Fashion in The Great Gatsby

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  • 0:04 Plot Overview
  • 1:13 Fashionable Freedom
  • 2:12 Men's Fashion
  • 2:38 Gatsby Fashion
  • 3:55 Another Fashionable Item
  • 4:59 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natarielle Powell
The classic novel 'The Great Gatsby' is set in the glamorous period of the Roaring Twenties. In this lesson, you will learn how the fashion trends of this period reveal aspects of the characters' personalities in the novel.

Plot Overview

Published in 1925, F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby is set in New York during the age of prohibition and jazz music. It discusses many of the new ideas that emerged after World War I. Changes in social mores or behaviors, clothing, women's roles, and extravagant living are all highlighted in this novel.

The decade of the 1920s is often referred to as the Roaring Twenties, or the Jazz Age. Jazz music became the most popular style of music at night clubs, with large bands bellowing out favorite tunes of the era. This period also marked the end of World War I and the beginning of the women's liberation movement. The Roaring Twenties introduced several cultural changes, especially in fashion.

Musicians like Ethel Waters and Louis Armstrong sang and played soulful tunes in nightclubs. With the onset of prohibition, clubs called speakeasies became popular. Patrons would have to give secret passwords or knocks at the door in order to be let in. Once admitted, a world of rebellion awaited them on the other side: provocative dancing, illegal alcohol, and gambling.

Fashionable Freedom

Women's liberation took many different forms during the '20s. Restrictive clothing and attitudes were done away with. Women traded their corsets and long dresses for shapeless shift dresses that allowed them to dance and move freely. Their short, sleek haircuts defied the tradition of long hair for women, and the application of makeup in public refuted the conditioning that defined what was ladylike.

The trendy women of the Roaring Twenties were called flappers. They dressed in colorful shift dresses with silk stockings and silk underwear. Bobs, or short and even haircuts; bare arms; flat chests; and long cigarette holders epitomize the Roaring Twenties look. This era redefined womanhood and, in appearance at least, bridged the gap between rich and middle class women. The simple cut and accessibility of Butterick sewing patterns for the shift dresses made it easy for middle class women to make their own clothes at home. They were no longer separated by the want of garments they could not afford.

Men's Fashion

The women of this era weren't the only ones to change their attitudes toward fashion. Many men also broke away from Edwardian and Victorian styles and moved on to a more modern look. There wasn't a lot of use of color, but there were additions, like wide lapels and wide-legged pants called Oxford bags, that created a fresher look. Cream suits and pinstripes were worn by the upper class, and sweaters were a radical addition to sportswear.

Gatsby Fashion

The Great Gatsby combines all the elements of the Roaring Twenties and uses them as a backdrop for a captivating story of love, hate, greed, and identity. The characters in the novel wear the garments of the period, but add a bit of uniqueness that speaks to their roles.

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