours for new trailers, images or pretty much anything that gives any information at all on what these characters are wearing, you’ll be tipping your cap to some faceless webbies today. The site’s gotten a nifty makeover.
There are more stills, a soundtrack sampler, the worldwide release dates and a ‘Guide To Style’ (which we haven’t quite figured out yet given that it is a set of static brand logos). But best of all an extended TV spot ‘A Little Party Never Killed Nobody (All We Got)’. Begrudgers of modern elements beware that Fergie are identifiable to the even to the daintiest of ears, but we guarantee you’ll get lost in Baz’s splurge of hedonism. before you know it. more »
Luhrmann’s Gatsby calls to light the historical inaccuracy of the stick-thin, knobby- kneed flapper and challenges Hollywood’s typically lazy casting of pretty girls as background noise at glamorous parties. In both the text and the movie, the extras come in all shapes and sizes. They are the social context.
Fitzgerald writes of the “confident girls” who “weave here and there among the stouter and more stable.”; a pudgy “owl-eyed” man, and a guy who got his nose shot off in the war. more »
It will come as a surprise to none that Vogue Australia is, like her big American sister (and everyone with a pulse), in the grasp of ‘Gatsby fever. Although the forthcoming May collectors issue doesn’t boast a couture bedecked Daisy Buchanan, it does offer spritely supermodel Karlie Kloss on its cover as a modern flapper, and best of all, a set of haunting cast portraits by photographer Hugh Stewart.
Each image is punctuated with a note from Catherine Martin on dressing and designing for each character (note to self – start using ‘languorous’ in conversation at parties). more »
Race: the irking, lurking white elephant in American society. In all his work, Fitzgerald’s characters are whitey white, with a “Negro” bell hop; a Japanese butler tossed in for good measure. Baz Luhrmann’s Gatsby is more inclusive, making the film far more culturally relevant.
Whitey whites were the ones reading Fitzgerald’s Gatsby. But they won’t be the only ones seeing it. And it won’t just be skinny girls with flailing limbs. True to form, Luhrmann steps beyond the “ideal” body type —or even one associated so poignantly with the era (boxy dresses on flat chests). more »
Boaters, linen suits, suspenders, batwing bow ties, spectators, a peak lapel tuxedo and Ivy striped everything – Brooks Brothers ‘Gatsby Collection’ appears to have walked off the set of Baz Luhrmann’s Jazz-Age motion picture.
We’ve picked a couple of looks and set shots to show you how close the retail line actually is to Catherine Martin’s designs with the classic men’s clothier.
Jay Gatsby’s Ivory Linen Suit
There’s all sorts of nifty going on at the Plaza. And why wouldn’t there be. The movie event of the decade is partly set in its iconic suites. So it came as a surprise to none, but a delight to all, that the landmark New York hotel has added ‘The Fitzgerald Suite’ to its luxury roster.
According to Refinery29:
the Fifth Avenue mainstay will offer guests a stay in the Fitzgerald Suite, a no-holds-barred room dedicated to the author. The art deco-designed space will include over-the-top furnishings from Restoration Hardware, images from the film, the author’s complete collection of works, and coffee table books that will help you channel 1920s New York
C’est swish, non? more »
Fitzgerald’s Daisy Buchanan lacks dimension, is too “victim-y” and ultimately, unromantic. She never steps out of her cultural comfort zone. In an era of profound change, she hides behind a dying social hierarchy—one that taught her “the best thing a girl can be in this world, a beautiful little fool.”
Baz Lurhmann will not allow Fitzgerald’s dead weight Daisy to mar the romance-factor of his film. Our collective conscience has cast Jay and Daisy as misdirected soul mates; we’ve done the same for Scott and Zelda. Neither couple lived up to the image. Ultimately, The Great Gatsby is not a romance. more »
We are just busting to reach out and touch the intricate bead and appliqué work, and exquisite Brooks Brothers tailoring, both of which are now as synonymous with Baz Luhrmann’s ‘Gatsby adaptation, as the movie’s big-name stars themselves.
As if there wasn’t enough to be thankful to Catherine Martin for, hasn’t she only gone and displayed a whole bunch of the designs worn in the movie at Brooks Brothers’ flagship Madison Avenue store in New York City.
