Did Hollywood Give the 1920s a Boob Job?

Did you go see the Baz Luhrman movie The Great Gatsby? You probably didn't think a thing was wrong with the curvy women of the film, but Lisa Hix noticed. The real flappers of the 1920s didn't have what modern actresses have, meaning prominent breasts. In fact, the style of the time was anything but curvaceous.

Jonathan Walford, co-founder of the Fashion History Museum, says the Roaring Twenties party scene viewed the release of women’s bodies from constraining undergarments as wildly sexy.

“Dresses featured legs, arms, hips and faces, not cleavage,” Walford writes in an email. “It meant a woman was no longer bound by convention—she was liberated from the confines of traditional femininity because she could think for herself, dance and drink and smoke and swear, and that is sex appeal.”

So Hix called Catherine Martin, The Great Gatsby's producer, production designer, and costume designer.

For the body-hugging fit of the film’s clothes, Martin, who is also married to “Great Gatsby” director Baz Luhrmann, says she took inspiration from a recent exhibition of the clothes designed by 1920s innovator Jeanne Lanvin at the Museé des Arts Decoratifs in Paris.

“It was interesting to see clothes in person, styled on a mannequin, and then see a model of the period in the same clothing, in a black-and-white photo,” she says. “I noticed how ethereal and extraordinary the clothes seemed on these very neutral dummies and how incredibly frumpy the clothes looked on the person wearing them in the photograph.

“I think that what we understand as a ’20s silhouette is very much from the snapshot or from the social pages,” she continues. “But when you see the sketch of the creator, there is a big disconnect. What we chose to do, because we wanted to really capture the spirit of the ’20s, is really look at a lot of illustrations that people drew of the clothes.”

In other words, Martin’s movie is more about the fantasy world of the 1920s in the minds of forward-thinking designers, and not how it looked in real life. And she believes the ’20s ideas about sex appeal were much closer to 2013’s. But to Walford, it’s more like Martin imposed modern reality-TV standards of beauty onto “Gatsby,” which was set during a time when people admired an entirely different aesthetic.

Read about the fashion goals of the 1920s, and how they differ from our modern standards, at Collectors Weekly, plus a gorgeous gallery of flapper fashions. Link


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