It might not be quite the cinematic masterpiece we were hoping for, but the latest film version of The Great Gatsby is still the must-see movie event of the summer for stylistas everywhere.
You don’t have to be a vintage revivalist or English Lit student to be swept away by the Art Deco excess of Gatsby and its timeless story of undying love, unconstrained hedonism and passive-aggressive social climbing.
And if you’re a fan of bejeweled cloche hats, beaded flapper dresses, feathered boas and waves of fringe on boyish, boxy dresses, this Gatsby is a feast for the senses.
The Great Gatsby‘s hold on the public imagination has been unyielding for almost a century, probably because, more than any other period, the Roaring 20s were a decade defined by its exuberant sense of style and newness.. That sense of liberation was evident in lingerie trends and innovations from the period, too.
Constrictive corsets and the curvy silhouettes they produced gave way to chest-flattening bandeaus and shapeless waists, while luxurious, decorative boudoir items replaced the purely functional foundations and nightwear of the past.
Silk and lace chemises, slips and teddies that are common pieces in a woman’s wardrobe today were scandalous — and enthusiastically welcomed — innovations in the 1920s, which also helped popularize the wearing of panties and garters.
“To me the Roaring 20s was a cultural explosion of self-indulgence, self-expression and hedonism,” Michelle Blenkinsopp of Shell Belle Couture lingerie told Lingerie Talk. “While jazz music blossomed and the Art Deco movement exploded, the Flapper girls were not only empowered but having the time of their lives while discovering the pleasures of a newly affluent society.”
Michelle is part of a unique sisterhood of lingerie professionals who are keeping the Gatsby spirit alive through their work, either by delivering contemporary interpretations of Jazz Age styles or with faithful vintage creations that stir an intoxicating nostalgia for a golden age. (The photo above shows Gatsby actress Elizabeth Debicki in a silk satin Hollywood cami-knicker from retro revivalist What Katie Did.)
You can find Art Deco references in many designer and department store collections, but below we’ve identified those labels that are keeping the past alive with a curator’s sense of purpose and passion.
There’s a temptation to view the new Baz-Leo-Jay-Z version of The Great Gatsby as a commentary on 21st society, but you don’t really have to look for analogues in this story no matter how old it gets. In good times and bad, Gatsby‘s magnetic appeal endures and its relevance is unchanging.
And like Gatsby himself, we are hopelessy fixated on the unattainable ideal of callow, easy self-indulgence without cost. Boats against the current indeed.
[NOTE: Our main photo above shows looks from (L-R) Ari Dein, La Perla and Shell Belle Couture. Now let’s check out our modern Gatsby fan club.]
The Italian superbrand’s 2011 set called The Roaring Collection was much more than just an homage to a bygone era. La Perla incorporated many 1920s style details in the collection — feathers, fringes, art nouveau prints and tailored tuxedo looks — but none of it looked old..
Instead, it mixed highly technical, graphic silhouettes with softer faux-vintage styles to create an aura of glamor they could have only dreamed of in the 1920s. (Just imagine what Daisy or Jordan could have done with La Perla’s halter-top fringed chemise or mesh-and-lace waspie!)
The Roaring Collection was the high-water mark in La Perla‘s creative renaissance of recent years, and pointed the way to the future of retro fashion: one that acknowledges the past but revels in the technical advances and artisanal skills of modern masters.
If you’re a Long Island rascal billionaire who keeps a pied à terre in the city for your mistress, the least you can do is get her some of Ari Dein‘s exquisite silk pyjamas with the Art Deco gold buttons to lounge around in all day.
The Manhattan designer label probably comes closer than any other fashion brand to owning the past in a way that is both convincing and welcome. Founder Arielle Shapiro built her luxury label on the legacy of her family’s mid-century Park Avenue fur company and she draws inspiration from the city’s architecture and great cast of characters. The signature piping in her Boutique Hotel range (left image in main photo at the top of this article) mimics the wainscotting in the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, where her family once had a shop.
Recent AD collections have referenced foreign locales (Florence and Shanghai) but the Art Deco details reinforce the brand’s nostalgic identity. The Great Gatsby‘s production designer was known to have purchased some Ari Dein pieces during filming in New York.
Designer Michelle Blenkinsopp has collected vintage lingerie and slip dresses from the 1920s and 30s for over 20 years, and is probably the only lingerie designer working today whose career grew out of her “personal obsession” with The Great Gatsby and the era it represents.
“I love everything from this beautiful era of decadence, excess and romance, from the jewellery to interiors and works of art,” Michelle told Lingerie Talk. “I have read The Great Gatsby several times, and I find the languid approach to luxury and wealth irresistible.”