Who doesn’t want to have this fabulous store to themselves to stage a silent and creepy Roaring Twenties cocktail party with a bewitching crowd of mannequins. more »
So Carey Mulligan’s inevitable ‘Gatsby Vogue cover and accompanying editorial has hit the internet. Though this forgone conclusion to the British actress’s multi-media partnership with Anna Wintour, Baz Luhrmann and Miuccia Prada for the 2012 Met Gala ‘Schiaparelli and Prada: Impossible Conversations‘ is predictably dripping with the movie’s influence, the editorial shot by Mario Testino is standalone stunning.
Mulligan is a tricky canvas. Her face is so full – of features, youth, and expression – there is risk of a complicated visage fighting with busy clothing. However, in the words of Carrie Bradshaw, “this is Vogue” where the lightest of hand takes the most intricate of couture and creates images where the subject and the clothing take turns in taking themselves seriously. A balancing act, as it were. more »
Who else but Brooks Brothers could dress the cast of Gatsby? All 150-plus extras and the leads in over 500 tailored outfits for day and night comprising around 1,700 pieces, and those actors on their public rounds. Brooks Brothers had been around since 1818 but it was not until the first decades of the 20th century that they knew their bread and butter: Ivy Leaguers and the many others who wanted to dress like them.
The firm courted Ivy Leaguers. Brooks Brothers advertised in Princeton’s yearbook published in 1875 and held a full page every year until the mid-1950s. In 1915, they moved their headquarters to 346 Madison, a locale that was conveniently close to the Harvard and Yale Club. The first half of the twentieth century saw tremendous growth of the New York City-based company. They opened a major store in Boston in 1928, as well as seasonal stores in Newport and Palm Beach. more »
Just up off the ol’ fainting couch after viewing the latest trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s opus, and with just under a month still on the clock, we’re turning our watchful eye to The Great Gatsby movie posters. In our series, ‘Baz and the Book‘, Deirdre Clemente is undertaking an in-depth look at each character’s costume, but we twisted her arm for a little previews of her previews.
This shot of Carey Mulligan as our fickle heroine certainly draws us in, just like the men in Daisy Buchanan’s universe. more »
In Fitzgerald’s treasure trove of Jazz Age fashion there are few depictions of entire ensembles. Rather than concise images of period dresses, Fitzgerald paints with a broader brush. more »
So you’re either going to roll your eyes or squeal like a teen fan-girl at the third trailer for Baz Luhrmann’s ‘The Great Gatsby’. At the junction of where how everything should look and sound, meets where Baz takes it, is a seriously gorgeous song by Florence and the Machine (and a cover by Beyoncé). more »
In 1924, Fitzgerald wrote an article for his pet publication, The Saturday Evening Post, entitled,“How To Live on $36,000.” The average America annual income was in the zone of $1200. Annoying? Yes. Provocative? Yes.
Fitzgerald lived his entire life on a fiscal cliff. His father, Edward Fitzgerald, was unable to hold down a job and relocated his family several times during his son’s early life. Fitzgerald was conflicted as to his place on the social totem pole. His paternal grandmother was a descendant of the Scotts and the Keys, families who had been in the country since the seventeenth century. Francis Scott Key was a distant relation and the author was named for him. Fitzgerald’s mother’s family, the McQuillans, established a successful wholesale grocery in St. Paul but lacked the highbrow background Fitzgerald admired. They were “straight 1850 potato famine Irish.”1
Much like Jay Gatsby, Fitzgerald spent money—partying, moving, traveling, drinking. Fitzgerald scholar, Matthew Bruccoli writes, “It is not entirely paradoxical that he threw his money away. His carelessness with money expressed his superiority to it.”2 At twenty-two, Fitzgerald spent his last $30 he had on “a magenta feather fan for a girl in Alabama.”3 The girl was Zelda Sayre. more »
What brings a blogger out of hiatus after nearly a decade?
