Gatsby style: 1920s fashion endures the test of time


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"Can't repeat the past? ... Why of course you can!"

With these ringing words from the illustrious Jay Gatsby in mind, fashion lovers are on the hunt to find re-creations of the flapper frocks and sharp suits that dazzle in the new film "The Great Gatsby."

Twenties-flavored fringe and feathers have been sporadically popping up on runways for years and have hit a high now that this Baz Luhrmann production come to the silver screen. An adaptation of the F. Scott Fitzgerald novel, the film showcases an era of economic boom and decadence guaranteed to serve as this year's corkboard of style inspiration.

Channeling your inner flapper

Any '20s fan can re-create the Daisy Buchanan look with a dress that balances deluxe decoration with streamlined sophistication. Look for a flapper frock with a loose fit, dropped waist and embellishments, such as feathers, rhinestones, beads or fringe.

To accessorize, layer on several tasseled pearl necklaces -- the more strands, the merrier. To finish, knot up hair into tight curls or tuck it under into a faux bob. Add a jeweled headband over the forehead and voila -- the '20s transformation is complete.

For subtler flapper wear, simple fringe sheaths, such as the ones found at online retailers Muse Apparel and Singer22, make for an easy summer dress option.

Fans of the book can opt for a more casual look with Out of Print's book-based retail line. The company, which donates its proceeds to Books for Africa, has a line of Great Gatsby T-shirts and sweatshirts featuring the first edition cover with celestial blue eyes. The shirts retail for $22 to $42. Warby Parker also has released a Gatsby-inspired line of glasses titled The 1922 Collection, which features tortoise slim-wire frames reminiscent of the Cole Porter and Al Joplin days. All Warby Parker glasses retail for $95.

Brands such as Brooks Brothers and Tiffany & Co. already have caught on. In the weeks leading up to "Gatsby's" release, they debuted '20s-inspired collections to meet the Jazz Age demand.

Brooks Brothers unveiled The Great Gatsby Collection, a classic and sophisticated menswear line featuring navy Italian wool and red-striped regatta blazers, silk butterfly bow ties, calfskin wingtips, straw boater hats and English linen pink suits that range in price from $60 (for a bow tie) to $848 (for a tuxedo). Costume designer Catherine Martin worked with Brooks Brothers to design the pieces specifically for the movie. They were then adapted for the store's retail line.

From Leonardo DiCaprio's Jay Gatsby to Tobey Maguire's Nick Carraway, Ms. Martin costumed each character with suits crafted by the more-than-a-century-old clothing chain. She chose to collaborate with Brooks Brothers because of its connection to Fitzgerald, a faithful patron of the store.

"He had a lengthy correspondence during his lifetime with Brooks Brothers. It was a fantastic link between the book itself and a purveyor of men's clothes that still prevails today," Ms. Martin said in a Brooks Brothers exclusive video.

Brooks Brothers considered the collaboration a tribute to the brand's heritage.

"We felt that there was a very authentic connection between our brand and the film. We loved the way Baz Luhrmann and Catherine Martin wanted to make Gatsby as modern today as the '20s felt modern at the time," said Arthur Wayne, vice president of global public relations at Brooks Brothers.

The collection was selling well even before Friday's premiere. The most popular items include a black bow tie tipped with white contrast piping re-created from an archival item, Carraway's green shawl collar cardigan and Gatsby's white linen suit.

"[The line] has exceeded our expectations. Ten days in, and a few items are nearly sold out already," Mr. Wayne said. He attributed the line's popularity to the '20s boldness and glamour, which customers still are attracted to today. "I think that [the collection] has a very modern look. It's a look that endures and that we can relate to. So much of fashion today is influenced by the '20s."

Ms. Martin also collaborated with Tiffany & Co. to create the jewelry line Jazz Age Glamour. The collection exudes the glimmer of the Roaring '20s with pearl tassel pendants, lime green praseolite cocktail rings and onyx cuff links.

"In the 1920s, Tiffany was renowned as a house of ultimate luxury and the epitome of all that is chic, elegant and refined," said Tracy Weigand, store director of Tiffany & Co. at Ross Park Mall. "Catherine Martin worked closely with the Tiffany & Co. design team, delving into the archives to create gems which symbolized the story's themes of wealth and privilege."

Some jewelry was designed from archival sketches dating back nearly a century, but many original Tiffany pieces were worn by the actors in the film.

"Designs for the Savoy headpiece, hand pieces and the locket came directly from archival designs," Ms. Weigand said. "In addition, the monograms used on Jay Gatsby's pieces, as well as the Daisy design in his signet ring, came out of the Tiffany archives."

The Jazz Age Glamour collection retails for $135 to $875,000.

Unlike Ms. Martin's collaborations with Brooks Brothers and Tiffany, her partnership with Prada and Miu Miu to create the film's luxe gowns did not yield a retail line. Some of the gowns from the movie were on display for nearly two weeks at Prada's store in Soho.

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Noel Um: num@post-gazette.com. First Published May 14, 2013 4:00 AM


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