The Portrayal of an Era: Great Gatsby and the 1920s

by Karen

You’ve never read the book. You’ve never watched the movie. Yet, even you know that The Great Gatsby was the most beautiful portrayal of the 1920s era in fashion, beauty, and industry. But was it?

The Great Gatsby was highly entertaining and is considered a classic. But there are plenty of markers in fashion where you might want to think twice about comparing it to the real world. Not so much in the book, but the movie certainly didn’t tick the right books.

For example, we had feathered headpieces, long bead strings, cloche hats, Bakelite bangles, spectator shoes. But their quality, prints, and design were nowhere near what the 1920s had.

Perhaps it’s because of the time we’re in at present that costume designers didn’t keep an eye on this particular element. For instance, synthetics didn’t become a norm in the fashion industry until the 1940s, but designers for The Great Gatsby made extensive use.

Eagle-eyed viewers were able to point out where such fashion faux pas were made. Was it done intentionally? Let’s find out.

The Great Gatsby’s Portrayal of the 1920s

The Great Gatsby’s Portrayal of the 1920s

It’s a fact that books are forgiven much easily than movies. Perhaps it’s because there’s one curator and creator of all elements in book writing. With movies, though, there are hundreds of people working on one project, some of whom are given the exclusive task of making sure all the elements are portrayed perfectly.

In that case, you may forgive some viewers for being angry at the false portrayal of 1920s fashion in the movie, particularly the 2013 rendition. While it did get some things right, others critiqued the film for being too bright, too rich, too bespangled, and the flapper girls a lot less perky than how they were in reality.

But you have to remember, we think back to the 1920s as dark and gritty, and in many ways, a bit unrealistic. But coming off the First World War, it doesn’t take a genius to figure that perhaps the 1920s were as sparkly as they were portrayed in the movie, and the people just as real as we are. All it takes is your understanding of the era.

The 1920s in the 21st Century

The 1920s in the 21st Century

Let’s understand one thing. When it comes to portraying fashion in movies, the idea is not only true to the era. Fashion and clothing are some of the many tools moviemakers use to portray emotion and consequence.

For example, if we consider Daisy Buchanan’s fashion vs. Myrtle Wilson, their fashion choices prove a point.

Daisy is sweet, feminine, innocent, naïve, and beautiful. Myrtle Wilson is sexy, passionate, and more mature. Daisy mostly wears lace and lavender. Myrtle shows off her cleavage. In the case of Jordan Baker, she wears pants with her floor-length evening dress. As you can see, fashion is used as a device to mark the time and mark each character’s personality.

This is only through a combination of authentic 1920s fashion with present-day imagery.

Freedom through Fashion

Although women in the 1920s did not have as much freedom back then as they do today, many were still looking to spread their wings. And they did so by taking chances with their fashion choices.

Women’s liberation presented itself in many ways. Putting aside the form-fitting clothes and closed-off attitudes of the 19th Century, women sought to be braver and open with their choices. Restrictive clothing was replaced with looser shift dresses. Corsets were put away so women could dance and breathe with ease.

Short, sharp haircuts were all the rage as women lopped off their long hair in defiance. And makeup application slowly started to become a norm. Yet, it was only in a small section. The natural look was very much in vogue. So, the task of being bold was left to the trend-setting women known as the flapper girls. These women bridged the gap between the middle class and the rich, the meek and the bold.

Fashion in the 1920s was very much about cementing the gap, so there was no separation. People were no longer separated by the garments they wore. Instead, everyone was allowed to partake in this trend.

Yet, as we see in The Great Gatsby, there was still a significant class difference. Not everyone could wear diamonds and pearls as they wanted. But, as is evident in the movie, this didn’t stop men and women from wanting to take on a more modern look, one that depended on colours and silhouettes. And that’s something the director for The Great Gatsby used to the movie’s advantage.


How to Transform Your Style into a Great Gatsby-inspired 1920s Look

How to Transform Your Style into a Great Gatsby-inspired 1920s Look

Scott Fitzgerald wanted to make Jay Gatsby an icon in all ways and did so during one of the most revolutionary moments in the fashion world.

As such, it’s not that difficult to find ways through which you can transform your style using The Great Gatsby as your style inspiration.

The Ideal 1920s Choice for Women’s wear: The Flapper Dress

The term flapper was initially used as an insult until the female population turned it into a badge of honor.

For anyone who wants to imitate an iconic 1920s ensemble, the flapper dress would make a perfect choice.

Presented in pristine fashion, the selection by Wardrobe Shop ticks all the right boxes. From party dresses to elegant fringe flappers to gorgeous art deco creations, the online store offers a wide variety to choose from for every occasion.

Keep in mind; the flapper dress does not offer the same look as the bodycon dresses of the present day. As said before, flapper dresses were loose, short-sleeved or sleeveless, are knee-length, and are adorned with sequins, cutaways, and lace. If that’s something that satisfies your style and mood, Wardrobe Shop’s selection will give you everything you need.