A. Three thriving children.
B. The bluelines of a book.
C. A need to write about a great love.
I blogged long before my dentist had one. I blogged when I had to explain to people what it was. I blogged when I was free to cover midnight romps in East Side bars with Brazilian bankers who hoped to get some site coverage and a second chance for midnight romps. And people read it. My blog was covered in the The New York Times, and much to my chagrin, the Howard Stern Show—the grossest part of my 15 minutes. more »
It will come as no surprise to anyone with a pulse, that Beyoncé has recorded a track for the forthcoming Gatsby film adaptation. America’s sweetheart with her fingers in all the pies, is said to be recording a duet with urban-dandy, Andre 3000. The duo will follow executive producer Jay-Z and his protégé Kanye West’s lead onto the movie’s soundtrack with a cover of Amy Winehouse’s tragic modern ballad, Back To Black.
From a style perspective, both Mrs. Carter and Andre are given to a good old rummage in the costume closet, so any associated video will be interesting and no doubt rife with retro, over period. more »
Baz and Miuccia have always connected on their shared fascination with finding modern ways of releasing classic and historical references from the shackles of the past – Catherine Martin, Vogue.co.uk
‘The Great Gatsby’ costume designer, Catherine Martin, spoke of her collaboration with Miuccia Prada in creating forty nifty looks for Daisy Buchanan and the gals for the movie adaptation, set to hit screens in May 2013. The Italian designer, whose Prada and Miu Miu shows set the tone in fashion season-on-season, joined great purveyors of American high-society chic, Brooks Brothers and Tiffany & Co. in creating looks for the much-hyped film.
When it comes to fostering fashion trends, there’s Princeton and then there’s the rest of the Ivies. From the three-button suit to a namesake haircut, Princeton students have popularized many menswear styles: Norfolk suits, raccoon-skin coats, tweed blazers, rep ties, spectator shoes, khaki pants, Shetland sweaters. The students’ sartorial influence has been dulled by time, but for much of the twentieth century it was well acknowledged by both a watchful fashion industry and their colleagues. Life magazine’s 1938 article, “Princeton Boys Dress in a Uniform” confirmed that “tailors and haberdashers watch Princeton students closely” and those at Harvard and Yale called Princetonians “the prototype of Hollywood’s conception of how the well-dressed college boy should look.” Okay. So, Princeton men held a place of prominence on the American fashion scene. Why? more »
She had gone in the Yale swimming-pool one night in a chiffon evening dress.
The Beautiful and Damned’s Gloria Gilbert is one of the best examples of Fitzgerald’s use of fashion as a means of defining a character. She is a modern woman, the type whose “fur-trimmed suit was gray—‘because with gray you have to wear a lot of paint,’ she explained—and a small toque sat rakishly on her head, allowing yellow ripples of hair to wave out in jaunty glory” (61). Gloria is an attention seeker, and had been the focus of what “her mother was glad to say, (were) entirely unfounded rumors about her—for instance, that she had gone in the Yale swimming-pool one night in a chiffon evening dress” (81). Gloria and her possessions are described in vivid detail and give insight into the woman herself. Her wedding ring “was of platinum set around with small emeralds; Gloria insisted on this; she had always wanted an emerald wedding ring” (150). When her husband returns home from the army and is frantic to find her, he finds only “a negligee of robin’s-egg blue laid out upon the bed diffused a faint perfume, elusive and familiar. On a chair were a pair of stockings and a street dress; an open powder box yawned upon the bureau. She had gone out” (356). The only tangible aspects of Gloria are her possessions; there is no “real” Gloria, only her accoutrements. more »
Poor man in a rich man’s club
With the sale of his first short story, Fitzgerald bought a pair of white flannel pants, similar to the ones worn by Nick as he crossed Gatsby’s lawn. All the Princeton boys wore them, most often paired with a blue blazer to affirm their allegiance to the campus’s sporting culture. Like a convenience store’s first dollar, Fitzgerald kept the pants until 1934. Fashion mattered to Fitzgerald because he was riddled with anxiety about his own socioeconomic status. Literary critic and longtime friend, Edmund “Bunny” Wilson joked that many perceive Fitzgerald as “a typical well-to-do Middle Westerner with correct clothes and clear skin who had been sent to the East for college.”1 Contrary to appearances, financial distress plagued much of the author’s life, and clothing was a means of controlling his public image in spite of his private insecurities. more »
There’d be an orchestra
Bingo! Bango! Playing for us To dance the Tango, And people would clap When we arose,
At her sweet face
And my new clothes.
