West Egg Wardrobes and Interiors: The Great Gatsby, Then and Now

“Sometimes they came and went without having met Gatsby at all, came for the party with a simplicity of heart that was its own ticket of admission”
-F. Scott Fitzgerald

The above words epitomize the tone of the carefree, and often careless lifestyle of Jay Gatsby, the charismatic yet troubled millionaire of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s masterpiece The Great Gatsby. Just under a month ago, Warner Brothers gave the world a much-anticipated peek at Leonardo DiCaprio as the man in the cool, beautiful shirts.

The Great Gatsby 2012 Trailer

The task of capturing the zeitgeist of Jazz Age New York falls in the hands of Baz Luhrmann, his interpretation of the tale of Trifalchio in West Egg being the first cinematic attempt since the 1974 version, which starred Robert Redford (directed by Jack Clayton). Despite being a commercial success, it received mediocre reviews, critics citing a lack the passion and enchantment necessary to accurately capture the opulence and decadence of Long Island’s idle rich.

Nonetheless, artistic interpretations of post-War America hold a significant place in culture, as the new opulence facilitated ostentatious displays and drastic changes in personal expression, specifically with regard to design.

In staying true to our dual appreciation of old and new, (as well as big Great Gatsby fans) we were curious to see how the re-interpretation would turn out-at least aesthetically.

While the 1974 version took home the Academy Award for Best Costume Design, much has changed in television and film production in the years since. America’s new obsession with period dramas, spearheaded by the popularity Downtown Abbey, Mad Men and Boardwalk Empire, have ushered in a new era in wardrobe and set design. The manner in which a time is portrayed is now scrutinized with painstaking vigilance, mass budgets being dedicated to achieving extreme historical authenticity. Historians have even created an algorhythm that analyzes the dialogue of shows like Mad Men, identifying and eradicating any linguistic anachronisms.

At first glance, we see that Luhrrman took great effort in avoiding the “lack of glamour and grandeur” type criticisms that the prior version suffered. The set is a great deal more glamorous, and the overall aesthetic more vivid. The party scenes are thrilling and visually spectacular, the High Definition resolution being at least partially responsible (the movie will also be released in 3D).

When looking at the costume design, it is worth noting that Ralph Lauren did not reprise his role in crafting the wardrobes as they instead opted for Brooks Brothers (F. Scott Fitzgerald’s personal tailor). In capturing the sartorial nuances of the 1920s elite, the influence of the trends during the time of filming are apparent. The suiting of Redford (below) maintains apparent 1970s proportions, with massive and elongated lapels, a lower armhole and are accompanied by monstrous neck wear. His pants are worn above the hip, are pleated and feature a much wider leg opening.

In contrast, the suits worn by DiCaprio are a great deal more modern. They maintain a slim silhouette with skinnier and more abbreviated lapels. They feature a higher armhole, softer and more natural shoulders and are trim in both overall silhouette and fit. Additionally his ties are far slimmer.

In keeping with his motif of escaping any claims of dullness, Luhrmann upped the ante when showcasing Gatsby’s wardrobe. In a scene that lives in menswear infamy, Jay Gatsby manages to bring a woman to tears by the mere quality of his shirting.

Rather than trapping the characters in a walk-in closet (see above), DiCaprio’s 2-story closet is vast and impressive, as he dramatically showers Daisy with his shirts from above. The ostentatious display of open space is a theme in the interiors of both versions, however the remake extenuates the high ceilings and balcony that his closet boasts.

Gatsby’s office, where he and Nick Carraway meet for the first time, is portrayed similarly in each version: dark, masculine and mysterious. The thick wood paneled desk, the fireplace, the molding on the ceilings and the tufted brown leather club chair all capture the owner’s manly and mysterious nature. Additionally, the use of shine in home furnishings (glass, chrome, tile, mirrors, linoleum, etc) are all expressions of the owner’s lifestyle: glamorous and vain.

At the climax of the film, Tom, Daisy, Gatsby, Nick and Jordan seek refuge from the summer heat at the Plaza Hotel in Manhattan, in which Daisy’s love is questioned and an argument and fight ensures.

In decorating the hotel room, we see that while the room is set up similarly, the contemporary set designers opted for red, perhaps signifying the passion and angst that unfolds in the scene. In both versions, the furniture is arranged facing the center of the room, forcing the characters to look at each other as tensions rise, leading to the ultimate confrontation.

We also see Jay Gatsby’s famous yellow Rolls Royce, very much an à la mode status symbol, as the brand rose to prominence during the post-War period.

However, Luhrmann has rendered the driving scenes fast, reckless and exciting, again reviving the dullness of the movies predecessor.

After what we have seen, our excitement for the Christmas 2012 release continues to grow. The screenshots are visually stunning and the attention to detail with regard to wardrobe and set design appear thoroughly impressive. We only hope that the ill-fated love story can still shine through amidst the brilliance and glamor of a high definition showing.

Next week, we will continue our “Gatsby Interiors” Series with an analysis on the furniture and interiors of the original version, as well as what to expect in the new version with regard to design.

What do you think of the interiors and the wardrobe? Will Baz Luhrmann’s reinterpretation out-do the first? Will Leo be convincing as the troubled and hopeless romantic millionaire?

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Tags: 1920s Interiors, Baz Lurhmann, Carey Mulligan, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Gatsby furniture, Gatsby Interiors, Great Gatsby, Interior Design, Jay Gatsby, Jazz Age, Long Island, New York, NYC, Roaring 20s, Robert Redford, The Great Gatsby, Tobey Maguire

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