Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Gatsby Style

One of the reasons I enjoy rereading The Great Gatsby is its attention to color.

From the “torn green jersey” of young Jay Gatz to the “green leather conservatory” (the interior of Gatsby’s car), from the ballooning whiteness of Daisy and Jordan’s dresses to the “blue coat and six pairs of white duck trousers” that mark Gatsby’s transformation, from Gatsby’s “gold-colored tie” to Daisy’s rapture over his pastel-hued shirts, color is suffused with yearning, privilege, and delight.

(Of course color can also be read racially in this novel, but I’ll save that analysis for my college classroom.)

I’ve always thought it fitting that Ralph Lauren was the designer of Robert Redford’s clothes in the film version. As Gatsby seduces Daisy with his closet of delicately colored shirts, Lauren lures in his customers with his ice-creamy colored Polo shirts every season. And like Jay Gatz, Ralph Lipshitz came from humble roots, while striving toward a particular kind of American aristocracy that codes as British, with nods to Oxford, polo ponies, and well-dressed leisure.

J. Peterman, with his Lexington, Kentucky-based clothing business, knows a thing or two about Gatsby style. His catalogue displays watercolor portraits of each garment, accompanied by a poetic rendering of their charms. I’ve found that the clothes can’t live up to the prose, but it’s fun to imagine that they can. One of his classics is the Gatsby shirt, in several beguiling colors. He made a Daisy shirt too, but to me Daisy conjures up a soft dress, not a collar and buttons.

Peterman lost his company in the 1990s, then bought it back, and has creative control once more. A Gatsby story if ever there were one, with a happy ending.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Ohhhhhhh! You made my day; I didn't know J. Peterman was back. Yay!