What is the importance of clothes for the characters in The Great Gatsby (except for Gatsby himself)?

Fitzgerald could have used the color white to signal feminine purity, but he could also have used it as a symbol of blandness. I see Fitzgerald's use of white as an indication of wealth and leisure; though, of course, the color could encompass all of these qualities.

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As the previous educator notes, Fitzgerald could have used the color white to signal feminine purity, but he could also have used it as a symbol of blandness. I see Fitzgerald's use of white as an indication of wealth and leisure; though, of course, the color could encompass all of...

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As the previous educator notes, Fitzgerald could have used the color white to signal feminine purity, but he could also have used it as a symbol of blandness. I see Fitzgerald's use of white as an indication of wealth and leisure; though, of course, the color could encompass all of these qualities.

When Nick Carraway enters the Buchanan house, he sees that both Daisy and her friend, Jordan Baker, are wearing white dresses that ripple and flutter in the wind, as though they had taken "a short flight around the house." White is a color frequently worn at country clubs, on golf courses and tennis courts. The color is an indication of neatness and impeccability. Considering what we find out about these characters, particularly Daisy, whose name is also an indication of purity and innocence, Fitzgerald seems to be using white ironically. Daisy presents herself as pure, obeying the precepts of the day in regard to how she should present herself as a woman. But, her callous actions sully her character.

In contrast to the billowing white dress that Daisy wears when Nick first sees her, Mrs. Myrtle Wilson, Tom Buchanan's mistress, is wearing "a spotted dress of dark blue crêpe-de-chine" when Nick first sees her. She later changes into "a brown figured muslin, which stretched tight over her rather wide hips." Fitzgerald illustrates how each woman displays her particular mode of femininity through her clothing. He also makes Nick notice each woman's clothing during their first encounters, using his perceptions to show the contrast between the two women in Tom's life. The facts that Myrtle's dresses are "spotted" and "brown," respectively, could also be subtle indicators of the fact that she is not a woman who presents an illusion of purity but a bolder form of sexuality that would cause a man like Tom to look down upon her, while also using her to satisfy his sexual desires.

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In F. Scott Fitzgerald's novel The Great Gatsby, the physical descriptions of characters' clothing is used as a means of characterization, developing symbolic color associations or developing themes with which the characters are associated. 

  • Daisy and the White Dress: when the reader first encounters Daisy Buchanan, she is described in a white room, dressed entirely in white, with language that is airy, ethereal, and incorporeal. White is typically associated with goodness and purity, which aligns closely with Gatsby's feelings for Daisy. However, given the context, it could also comment upon Daisy's lack of substance. 

  • Tom's polo clothes: When the reader first encounters Tom, he is described as having a "cruel body" that is close to bursting out of his clothing, which is laced and buttoned, but straining to remain so. Tom's presence is enormous, and this description matches his later character development as violent and quick to anger, always nearly bursting during an interaction. 

  • Myrtle's apartment outfit: Upon Myrtle's arrival to the apartment where she and Tom stay, she changes into an incredibly garish outfit, which she demurely and coquettishly brushes aside whenever people compliment it. Myrtle's position in a lower socioeconomic class is emphasized by her desire to appear wealthy while simultaneously acting as if nothing is different whatsoever. 
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