So it made sense that when she launched Shell Belle Couture a few years ago it would include a Gatsby collection that features an heirloom-quality slip dress (above), camisole and tanga made from silk crepe de chine with gold Leavers lace hem.
This label is so devoted to its Jazz Age influences it recently held a Shell Belle Soiree in Santa Rosa Beach, Florida, to showcase its new collection. Another soiree is planned for May 23 at Tallulah Lingerie boutique in London to celebrate the opening of the movie … and all things Gatsby.
Pink Purse is one of those fabulous Etsy shops offering niche products you can’t find anywhere else — in this case, a beautiful range of Flapper fashions.
PP’s collection of slips, dresses and accessories are original, hand-made creations that feature waves of fringe, feathers, rosettes, ruffles, gemstones and plenty of other embellishments.
This Oregon-based online boutique does a brisk business and is often sold out of its featured items. So if you are planning a Roaring 20s theme party — or maybe a Gatsby-themed wedding? — make sure to get your orders in well in advance.
The New York label’s popular Lady Day fringed tank and wrap dress are just the sort of thing to wear to the bi-annual Jazz Age Lawn Party on Governor’s Island, which attracts thousands of retrophiles in period dress each summer.
The Lady Day pieces offer a modern spin on Gatsby style, with long fringed hems and metallic sparkle that are sure to attract attention when the band strikes up a Charleston number. As close as you can come to an authentic vintage look without visiting a costume shop.
Elsewhere in the Only Hearts catalogue of contemporary lingerie and RTW items, look for their silk charmeuse mini-slip — it’s the kind of timeless, elegant and flirty boudoir piece popularized in the 20s and a fashion staple ever since.
For vintage purists, there is no better source for original 1920s lingerie fashions than San Francisco’s Dollhouse Bettie. It offers a wide assortment of recycled pieces as well as original designs, but DB also tracks down original, never-worn vintage garments known as ‘new old stock’.
Its current catalogue includes a couple of real stunners from the 1920s: an aquamarine silk step-in teddy (top) accented with ecru lace and rose silk chiffon; and the Belle Amie pink silk cami-knicker with floral embroidery and ribbon straps (above). For modern-day fashionistas who can’t get enough of authentic Flapper style, either one of these should be at the top of your must-have list.
And make a point of browsing Dollhouse Bettie‘s ever-changing online catalogue often for new-old pieces or old-new classics like its selection of retro-look Mary Green silk slips.
This new-ish New York boutique label aims to create timeless vintage looks with modern touches like adjustable straps and 21st Century craftsmanship. Nevaeh‘s current collection reveals its 1920s’ influence with Art Deco buttons on the lace bra and garter pairings, and a lovely lace dressing gown that would make Gatsby swoon. And Nevaeh‘s photo campaign could easily be mistaken for R-rated outtakes from the movie.
Toronto designer Carrie Russell has found inspiration in several vintage periods in her recent collections, including the Deco series (top) in black stain and knit, offered in a bustier, merry widow and thong. With Love‘s most memorable piece, though, is its full-length Greta gown (above) with Swarovski crystal embellishments — daringly 100% sheer and with an empire waist that will help you recreate you silent screen star fantasy.
Best news? With Love is offering a 25% off “Gatsby Sale” on these and other items until May 15.
This UK indie label has an amusing name and an extensive catalogue of decorative, hand-made underwear sets, many of them based on a design theme borrowed from Hollywood films.
B&S offers a couple of options created with Gatsby enthusiasts in mind. Its ruched, powder blue Great Gatsby pants (above) are made from stretch silk satin embossed with Swarovski crystals and a fringed tassel. But for the full showgirl effect, you’ll want to try the black fringed Lola Lola knickers (top photo above), which also comes in a matching bra.
If the Jazz Age was just getting started today, instead of 100 years ago, Made By Niki would be the brand most likely to lead the period’s lingerie fashion revolution. MBN is not a retro line, but designer Niki McMorrough scavenges ideas from everywhere, including vintage fashions, for her forward-looking creations.
This is most notable in Niki’s wildly popular fringe-based String range of showy inner-outerwear pieces that seem like a mashup of vaudeville, burlesque and flapper references.
The cropped Swing Top (above) is an offshoot of the String collection from 2012 and the MBN piece that comes closest to recreating the effervescence of Gatsby-era style. A perfect outerwear look for any era and a dancefloor must-have, whether you’re swinging to The Lindy Hop or Icona Pop.