Shoes in the early 20th Century were very casual, less dressy, yet perfectly fashionable. Since women’s fashion-focused more on comfort than style, many women simply wore the shoes they wore for casual gatherings. But that makes sense since their dress would typically take center-stage.

Women also wore high heels if needed. But, if you want to be at your utmost comfort, there’s no reason why you can’t wear shorter heels so that you can dance all night long.


Cloche hats are a classic 1920s look. But, if you want to go for something new, daring, and bold, go all out with a turban or a head wrap. And why not!

Turbans were very popular in the 1920s, as you may have seen in just about every rendition of The Great Gatsby. Paired with a short, sharp haircut and a spangled dress that moves every time you shimmy, the turban-style headwrap takes your look to the next level.

You should be able to find head wraps and turbans that fit your style. However, if you feel like you want something different, you can always choose a feather fascinator or a flapper headband.

In short, you have plenty of choices to go with.

How The Great Gatsby Impacted Modern Fashion

How The Great Gatsby Impacted Modern Fashion

Fashion elements from the 1920s are a permanent element in modern-day fashion. However, The Great Gatsby was able to give a more realistic look at what fashion in the 1920s entailed, even more than what the historians provided for us.

The Great Gatsby was penned in 1924, in the 1920s, and therefore is the most current mode of information we have. In many ways, the book became an inspiration for many in the industry.

Let’s have a look at how The Great Gatsby made the 1920s fashion more accessible and how it has affected modern fashion:

-         Art Deco

Art Deco was all the rage in the 1920s.

It was a revolutionary era, and times and tides in society and lifestyle were changing and evolving every day. With more people, exclusively women, becoming more empowered, the world of fashion decided to introduce an equally daring style to the audience; art deco.

Featuring geometric shapes, luxurious designs, and an avant-garde style that cannot be imitated, art deco allowed people to combine fun elements with modern silhouettes.

A century later, Art Deco continues to influence fashion, and especially in the last thirty years, it has created a connection with numerous other fashion styles. Art Deco continues to present a sense of liberation in the modern age through various accessories and clothing, allowing people to show off their personality, all the while staying comfortable.

-         Decadent Detailing

Art deco gave way for fashion designers to be bolder and flasher with their looks. That’s why when it came to flapper dresses, we saw plenty of decadent tops, structured hems, beaded numbers, heavy embellishments, feathers—everything you can add to make the dress more eye-catching.

The looser silhouette of the flapper dress added a fun element to the outfit. With time and more creativity added to the mix, these detailed designs were integrated with other forms of clothing. From beachwear to formal clothing, beading and decadent details are now a significant component of all fashion styles.

As for specific design trends, elements such as feather trims and beaded and laced frocks became staples in the party scene, something we even see today.


-         Heirloom Jewellery

WWI had just ended, and the world was trying to maintain a form of normalcy. You’d have to imagine that women who had cherished and treasured their jewellery would choose the post-war era to bestow their jewellery pieces on to their younger generations.

Heirloom jewellery was often a large piece, passed down from generation to generation, and often had a high monetary value because of the gemstones and materials used. This trend of giving your sentimental jewellery was not new. But, it did add a sense of love and wonder to the trinket.

In the modern age, such jewellery is still held close. However, many people now consider these heirloom pieces to be an inspiration in terms of style. These pieces were often antique, classic in design, and even used techniques that designers no longer use. Nowadays, jewellery designers follow those trends to give people something different to wear.

For example, amber was a common stone in heirloom jewellery, and because of that, amber now has a sense of sentiment attached to it. As such, more people vie for amber jewellery because it has an air of warmth to it.

-         T-Bar Shoes

T-bar Mary Jane shoes were a common choice in the 1920s, and for good reasons.

These shoes were often shaped with a closed-toe, were comfortable, had a reasonable heel, and were very flattering to boot. As such, it’s no surprise that the popularity of T-bar shoes remains prominent to this day.

Because of their overall flattering quality, T-bar shoes go with all types of clothing, from denim jeans to short dresses. But these shoes are not limited to only women’s fashion. Because these shoes utilize a classic, stylish, and practical design, many companies use the T-bar shoe for younger children and boys and girls. You’ll even find school shoes with the signature T-bar design.

These shoes have a large fan base. For anyone looking for a comfortable shoe that won’t bite their toes or hurt their heels, the T-bar shoe gives your feet the love they need to stay happy.


The Great Gatsby had an enormous impact on the fashion world and in general. Given that F. Scott Fitzgerald was able to capture that time so perfectly, we should genuinely give our thanks to the author who could direct future generations on what the 1920s were.

The above information only us a sneak peek into how the book and the movies influenced us. But with what we’ve learned, we now know how only a decade of fashion choices can impact our lives, the media, and the future of all the people we know.

Read more about the 1920s here:

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