Great Gatsby Style

The Great GatsbyThe latest version of The Great Gatsby hits theaters May 10th, and if the fashion world has anything to say about it, we’ll all be bobbing our hair and dressing just like Daisy Buchanan this summer. It’s been a long, LONG time since the fashion industry has rolled out the red carpet for a movie, but they’re doing it for F. Scott Fitzgerald’s classic in a BIG way, and they’re hoping we’ll all jump on board.


Because for the first time in a long time, a movie has great clothes.

If you look at the 5 highest-grossing movies of the last five years:

  • Avatar (2009)
  • The Avengers (2012)
  • Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows – Part 2 (2011)
  • Skyfall (2012)
  • The Dark Knight Rises (2012)

You’ll see that they all deal with fantasy, science fiction, and escape. Escape from the reality of the recession into worlds and characters where the good guy always wins. They’re big on sets and CGI, but low on to-die-for fashion. The only sartorial contender is James Bond, and while always dashing, he doesn’t create a stampede of women running to stores, trying to duplicate his look.

But the fashion industry is hoping that Daisy Buchanan will.

After a lot of buzz, this version of The Great Gatsby began filming in September 2011 and was supposed to hit theaters Christmas 2012. Fashion designers got so excited by the potential that flapper looks started hitting the runway for Spring 2012. Marchesa, Etro, Gucci – the distinct chemise appeared again and again.

Marchesa, Spring 2012

Marchesa, Spring 2012


Etro, Spring 2012


Gucci, Spring 2012

Fast forward to today and you’re still seeing the clothes:

Australian Vogue, May 2013

Australian Vogue, May 2013

 Australian Vogue, May 2013

So why is the fashion industry so determined that you should jump on The Great Gatsby bandwagon?

Because great movie fashion sells clothes. It has for a hundred years.

When Pearl White first appeared in a woman’s business suit in the Perils of Pauline serial in 1914, women working in offices around the country decided they needed a business suit, too.

The Perils of Pauline, 1914

The Perils of Pauline
Was one of the most popular
serials of the Nineteen Teens

Once the fashion industry finished filling the orders and started counting their profits, they realized there was gold in Hollywood. They started cozying up to the film industry and haven’t broken the bond since.

Ever decade has had at least one film outfit that defines the era.

Clara Bow, The Dancing Mothers

Clara Bow
Dancing Mothers (1926)

Jean Harlow, Dinner at Eight

Jean Harlow
Dinner at Eight (1933)

Rita Hayworth, Gilda

Rita Hayworth
Gilda (1946)

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift

Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift
A Place In the Sun (1951)

Audrey Hepburn, Breakfast at Tiffany's

Audrey Hepburn
Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961)

Diane Keaton, Annie Hall

Diane Keaton
Annie Hall (1977)

Jennifer Beals, Flashdance

Jennifer Beals
Flashdance (1983)

Demi Moore, An Indecent Proposal

Demi Moore
Indecent Proposal (1993)

Kate Hudson, How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days

Kate Hudson
How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003)

Each and every one of these outfits sent a stampede of women into stores, trying to replicate them.

The thing is, while there are dozens of dresses that launched trends from the 1930’s to the 1990’s – classic looks from Joan Crawford, Marilyn Monroe, Audrey Hepburn and Faye Dunaway come to mind – there are only three that have done so since the dawn of the 21st century: Kate Hudson’s yellow dress in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (above), Anne Hathaway’s jacket and boots in The Devil Wears Prada (2006), and Kiera Knightley’s green dress in Atonement (2007).

Anne Hathaway, The Devil Wears Prada

Anne Hathaway
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

Kiera Knightley, Atonement

Kiera Knightley
Atonement (2007)

That’s because there ARE no great fashion movies anymore. Hollywood relies on superheroes and CGI to pay the bills. Which is why the fashion industry has to beat the award show red carpets to death – those are the only iconic dresses stars put on these days.

