1974 vs 2012: What to Expect When You’re Expecting The Great Gatsby

I’m sorry I’ve been a little unavailable, friends. You may or may not know that I spend my free time writing this series for the Rumpus and doing this for my day job, plus I just finished a memoir and I’m now working on a new project on monsters. But I’ve missed you! So I’m back.

Anyway, unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably seen this:


I try not to get too emotional about The Great Gatsby, in any of its non-book forms. I am such a fan of Fitzgerald’s seminal work that I’ve taught it to actual high school students (a feat, believe me).



Plus, I know Baz Luhrmann basically makes extended, glossy music videos, so the likelihood that he’ll get at it right (as in hit the tone of sweet desperation, post-war grief, and end-of-an-era Jazz Age insanity and excess that defines the book) is tiny. Plus, unless you’re filming someone literally reading the book out loud, the writing will never be as good. So, fine. Let’s put our feelings about art aside and talk about the outfits.

Because here’s the thing: a December release (Christmas Day–so I hope you don’t have plans) ensures that, if we don’t think ahead, we’ll miss our chance to be inspired by the sweaty, Art Deco glitter of Long Island summer parties. To prevent this travesty, here’s a preview of the 2012 costuming, and how it measures of to the 1974 Jack Clayton version.


Leo got puffy! That’s fine. His washed-up look actually makes him a more believable Gatsby than Robert Redford. What can we learn from them both?


White suit: timeless.


If you can swing it, a summer suit is the easiest way to look awesome at weddings or fancy summer parties. Redford does this nicely too, especially if you can squint and ignore the terrible ’70s detailing:



I think that costuming could have done something a little more interesting with Leo’s look, but maybe they were concerned about the exact sort of dated trendiness that makes Redford’s look a little untranslatable today. However, when the jacket comes off there’s no comparison:



Yeah that looks fine.



Winner! DING DING DING!! Even with that collar and the thick-ass tie, this looks awesome. Not convinced? Here:



Part of it might just be natural style. When you feel it, you rock it. And here’s what Robert Redford wore in the ’70s:



And Leo today:


Eh. He’s no George Clooney.



Michael feels Carey Mulligan is too likable to play Daisy, but lest we forget that the 1974 Daisy was MIA FUCKING FARROW, so Mulligan’s basically lost the game before she’s even started.

Nevertheless, the hats!


Black Swan.


But her look works, and the trimmer cuts across the board for all the characters makes this version feel more modern:



Still, how can you compare that with this:



Mia Farrow’s magnetism is self-explanatory. That’s the thing about Daisy: she’s selfish and kind of terrible, but something draws people to her. Carey Mulligan has not, as yet, beamed out that sort of signal. Mia Farrow as one-of-a-kind:



But never matter. I’m not getting emotional about any of this.



1974. The end of a swimsuit era.


We can learn a lot from everyone in both films about how to class up your summer party/wedding attire. To review:
White suits!


Estate encouraged, not required. JK! Wear this business to the park, office, outdoor picnic, etc.


But wear a modern cut and remember the details:



If you’re a total badass, then pink could be your thing, but add a bit of brightness either way:



Also hats! Boaters are timeless, and for ladies, a summer hat is a whole new world of summer wedding possibilities:



My sister basically rocked this look at her own wedding:


Good job scooping Gatsby! Photo by Kareem Worrell.


And if your party looks like this, you’re probably doing something right:



(Except for, you know, the zebra. )



So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.


About Thomas Page McBee

Gentleman first, always. James Dean is my patron saint, poet is my gender. More about me here: www.thomaspagemcbee.com


  1. Mochagiant

    I’m totally rocking a zebra for the summer! Thanks Thomas for this awesome feast for the senses.

  2. Fabulous, fabulous post.

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