LLR Books

Great Gatsby is back in fashion

No film makes you ache for summer more than The Great Gatsby. In Newport, Rhode Island, where I spent my summers growing up, Gatsby's legacy is alive and well. Those huge white palaces (or 'cottages', as they're known locally) are still there, including Rosecliff, which doubled as Gatsby's house for the 1974 film. Tennis 'whites' are still required if you're on court, and the cocktails and the socialising are as potent as they ever were.
My affection for the book began when I first read it at 16, and despite an instant dislike for Daisy, my selfish, careless namesake, I chose it as the theme for my debutante coming-out party (yes, they still exist) the following summer. It was as big as any wedding extravaganza, beginning with the invitations, which came in boxes with colourful boas for the girls and sparkly bow ties for the boys. Our driveway was lined with a collection of 1920s Studebakers, Ford Model Ts and Chrysler Imperials, and guests were offered a glass of champagne to sip as they made their way past the cars to the party. My parents invited 150 people for a seated dinner at our house, which was decorated with enormous stands of black and white flowers, sparklers and pearls. A further 250 came to dance under a full moon to two jazz bands; there were even cigarette girls and a doughnut-making machine. Most of my friends stayed reasonably in control, except for my cousin Gigi, who got so 'tired and emotional' that she fell into the band and had to spend the night in the 'sleeping tent' that my parents had thoughtfully erected for just such an eventuality. Prohibition was long gone but we were still underage and fortified ourselves with surreptitious shots of vodka and cigarettes. The shots made me tipsy but really intoxicating was the knowledge that I had all the best parts of my life in front of me. I felt like Nick Carraway at the start of the story: 'It had been a golden afternoon… I had that familiar conviction that life was beginning over again with the summer.'
First published in 1925, F Scott Fitzgerald's novel, which encapsulates the aimlessness hidden behind a smokescreen of opulence that was the roaring Twenties, only became truly popular after his death in 1940. But still it was not until the 1974 film, starring Robert Redford, Mia Farrow and Sam Waterston, that the visual language of Gatsby and the term 'Gatsbyesque' came into existence. People are never more intrigued by the tale than in times of financial strife, when the excesses of the past become so rose-tinted. The film launched during the throes of a major recession, the oil crisis of 1973 was choking the USA and inflation had hit an all-time high. Now, with the world desperately clambering out of a global recession and oil prices soaring again, Baz Luhrmann, the man behind Moulin Rouge, is helming a lavish 3D remake starring Carey Mulligan, Leonardo DiCaprio, Hayley Atwell and Tobey Maguire. Luhrmann certainly sees the similarities between the rise and fall of Gatsby and our recent economic troubles, and considers it a good way to teach us a lesson: 'If you tell people, "You've been drunk on money," they're not going to want to see it. But if you reflect that mirror on another time, they're willing to.'
Designers have consistently used Gatsby as a reference point. This season once again there are languid silk pyjamas at Rochas, just made for a sultry night spent sipping gin-spiked lemonade, and Chanel has black and white numbers that are perfect to slip into after a late game of tennis. Stella McCartney has given girls Gatsby's three-piece white suits, while Roksanda Ilincic tapped Daisy herself, wrapping her models in layers and layers of romantic chiffon. Phillip Lim has a turquoise tunic dress with a jaunty collar, perfectly suited to the tomboyish athlete Jordan Baker, and Erdem's floaty floral dresses in vibrant greens and yellows on white are just the thing for a spot of croquet.

It's not just designers and directors who have a thing for Gatsby.
Sigourney Weaver took her first name from the book: 'An act of desperation because I didn't like being called Susie.' Marc Jacobs is so obsessed that 'both my dog and my perfume are named after my favourite literary character Daisy Buchanan'. Even Hugh Hefner, still a fast-living playboy in his eighties, says it's his favourite novel, and Brad Pitt and David Beckham have aped Gatsby's style for the red carpet. For die-hard fans, there is now an online game where you can go on your own hunt for Gatsby at his party, dodging menacing waiters, drunks throwing bottles, and flappers doing the Charleston, winning points by downing Martinis along the way.
But there is one famous face who loves Fitzgerald so much that at times she seems like the reincarnation of Zelda herself. Kate Moss is so obsessed with the legend of the Fitzgeralds that her long-suffering fiancé Jamie Hince tried desperately to track down Zelda's diamond engagement ring with which to propose to her. He only managed a copy, but what could be more perfect for the girl who once confided that she is obsessed by Gatsby (Marianne Faithfull introduced her to the book) despite its unhappy ending: 'I know,' she said. 'But it was the whole lifestyle, the whole thing.' And who can forget her extravagant Beautiful and Damned-themed 30th birthday party at Claridge's a few years ago? The evening allegedly descended into the kind of decadence not seen since Fitzgerald's day; Moss, a vision in a blue sequined dress, with smouldering eyes and curly golden tresses, had struck the perfect note of the Lost Generation's tragic glamour.

Now once again summer is just around the corner and with it comes that perpetual promise of a glittering Gatsby- esque future for us all.