Does Fitzgerald's description of the clothing worn by his characters in The Great Gatsby correctly represent the fashion of the time?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Fitzgerald's descriptions of his characters' clothing does accurately fit into the novel's Roaring 20s setting.  Fitzgerald is, after all, the "Chronicler of the Jazz Age," and his and his wife's attendance at and hosting of popular parties are common knowledge.

Along with all of the other important symbols in the novel, clothing is a sort of motif for the novel's themes and characterization.  For example, Fitzgerald often describes Daisy as wearing white, and for a wealthy woman summering in "East Egg," this is believable.  She does not have to soil her hands or clothing with work; so white accurately portrays her luxurious lifestyle.  In contrast to Daisy, Myrtle Wilson and her sister Catherine represent the "working class" girls of their day.  Fitzgerald introduces Myrtle by describing the earthy colors of her clothing in comparison to Daisy's, and Catherine's Bohemian style clothing illustrates the independent, free-thinking women from the 20s who bobbed their hair, traveled from party to party, and were intrigued by exotic places and times.

One of the most notable items of clothing in the novel is, of course, Gatsby's pink suit that he wears when the climax takes place.  While it would not have been extremely unusual for a wealthy person to wear such clothing in Fitzgerald's day, it is likely that only those who were "new money" would have had the courage to wear such a flashy, attention-getting suit.  Tom's disdain for Gatsby's style is evident in his condescending comments, for it simply mirrors his (and other old money folks') view of the new money people moving East.

Overall, the clothing represents the chasm between Old Money Americans and those who "earn" their wealth (whether legally or illegally).

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The Great Gatsby

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