UNLV Prof Helped Keep ‘The Great Gatsby’ Costumers Accurate

Deirdre Clemente combined her passion for vintage fashion with her love of Jazz Age chronicler F. Scott Fitzgerald to become the leading expert in Gatsby style. Little surprise that the associate director of the UNLV public history program was tapped to costume-consult on the upcoming film The Great Gatsby. No literary purist, Clemente loves director Baz Luhrmann and can’t wait to see his interpretation of the classic book. Fans of fashion past can visit Clemente’s website FitzgeraldAndFashion.com, or her Vegas Style show at Nevada State Museum at the Springs Preserve through May 31. And, no, she didn’t get to meet Leonardo DiCaprio.

What did you do for the film?

I told [the filmmakers] the context of the clothes that they wouldn’t have understood: (A) because they’re modern readers and (B) because they’re Australian. I had to explain the nuances of the Ivy League clothing. They were really interested in fabrics, which is right on because Fitzgerald was super interested in fabrics. We talked a lot about the meaning of fabric, and I talked a lot about how they really should have used natural fibers and not synthetic fibers.

Did they follow your tips?

I saw two things, and I was like, “Yes!” because I remember specifically talking about them. Nick’s [Tobey Maguire] white flannel pants, which are so significant in the book because they just say everything in a snap instant. There’s a scene when Daisy sees Gatsby again and she’s wearing a tricorne hat, and I saw one of the stills of Carey Mulligan [who plays Daisy] walking through the set and she had it in her hand, and I was like, “Yes!”

When I met with the movie people, they said, “I just need you to know the heels will be higher and the skirts will be shorter than they were in 1922.” I’ve been looking at all the stills, and the thing that’s great is that they get the mood of the character.

What would Fitzgerald think?

Fitzgerald would love it, because he would [say], “Look at me everybody, I’m in the spotlight.” He loved being the center of attention; he loved being famous.

Would Fitzgerald visit today’s Las Vegas?

I think F. Scott Fitzgerald would have loved Las Vegas, because it was all the things he loved to do: go out, eat, drink. He was a great dancer—that was one of the reasons he was so successful when he was not born into the class he socialized in. So he probably would have come to Las Vegas and lived the high fancy, fancy version of Vegas and then got down and dirty at some of the local bars.

What makes Gatsby so memorable?

It has an enduring impact, because Gatsby is about the new dynamic in American culture—between old money and new money. That’s the thing about Gatsby we all love: the story of the American dream. Everybody identifies with Gatsby because he—through his own grit and grime—made himself a fortune.

Do you have any tips on re-creating the Gatsby style?

You gotta get a pair of Spectator shoes—the two-tone saddle shoes. For women, get a cloche hat—that fitted hat with a small brim. I love a vest on a guy, even if you just want to wear it with a light shirt underneath it or wear it with a jacket. The final thing would be hair jewelry and those doe eyes that Carey Mulligan works.

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