[Written By: Florence Bridgman]
‘There was something gorgeous about him…an extraordinary gift for hope, a romantic readiness’ – F. Scott Fitzgerald
In today’s age we are constantly obliged to interrogate every ounce of our being for every angle of political correctness, so I would like to lend respite and indulge instead in a discussion of aesthetics that is pure and powerful. While the route to a vision of perfection may be complex and exacting, the goal is implicitly simple, in being unquestionable.
The recklessly romantic but precisely determined Jay Gatsby, protagonist of Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, struck fashion icon in my eyes the moment Leonardo DiCaprio donned ‘The Pink Suit’ in Baz Luhrmann’s 2013 cinematic adaption. Few would argue that Leo is not a handsome chap (whilst his passion lies in the environment) but the outfit is just marvellous. By drawing parallels between Jay Gatsby and the prolific fashion designer Tom Ford, I hope to remind people about the power of dress. The way we choose to present ourselves on the outside emanates from our hidden interior, and it forms the public seams of our identity. Thus we can conquer any battle or ‘impossibility’ with fabric. What we radiate through our clothes can influence the thoughts and emotions of others, as well as ourselves, and this potential for a positive impact makes this aesthetic discipline worth the effort. However, caring about appearance and perusing fashion perfection as an end in its own right, meets a lateral spectrum of acceptance. Whilst an army of Andersen-esque Emperors, vain enough to ditch clothes all together, would lead us nowhere as someone will inevitably will want to care and keep exploring fashion’s boundaries, and it’s pursuit of perfection which should attract no more resistance than in any other art form. The fact that it does receive more critique than most other art forms, relates to the almost ubiquitous interest that people hold for it, whatever their skill.
Tom Ford, who was the Creative director for both Yves Saint Laurent and Gucci prior to creating his own label, is infamous in the fashion industry for possessing a ruthless perfectionism, setting no limits to conjuring his desired image. Gatsby stopped at nothing to create the detail of his illusion for Daisy. Ford forged into the fashion industry employing his innate determination and a good ounce of ‘interpretation’; he concealed that his degree from Parson’s was in fact for Architecture and called American designer Cathy Harwick every day for a month in attempt to secure a job. Gatsby ‘adapted’ his background to fit the future he envisaged for himself and worked tirelessly to secure his acceptance in American Society. Ford craves perfection and his clothes, with clinically crisp cuts and lines, mirror this. Ford remarked in an interview for The Guardian: ‘I guess I’m just one of these people whom, when I decide I’m going to do something, I just do it.’ Fitzgerald’s classic supplies similar blind resolve in Jay Gatsby who, when warned that the past cannot be repeated, exclaims ‘Why, of course you can!’ Both Ford and Gatsby care deeply about how they look, but this is not vanity: it is evidence of their defiantly optimistic belief that one has mastery over their own life- to direct it in any way one chooses.
The Pink Suit, designed by Catherine Martin, is a near-perfect replica of a 1922 suit, worked in soft pink woven linen with a widely spaced white pinstripe. Audaciously confident in pink, every detail was crafted in pursuit of aesthetic perfection and DiCaprio directed for the same; only the top button on the single- breasted jacket was to be fastened and Leo was instructed to drape the rest of the jacket behind his arm, thus allowing the placement of his hand in his pocket to exude savvy elegance and a self-assured demeanour. The buttons on the jacket match those used for the waistcoat and the maroon silk tie with salmon stripes is brought into prominence through the maroon silk pocket square. This was a bold choice projecting Gatsby’s belief that the future is there for his taking. His lightweight silk shirt recalls the pink in the suit and its natural crinkling, revealed when Gatsby removes the jacket and rolls up the shirt sleeves for mobility, can be viewed as a physicalisation of his far from perfect past beneath the man he has become: this imperfection, when accompanied by self certainty, becomes perfection. Gatsby greets adversity as a precious opportunity- each crinkle is simply a reminder of how far he has advanced. This suit is beautiful, caringly considered and crafted, and worn with unflinching belief and confidence – together they become visibly extraordinary and the suit displays the man underneath as much as the man models the suit.
Our clothes cannot do all the talking for us but they can certainly speak on our behalf, and both Ford and Gatsby hold on to the concept that our identity is something we can choose and construct for ourselves. Their example is with details and their pursuit of perfection, and whilst we cannot all rock pink Suits, a daily consideration to our appearance can be a stepping-stone for more profound dispositions. Most importantly, we should feel we have the choice, for ourselves, for others and for simple aesthetics.