Wednesday, March 7, 2018

The Style Essentials--Mia Farrow and Robert Redford in 1974's THE GREAT GATSBY

Since I recently gave a talk on the most influential costume design of the 1920s at Hollywood's Egyptian Theatre, and I'm gearing up to do my next talk on the 1930s on March 17, I can't help be in an Art Deco frame of mind. I regularly discuss the impact of iconic costume design on fashion, but I also point out the influence of costume design on other costume design. 1974's The Great Gatsby happens to be a great example of both. It's a movie that draws inspiration from earlier iconic costume design, but it became iconic in its own right - incredibly influential on fashion at the time it premiered, and it also became a source of inspiration for future costume design. It is for these reasons that it is among The Style Essentials on GlamAmor.

Source material for 1974's The Great Gatsby would include other Style Essentials like 1927's It and 1928's Our Dancing Daughters. Though they were both more glamorous than anything the average woman would wear in the 1920s - after all, they were costumes courtesy of Paramount's Travis Banton and MGM's David Cox - they still reflected the style of the time and tapped into the zeitgeist. This is so true that F. Scott Fitzgerald, who wrote the novel The Great Gatsby, called Our Dancing Daughters star Joan Crawford the "best example of a flapper...gowned to the apex of sophistication...dancing deliriously." Those movies helped define the style of the late 1920s and have continued to be highly influential. 

What's interesting about 1974's The Great Gatsby is how it takes inspiration from those movies, but also reflects the time it premiered. It's a period piece set in the 1920s, but it's the 1920s through the prism of the 1970s. One can see this in the makeup alone. Like many movies set in an earlier era - and this is especially true during the Golden Age of Hollywood - period dramas were less about historical accuracy and more about looking at that time through a modern lens. Examples include everything from 1934's Cleopatra (costume design by Travis Banton) to 1967's Bonnie and Clyde (costume design by Theodora Van Runkle).

Theoni Aldredge

Designers of the 1970s really turned to the 1920s and 1930s for design inspiration. One only need to look at someone like Halston to see how frequently he tapped into the style of those decades and made it a signature of the 1970s. This is one of the reasons that the costume design of The Great Gatsby made such an impact on fashion - and that is due to costume designer Theoni V. Aldredge. Like other costume designers of this era, she came more from a background in the theater than from the world of couture. She was born in Greece and studied first at the American School at Athens before going to the Goodman School of Drama at Chicago's DePaul University. Aldredge was inspired by film and started down the path of costume design after she saw Vivien Leigh in 1946's Caesar and Cleopatra. She became extremely accomplished in the theater - winning 3 Tonys and responsible for the celebrated costume design of productions such as A Chorus Line, 42nd Street, and Dreamgirls.

Aldredge's first foray into film costume design was with the Melina Mercouri movies Stella (1955) and Never on Sunday (1960). She then went on to dress Anne Francis in the drama Girl of the Night (1960). Rather than signing an exclusive contract with a particular studio like the costume designers of Hollywood's Golden Age, she remained a freelance designer and worked with everyone from MGM to Paramount. It was at the latter studio where she worked on The Great Gatsby and a couple years later did the costumes for another of The Style Essentials Network (1976).  

This was an important film for Aldredge - she would win the Academy Award for Best Costume Design for The Great Gatsby. The impact of its style was so powerful that the film was featured on the cover of Time magazine and designs from The Great Gatsby were immediately adapted for a line sold at Bloomingdale's in Manhattan. The style trickled down to other designers as well, including a resurgence of the loose shifts that Mia Farrow wears throughout the film. Mia was a huge star of that time - 1968's Rosemary's Baby made her known for her acting as well as her style. As Daisy Buchanan, she captures the character's contradictions of light and innocence (enhanced perfectly by the ethereal nature of the clothes) with the fact that Daisy really is quite shallow and self-centered. Mia's angelic face practically opens the movie - we see her in newspaper clips that Jay Gatsby has collected and in a framed portrait in his room.

Of course Robert Redford is Gatsby, and it should be noted that this film is celebrated as much for its men's style as for the women. He couldn't look better in his 3-piece suits and classic casual clothes, and his costumes should be attributed to another designer working on the production - Ralph Lauren. Though he does receive film credit for the men's wardrobe, we still step into one of the sticky battles in costume design history. Let's retrace his own career first. In 1967, Lauren had started his own clothing company with men's ties and by 1969 Bloomingdale's was selling his collection exclusively; it was the first time in that store's history that a designer was given his own boutique. By the time The Great Gatsby came about, his company was in full swing and the style of his brand well established. Lauren began to publicize his work on the film, but that seemed to go against Aldredge. As is the case when multiple people participate in the costumes - such as 1954's Sabrina and 1977's Annie Hall - there were conflicting reports of who was responsible for what. Aldredge gave her own account to the press, which was that she designed the costumes and Lauren carried them out to her specifications. However, this seems difficult to believe now that we know him so well - much of this movie looks like one of his ads from today, and Redford has always been one of the designer's muses and complete embodiment of the Ralph Lauren brand. 

