Leonardo DiCaprio as Jay Gatsby, eagerly romantic millionaire and bootlegger
Long Island, NY, Summer 1922
Film: The Great Gatsby
Release Date: May 10, 2013
Director: Baz Luhrmann
Costume Designer: Catherine Martin
Last Tuesday, BAMF Style reflected on Californication‘s tribute to The Great Gatsby with its second season character of Lew Ashby; now, let’s focus on a more literal adaptation when Baz Luhrmann directed his lavish big-screen version a few years ago.
The turning point in the story is when the two old flames Jay Gatsby and Daisy Buchanan are finally reunited in Nick’s humble cottage. Gatsby isn’t dressed for such modest surroundings, wearing – as F. Scott Fitzgerald describes:
…Gatsby, in a white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie, hurried in.
This decidedly loud outfit would certainly make an impression on the woman who last saw you five years ago wearing a drab army uniform. As a romantic member of the nouveau riche, Gatsby doesn’t realize that millionaires don’t need to dress like millionaires every day, as he proves with the pink linen three-piece suit he wears for the film’s climactic scene.
What’d He Wear?
Gatsby’s iconic white suit is actually an off-white shade of ivory. Appropriately for summer, it is made from a comfortable lightweight linen blend. As we later discover, it is actually a three-piece suit but he opts for only the jacket and trousers worn with a contrasting waistcoat when reuniting with Daisy.
The suit’s single-breasted jacket has a three-button front that rises midway up the torso. He tends to keep the top two buttons fastened while standing, always adopting the pose of a learned gentleman but still looking too highbrow to be natural. The jacket also has peak lapels with straight gorges and stitched edges. There is a buttonhole through the left lapel that Gatsby surprisingly wears devoid of any actual daisies.
The jacket’s shoulders are padded with roped sleeveheads that end with 4-button cuffs that match the white buttons on the jacket front. A long single rear vent ends at DiCaprio’s waist and is clearly reinforced on the left side to flap over the right.
Gatsby’s hip pockets are slanted with flaps like the traditional country hacking jacket. The welted breast pocket also slants slightly inward with a deep space for the pocket square, as seen when he comes in from the rain. Indeed, this “iceberg” effect (if you’ll excuse the Leo pun) shows us just how deep the tobacco brown paisley silk handkerchief is stuffed down the pocket.
The suit’s flat front trousers have the era’s characteristic long rise that totally hides the waistband under the waistcoat; thus, all we know about the trousers’ closure is that it has a straight front fly. It’s likely that Gatsby wears his trousers with suspenders as he does with his pink suit.
When aiming for his “affected gentleman” pose, Gatsby often places his hand in the slanted left front pocket of the trousers, crossing the straight long right leg of the trousers over the left and showing off his footwear under the short break of the plain-hemmed bottoms.
Although the suit was manufactured with a matching waistcoat, Gatsby opts for a more casual contrasting vest in a rich tobacco brown linen with a subtle herringbone pattern. It is definitely single-breasted with about five or six brown horn buttons between the high-fastening top and the notched bottom.
As Gatsby rarely wears the jacket totally unbuttoned, it’s difficult to ascertain more detail about the vests.
SPOILER ALERT! During Gatsby’s funeral, he wears the exact same outfit but with the suit’s matching vest. Like the contrasting brown waistcoat, it is single-breasted with no lapels.
Interestingly, Gatsby wears the same shirt and tie with the white suit for his own funeral as he does for the meeting with Daisy. Perhaps this was the filmmakers’ way of signifying that Gatsby’s fate was sealed as soon as he and Daisy reunited, setting them both on a literal collision course that resulted in Myrtle’s fatal car accident and Gatsby’s death from Wilson’s murder-suicide. Perhaps.
The “silver shirt” described by Fitzgerald is reflected here with a blue-gray woven silk shirt. The large collar has long points and a moderate spread, further narrowed under the tie knot by a steel barbell-style collar pin. The shirt also has a front placket and single cuffs. His cuffs are fastened by a silver set of links that appear to match the “sunburst” pattern on his ring.
Gatsby’s tie is a more interesting variation of the simple “gold tie” mentioned in Fitzgerald’s text. DiCaprio wears a tie in bright orange silk with sets of thin double red stripes crossing from left-down-to-right.
Gatsby’s suits all have short breaks, meaning that his footwear receive considerably more screen time than many other suits on film. Here, Gatsby sports a pair of two-tone spectator shoes with light tan toe caps, heel caps, and 4-eyelet tabs with gray single-piece vamps. A pair of plain light tan dress socks nicely connect the two-tone spectator shoes and white suit trousers.
Once again, we meet Gatsby’s mysterious and supposedly custom-made stainless wristwatch. Initially supposed by some to be an anachronistic Jaeger-LeCoultre Reverso, a Watches In Movies post indicated that the watch seen on DiCaprio’s left wrist was made just for him, but more details about the rectangular white-dialed watch remain a mystery at this time.
