At first it was just subtle hints. Beaded fringe on a purse. A model sporting slicked-down marcel curl. But soon, New York Fashion Week in September 2011 started to take on the appearance of a nouveau speakeasy, and it seemed that many of the biggest names in fashion were drunk on bathtub gin and 1920s fashion.
Marchesa designers Georgina Chapman and Keren Craig offered frequent and opulent nods toward “Great Gatsby”-era luxury. Would Daisy Buchanan be comfortable in the designers’ shimmering fringe dresses and feathers? Absolutely. Would Daisy’s friend Jordan Baker wear one of Gucci’s black Art Deco dresses or an Etro geometric dress with fringe? No doubt she would.
The ghost of Zelda Fitzgerald seemed to possess Marc Jacobs as he mixed a very modern material (celluloid) with dropped waists. It looked like a flapper disco party. Tory Burch outdid them all with long strings of beads and flashy shift dresses. All that was missing was Julie Andrews thrilling “Thoroughly Modern Millie” in the background.
With an original release date of Christmas 2012, the latest iteration of “The Great Gatsby” had fashion designers around the world preparing by planning a summer of retro silhouettes. But the film didn’t materialize, so designers continued their “Gatsby” homages in their Fall/Winter 2013 collections.
Is it possible that a single film, one that will finally open May 10, could have so much influence?
“There was a tremendous amount of disappointment in the fashion industry last year when the movie didn’t come out,” said Deborah Nadoolman Landis, who recently staged a costume and film exhibition at London’s Victoria and Albert Museum. “It’s so bizarre because one could say that there is something in the Zeitgeist, so they were all drinking from the same spring.”
Zeitgeist is the same word that “Gatsby” costume designer Catherine Martin uses to describe the influence that her work has already produced among fashion designers.
“We live in a world where the past is constantly talking to the future,” Martin said. “But I think one of Baz’s [Luhrmann] greatest qualities is that he’s able to feel what’s in the air at any given moment. It’s really hard to untangle the conversation between art and life, films and fashion. It’s all much more spontaneous than it once was.”
That conversation means that elements of the 1920s are not restricted to a dusty past and why 1920s themes are showing up in Vera Wang’s bridal collections and Ralph Lauren’s pastel feathers.
“Art Deco is extremely captivating,” said Lasell professor Jill Carey. “It continues to captivate. There is a strong appeal in the mix of feminine softness juxtaposed with hard-edge geometerics.”
There’s more than an influence of “Gatsby” at Brooks Brothers. The store is selling a collection of suits modeled after those worn in the film (including the famous pink suit). While the very summery Brooks Brothers collection may not make it past Labor Day, it’s safe to say that we’ll be living in Gatsby’s (fashion) world for the immediate future.Christopher Muther can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @Chris_Muther