So when a potential fashion movie comes along – in this case The Great Gatsby – the fashion industry is all over it. Ahead of time. They want you to buy these clothes yesterday, because they have numbers to meet and this is how they do it. It will be curious to see if it lives up to the hype.

So should you channel Daisy Buchanan this summer? Well, if dropped waists and simple chemises are your style, go for it. If not, don’t. Better yet, develop your own signature style so whatever you wear becomes iconic in the timeline of your life.

Diana Pemberton-SikesDiana Pemberton-Sikes is an author and image consultant who’s been running the website since 2000.  Her latest product is Signature Style Blueprint.


  • Hollis

    Reply Reply May 2, 2013

    What people don’t know about Pearl White: Owing to her impoverished farming childhood, she was very athletic, enabling her to do her own stunt work and making her very popular among thrifty film producers. The same early poverty turned her into a shrewd investor and savvy businesswoman (as were later actresses Lucille Ball and Mae West). She was also extraordinarily well-traveled, visiting Egypt, the Middle East, and the Orient. Yet she never visited Hollywood, although she did receive a star on its Hall of Fame. Unfortunately, the injuries she suffered during her movie stunts led to an addiction to the painkillers and alcohol used to numb her pain, and she died from cirrhosis at age 48. Iconic actress, interesting life!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 2, 2013

      Hi Hollis,

      Wow! Thanks for the background on Pearl! I did read where she did her own stunts, but didn’t realize it eventually led to her downfall. Thanks for sharing!

  • Katie Wenthur

    Reply Reply May 2, 2013

    I, too, wear a “uniform and it has served me well for the last 44 years. I wear twin sets in bright colors (if I can’t find what I’m looking for, I knit them myself) with either tailored dark slacks (black or dark gray) white jeans or dark blue jeans. I mix my real jewelry with costume and that has been a lot of fun.I have dozens of bangles, charm bracelets, real gold and silver, Southwestern jewelry and good diamond earrings

    Good shoes that pick up the color of my shirts always make me feel like I’m put together, even if the shoes are just from Target (they have lots of cute flats).

    Sometimes I wear black tops and black pencil skirts with a bright blazers in wool or linen…anything to give me a sleek shot of black, which narrows my silhouette. Oh, I wear a bright tank with a white cotton shirt worn open instead of a blazer when it is hot (it gets up to 110 here where I live.)

    For years I colored my hair, because I started going gray in high school but for the last 13 years, I’ve worn my natural white. A good cut is,#1, as is shiny hair, so I wash it with that purple shampoo. Some days, I put the purple shampoo on (it negates that yellow cast may white haired ladies get) and leave it on for the whole day. I make sure that my cut in NOT an old lady cut…I’m always on the lookout for cute cuts in magazines, so the cut is always changing just a little to stay current.) Some variation of Barbara Streisand’s “Funny Girl” Oscar night cut or Louise Brooks bob works best for me but I am always changing it just a little to stay fresh
    I wear very little makeup, but always a good red lipstick,my nails and toes polished. I try to get out into the sun for 15 minutes a day so I’m not dead white, but I’m not all wrinkly, either. Good moisturizer. I pay attention to just general good hygiene and make sure my hands are moisturized and my nail are clean.

    Weekly at-home facials keep my skin from getting dull and I get professional facials maybe four time a year to really vacuum up the dirt/blackheads/dullness. It is a small price to pay to look fresh.

    This has served me well for the 34 years I taught school and the ten years I taught school inside a maximum prison here in California. I can get dressed in 10 minutes for almost any occasion. If I make a purchasing mistake, I either return it or give it to a thrift store. I don’t hang on to it. If it doesn’t make me feel pretty, there is no reason to have it lurking in my closet!

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 3, 2013

      Excellent advice, Katie! Thanks!

      It sounds like you don’t need me, but I’m glad you’re here. 😉


  • Jo Ann Lohne

    Reply Reply May 3, 2013

    Loved this article…fun facts about fashions in iconic movies..

    • Diana

      Reply Reply May 3, 2013

      Thanks, Jo Ann! Glad you liked it!


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