Ralph Lauren

The impact of all that Gatsby style continues both on and off screen today. Gatsby, along with It and Our Dancing Daughters, became source material for costume designer Mark Bridges for 2011's The Artist and Catherine Martin for 2013's The Great Gatsby (both Oscar winners for Best Costume Design). The style of those two productions then kicked off an enormous Art Deco trend in fashion that spanned from Fall 2011 to Spring 2013. Fast forward to today where Spring 2018 trends include several that can be connected to 1974's The Great Gatsby. The pastel palette of the film is a key design signature and pastels are huge right now in fashion, particularly lavender and yellow (both prominent colors in the movie) as well as the ongoing popularity of what the industry likes to call "Millennial Pink." And of course all the flapper fringe from the film was on trend in 2012 and have now been reinterpreted for 2018. Several examples are show below and these are only a handful of Cinema Connections that exist.

It is for all these reasons that The Great Gatsby is among The Style Essentials on GlamAmor. There is a design through line that runs from early Hollywood films of the 1920s to 1974's The Great Gatsby and beyond. These films helped define the style of those eras - they are historically important for that reason - and they continue to prove the ongoing relevance of classic cinema through the fashion trends they inspire today. So put on your dancing shoes and step into the ethereal world of The Great Gatsby.

The haunting opening reminds me of the closing of Stanley Kubrick's The Shining (1980)

Before the days when fashion magazines were really popular,
it was the pictures of socialites in newspapers that inspired style -
Gatsby has kept clippings of Daisy

With Nick Carraway's first visit to his cousin Daisy's house,
we see how much the art direction of The Great Gatsby goes hand in hand
with the ethereal nature of the costume design

We are introduced to Daisy in this shimmering white dress - 
what's interesting about Gatsby is the combination of 1920s clothes
with very 1970s makeup

When he returns to his house, Nick gets his first look at Jay Gatsby,
which is our introduction to the character as well

This dress is remarkable for the ombré in the tiered chiffon

Gatsby's parties are renowned for their excess
and an abundance of style

After being invited to the party,
Nick comes face to face with Gatsby for the first time

Gatsby's 1928 Rolls-Royce Phantom I
adds even more style to the movie

Brown - a strong color of the 1970s - looks incredible on Redford 
in this pin-striped suit with coordinating hat and geometric patterned tie

The way Daisy receives an invitation from Nick to tea
reminds me of Joan Crawford on her phone in her bath in 1939's The Women

Nothing says summer like an all-white suit
and Redford looks sublime in a 3-piece version with a blue shirt that brings out his eyes

Daisy has her own set of stylish wheels -
a 1924 Packard Single Eight

Pastels are a huge part of The Great Gatsby's style story -
here Daisy is dressed in lavender

Daisy and Gatsby see one another for the first time in eight years

Gatsby takes Daisy and Nick over to his mansion to show off his things,
including a closet filled with silk shirts that once again reflect the pastel palette of the movie

Ralph Lauren's Spring 2012 collection during the huge Art Deco trend that year
and some of the pastel trend from Spring 2018 in InStyle magazine

Spring 2018's lavender trend seen at
and on the Oscars red carpet in Salma Hayek's Gucci gown

Daisy finally attends one of Gatsby's parties (in a stunning feather-trimmed wrap)
and brings along husband Tom (Bruce Dern) and friend Jordan Baker (Lois Chiles)

This party has some of the most glamorous costumes of the movie,
especially Daisy's silver sequined dress and beaded hat

Daisy's ensemble is pure flapper style

Kudos to the sound of this film as well -
you actually hear the heavy beading of these dresses when the girls are dancing

Gucci shows its contributions to the Art Deco trend of 2012 -
seen in fashion between 2011's The Artist and 2013's The Great Gatsby

Some of the fringe trend from Spring 2018
as seen in Harper's Bazaar and Glowsly

Gal Gadot takes the 2018 fringe trend to the Oscars red carpet in her gown from Givenchy

The cinematography also contributes to the dream-like nature of Gatsby,
especially in the scenes where Gatsby takes Daisy on picnics

If this moment doesn't scream Ralph Lauren, nothing does

Once again, look at how coordinated all the actors are in the movie's signature pastels

Saying good-bye to Nick - and the memory of Gatsby -
in a turban and fur-trimmed coat in a slightly more somber muted mauve

Additional Sources

AZ Quotes. n.d.

Grimes, William. "Theoni V. Aldredge, Costume Designer, Dies at 88." The New York Times. January 21, 2011.

Horwell, Veronica. "Theoni Aldredge Obituary." The Guardian. January 27, 2011.

Leese, Elizabeth. Costume Design in the Movies. Dover Publications, 1991. Print.

Simonson, Robert and Kenneth Jones. "Theoni V. Aldredge, Costume Designer of Annie, La Cage, A Chorus Line, Dead at 88." Playbill. January 21, 2011.

1 comment:

Silver Screenings said...

The sets and wardrobe in this film could not be more beautiful. It is a dazzling adaptation of the novel.

The scene where Gatsby throws all those beautiful shirts into the air makes me gasp every time.

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