—The Crack Up, 159 more »
I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts.
Fitzgerald’s characters are either snobs or social climbers, and they all use clothing to define——or defy——their standing. Examples range from subtle details to characteristics that are inherent to one’s personality. For example, in The Great Gatsby, the unrepentant Tom Buchanan is last spotted going into a “jewelry store to buy a pearl necklace, or perhaps only a pair of cuff buttons,” an action that proved to “rid me of my (Nick’s) provincial squeamishness forever” (158). Heiress Nicole Diver in Tender is the Night wears her pearls on the beach. The grandson of a wealthy industrialist, Anthony Patch in The Beautiful and Damned comes to truly embody the life of leisure associated with his station: “Then with a last soothing brush that left an iridescent surface of sheer gloss he left his bathroom and his apartment and walked down Fifth Avenue to the Ritz-Carlton” (19). more »
Those interested in reading Fitzgerald’s work as cultural history and as insight into the era’s fashions must be aware of two potential problems. The first is the author’s predilection for nostalgia and the second is his idiosyncrasies as a writer. Jay Gatsby’s line, “Can’t repeat the past? Why of course you can!” speaks to his creator’s penchant for reveling in days gone by. “Nostalgia is a limbo land leading nowhere, where the artist can graze like a horse put to pasture feeding on such clover of the past as whets his appetite,” writes Wright Morris in his essay “The Function of Nostalgia: F. Scott Fitzgerald.” “The pervasive charm of Fitzgerald is that this clover, which he cups in both hands, is almost chokingly sweet.”1 For all of its creativity and cleverly crafted prose, Fitzgerald’s work is unable to shake loose the veil of artifice. Edmund Wilson writes, “For many, Fitzgerald is a childlike fellow, very much wrapped up in his dream of himself, and his projection of it on paper.”2 From early in his career, critics have named Fitzgerald’s integration of “self” and “character” as one of the biggest flaws in his writing. more »
Fashion is primary to his visual descriptions, and Fitzgerald associates particular characters with certain colors. In The Beautiful and Damned, Dot is first introduced in a lilac dress. For two and a half pages, the color of her dress is referred to nine times but her name appears only twice. Caroline in “His Russet Witch” is “dressed in pink or blue usually, but of late she had sometimes put on a slender black gown that was evidently her especial pride.” Yellow is used to symbolize the youth and vitality of the era. When she is first introduced, Yanci Bowman is wearing yellow. Her admirer watches “the yellow gown drift and submerge among the dancers.” The yellow dress is in sharp contrast to the black mourning dress she dons a few pages later. In the short story “The Jelly Bean,” Fitzgerald tackles a tiered gown worn by the desirable Nancy Lamar: “She was dressed in yellow organdie, a costume of a hundred cool corners, with three tiers of ruffles and a big black bow in back until she shed black and yellow around her in a sort of phosphorescent luster.” The two girls in yellow at Gatsby’s party seem the embodiment of the carefree atmosphere. It was the kind of party where “a pair of stage twins, who turned out to be the girls in yellow, did a baby act in costume, and champagne was served in glasses bigger than finger bowls” (45). more »
Ideas on the depravity of modern society
The “petting party” party antics of Amory Blaine in This Side of Paradise speak to American youth’s shifting sexual mores. In an era when “the belle had become the flirt, and the flirt had become the baby vamp,” petting parties required an associated wardrobe. Fitzgerald writes, “When the hand-knit, sleeveless jerseys were stylish, Amory, in a burst of inspiration, named them ‘petting shirts.’ The name traveled from coast to coast on the lips of parlor snakes and P.D.’s”(68).1 In his short story “Bernice Bobs Her Hair,” the “dopeless” Bernice stirs up scandal by briefing a boy on her bathing routine: “It takes a frightful lot of energy to fix my hair…so I always fix it first and powder my face and put on my hat; then I get into the bathtub.” The controversial topic does encourage a reaction. Her caller “considered feminine bathing an immoral subject, and gave her some of his ideas on the depravity of modern society.” As the Bernice blurb demonstrates, changing cultural standards redefined “when” and “where” sex was discussed.2 more »