The 1920s saw a major wristwatch boom as returning soldiers from the front brought this more convenient timekeeping method to civilian life, with wristwatches outnumbering the venerable pocket watch 50-to-1 by 1930.
Brooks Brothers’ “Gatsby Collection”
As part of their “Gatsby Collection” tie-in to promote their collaboration with the production (and the original author), Brooks Brothers developed their “Fitzgerald Fit” to combine 1920s fashion fads to 2010s fits. Wisely, the company developed its own variations of the iconic white and pink suits for sale.
Although many details differ from the suit seem in the movie (lapel width, number of jacket buttons, vent style, trouser height, etc.), the “Gatsby Collection” suit is a fine step in the direction of promoting better seasonal dress among the younger generations. The commercially-available version of the suit was made from “linen woven at Ireland’s Baird McNutt mill” with a “traditional herringbone pattern throughout”.
Redford vs. DiCaprio
As with the post comparing Robert Redford’s pink suit and DiCaprio’s pink suit, it’s worth comparing the white suits each gentleman wore for this scene.The costume designers for each film took a little more wiggle room with the pink suits, but we see more consistency here as both films strove to incorporate Fitzgerald’s “white flannel suit, silver shirt, and gold-colored tie” direction with then-contemporary styles.
The Suit – Redford and DiCaprio both wear solid white-toned linen suits with single-breasted jackets and flapped hip pockets. However, Redford’s wide notch lapels and pocket flaps are decidedly more a reflection of 1974 than 1922. DiCaprio’s suit looks trim with its high-buttoning front, slim peak lapels, and sporty silhouette. As the decade continued, the large fit, double-breasted waistcoat, and pleated trousers seen on Redford would become more popular, but DiCaprio’s slim suit and contrast vest show a more original take on the look. Advantage: DiCaprio, by a nose.
The Shirt – Both Redford and DiCaprio wear metallic blue silk shirts with a silver sheen, long collar, front placket, and cuff links. They both even wear silver collar pins! To avoid nitpicking, let’s call this a draw.
The Tie – Redford’s Gatsby wears a solid gold tie that manages to scream 1970s with both its duller tone and thickness. DiCaprio, on the other hand (or neck), wears a much brighter orange tie with an interesting stripe pattern and a slim width that one would’ve seen on a gentleman during this transitional period between the WWI era and the Roaring Twenties. Advantage: DiCaprio, even though it isn’t a literal interpretation of “gold”.
The Shoes – Redford wears plain white shoes with cream socks. DiCaprio wears two-tone spectator shoes with tan socks. Advantage: DiCaprio, for both uniqueness and period-correct style.
The Accessories – Each man keeps it lighter than usual here, with only pocket squares and cuff links showing a difference between Gatsby’s usual watch and ring. Redford’s Gatsby wears a metallic blue pocket square that evokes his shirt and a gold pocket watch in his vest. DiCaprio’s pocket square instead draws out his contrasting vest, and the custom-made wristwatch reflects both his military status and nouveau riche youth. Advantage: DiCaprio.
Unlike the neck-and-neck battle of the pink suits, DiCaprio’s interpretation of Gatsby’s white suit is the clear winner here, but Redford still deserves some solid points.
Go Big or Go Home
I typically hate umbrellas, but Gatsby really knows how to use his with style.
How to Get the Look
Meeting up with an ex-girlfriend for an amiable coffee date? Blow her socks off with this ensemble. She might expect you to have a sprawling Long Island mansion though, so make sure you put your questionably-gained money where your mouth is when presenting yourself.
- White ivory linen blend Brooks Brothers suit, consisting of:
- Single-breasted jacket with peak lapels, 3-button front, welted breast pocket, slanted flapped hip pockets, 4-button cuffs, and long single rear vent
- Flat front high-rise trousers with slanted front pockets and plain-hemmed bottoms
- Tobacco brown linen herringbone single-breasted vest with notched bottom
- Blue-gray “sheen” silk shirt with long collar, front placket, and single cuffs
- Orange silk necktie with sets of double red L-down-R stripes
- Steel barbell-style collar pin
- Silver “sunburst” cuff links
- Light tan & gray two-tone leather 4-eyelet spectator shoes
- Light tan dress socks
- Silver pinky ring with dark “starbust” face, worn on right pinky
- Stainless wristwatch with a rectangular white face and stainless deployable-clasp bracelet, worn on left wrist
- Tobacco brown paisley silk pocket square
If you think contrasting waistcoats are “too English” (they’re not, and that’s also not a bad thing) or you want to shake up this look for your funeral, you can opt for a matching suit vest instead.
Do Yourself a Favor and…
I’m also a solid advocate of Maureen Corrigan’s book, So We Read On: How The Great Gatsby Came to Be and Why It Endures, which analyzes the book and its legacy. It should be required reading for scholars of The Great Gatsby, F. Scott Fitzgerald, literature, or the 1920s.