"It makes me sad because I’ve never seen such beautiful shirts before."
Perhaps you’ve heard that Baz Luhrmann’s “The Great Gatsby”will open this year’s Cannes film festival. WWD’s indefatigable executive editor Bridget Foley spoke with Catherine Martin, Luhrmann’s frequent costume designer (and wife), for M.
As for the menswear, with the pool of rentable men’s vintage suffering from overuse, Martin feared ending up with “all these sort of lumpy, mismatching black suits.” She wanted “really snappy, beautiful silhouettes…That’s not to say we didn’t use secondhand pieces. But I just didn’t want the world to have that look, you know, like we’ve gone through a secondhand shop and just bought everything and nothing quite fits.”
The Brooks Brothers pairing was a natural one; Fitzgerald was consumed with matters of style. Patrician of bone structure, if not birth, in his famous Scribner’s book portrait, he looks as debonair as an Arrow Collar man. But his shirts were from Brooks Brothers. He associated the clothier, founded in New York in 1818, with breeding and arrival, and often identified his characters as dressing from the firm.
Martin approached Arthur Wayne, Brooks Brothers’ vice president of global public relations, and asked if the firm would make her designs for the background actors. The initial goal: eveningwear with that “crispness” essential to her vision. To that end, she and the Brooks Brothers studio varied their evening fabrics, using different shades and textures of black, thus allowing for visual separation of the actors in crowd scenes. Along the way, she took at least one significant historical liberty, including navy for some of the suits.
“In the thirties, the Prince of Wales, Edward VIII, famously had a pair of dark blue tails,” Martin says. “He preferred them because he said you could much more clearly see the tailoring details when it was dark blue.”
In all, Brooks Brothers delivered nearly 600 background suits, both day and evening, as well as ties, tuxedo shirts, waistcoats, boaters, and caps, manufactured mostly in Brooklyn and tweaked by the Luhrmanns’ own tailor in Australia.
In-house renderings of Jay Gatsby’s pink suit from Brooks Brothers.