With its hip-hop-infused soundtrack and 3-D effects, the 'The Great Gatsby' hitting theaters this weekend is far from the version of the classic F. Scott Fitzgerald novel that was required reading in high school.But the movie includes so many of the 1925 book's iconic scenes and conversations, viewers may well get caught up in it and go along for the wild, stylized ride.
In the hands of Australian director Baz Luhrmann and his wife, Catherine Martin, who did the costumes as well as the production design, the film is a sensual banquet. At times it tempts and satisfies with its offerings. At others it makes you feel like you've had one too many rich desserts or flutes of Champagne.
For fashion lovers, 'Gatsby' is a must-see. Miuccia Prada did the costumes worn by Daisy Buchanan (played by the blond-bobbed Carey Mulligan), and each one is more lavish than the next. From the enchanting dress Daisy wears when she meets Gatsby (portrayed by Leonardo DiCaprio) to the crystal-beaded gown she dons for a big party, the looks are both true to the period and modern at the same time. Then there are the jewels from Tiffany & Co., some from the archives, some invented purely for the film. And for the menswear, Brooks Brothers opened its archives, and tailors re-created many designs. We expect a run on boaters, tie pins and spectator wingtips.
So why do the clothes these characters wore almost a century ago still appeal?
Because in the 1920s, the world was changing rapidly and a new generation was ready to embrace anything new. 'It feels carefree and fresh. It was the first period where we could draw parallels to today,' Martin said in a phone interview from New York.
The movie isn't intended as a literal interpretation of the 1920s, according to Martin. 'The book is set in 1922, it was published in 1925 and it foreshadows the Great Depression,' Martin said. 'We felt we could use anything within the decade.
'One of the things Baz said from the beginning was that he didn't want a nostalgic New York. He wanted to be absolutely true to the period but re-examine it and find things that could be surprising and refreshing.'
Like the transportation. 'The souped-up, fantastic cars are there because Baz wanted to be sure the audience understood it was a car culture,' Martin said. 'In the 1920s, cars were a status symbol and a means of showing your wealth.'
Clothes and jewelry did the same thing.
For the costumes, Martin decided that Daisy's clothes should reflect her Southern upbringing - 'She was a trophy society wife.' Daisy's friend Jordan Baker (played by Elizabeth Debicki), on the other hand, was a professional golfer. Her modern, urban wardrobe borrows from the end of the 1920s, when silhouettes were more sleek.
'You have to remember that by the 1920s, every sort of dress and neckline had been explored and worn - loose, fitted, strapless, one-shoulder, robe de style. We just reprised those,' Martin said.
Martin said one of the things she loved about the collaboration with Prada was that, as a female designer creating looks for women, Miuccia has a strong point of view. Just as Coco Chanel, who put women in pants and bathing suits in the1920s, and Jeanne Lanvin, who worked during the same time in Paris.
Prada was initially reluctant to do the costumes because she resists looking back, but she and the director have a history. The wedding suit DiCaprio wore in 1996's 'Romeo + Juliet' was designed by Prada and it was then that she and Luhrmann became friends.
When it was time for them to reunite, 'I thought about how they both used historic references in completely different ways,' Martin said. 'We wanted something fresh and exciting that should be as visceral as New York felt to Fitzgerald at the time.'
Prada's influence was also seen in the 300 extras in the film. Luhrmann likes to view everyone as a character, so each has a description and specific costume. 'They're not faceless people in the crowd,' Martin said. Prada created not only clothes, but furs, handbags and accessories in the company's Italian factories.
The party scenes in the movie are so crowded and over the top your eyes don't know where to land on the screen. People are dancing, drinking, swimming, smoking, playing music, riding in open-top cars.
Fans of the book will recall iconic scenes, such as when Gatsby takes Daisy and Nick on a tour of his mansion and shows off his collection of shirts.
'He 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,' Fitzgerald wrote.
In the film, Gatsby tosses shirts from a mezzanine where they drift in colorful clouds to Daisy on the bed below.
And there's also the issue of Gatsby's pink suit, which Daisy's husband, Tom Buchanan, derides as gauche. When it is noted that Gatsby studied at Oxford, Buchanan says, 'An Oxford man ... Like hell he is! He wears a pink suit.'
Martin says she based the suit on the pink seersucker of the day, traditionally worn by the hired help, but which some of the wealthy New Yorkers decided was comfortable for summer. Brooks Brothers has reprised the look for guys, offering a jacket in pale pink striped linen for $698 and matching slacks for $298.
The costume designer hesitated to name her favorite looks in the film, but then confessed that she loved two that were difficult to make. First was the outfit Daisy wears to meet Gatsby, a lavender lace dress, hat and gloves. The book notes that 'Daisy's face, tipped sideways in a three-cornered lavender hat, looked out at me with a bright ecstatic smile.'
The other is a crystal beaded dress that Daisy dons for Gatsby's party. It's like a wearable chandelier, an intricate web of clear crystals.
Daisy accessorizes the dress with a pearl-bracelet-and-ring combination and crowns the look with a platinum, pearl and diamond headband.
The piece could be yours for $200,000. It's on Tiffany's website right now.