1920s fashion: 12 Style Panel tips for taking The Great Gatsby from costume to reality

1920s Fashion Style Panel
1920s Fashion Style Panel

With three days to go until the film hits theatres, it seems like The Great Gatsby fever might finally be reaching its pitch. With the film’s embedded glamour, its costume designer’s collaborations with Prada and Tiffany & Co., and the unending onslaught red carpet premieres and parties in celebration, can you blame us for being excited?

Already one of the most referenced styles in recent history, 1920s fashion is back in the spotlight. And while flapper dresses, embellished headpieces and layered pearls might look more like costume party and less like reality, we turned to our Style Panel for tips on how to adapt 1920s fashion for every day.

Taking hints from the film, both A Fashion Love Affair’s Cara McLeay and Dainty Girl’s Nicole Wilson take on shift dresses with heavy embellishments that while statement making, look ultra modern. Meanwhile, Over My Styled Body’s Lyndsey Forest, Short PresentsKayla Short, and Velvet & Vino’s Becky Kung channel the decade’s over-the-top accessories with long gold chains and pearls.

Question 50: How would you pull off the 1920s fashion trend for an everyday look? Read the answers now! »

Or jump to: AMBER DESILETS, LONDON | BARBARA ANN SOLOMON, TORONTO | BECKY KUNG, CALGARY | CARA MCLEAY, VANCOUVER | CEE FARDOE, PARIS VIA VANCOUVER | DEANNE MCRAE, MISSISSAUGA | JENNIFER PISTOR, VANCOUVER | KAYLA SHORT, HALIFAX | LYNDSEY FOREST, EDMONTON | MO HANDAHU, HALIFAX | NICOLE WILSON, TORONTO | ZOE SMYTHE, NEW YORK CITY

1920s Fashion Cara McLeay

Cara McLeay, 28
Vancouver | A Fashion Love Affair

If I could live in another era, it would certainly be the 1920s. The parties, the dancing, the fashion! So much fun. I am often inspired by 1920s fashion but it is difficult to find pieces that are appropriate for everyday wear. This Foley & Corinna dress hit the mark for me, with its Art Deco embellishment and loose fit—it instantly made me think of flapper dresses and the Roaring 20s, certainly something Daisy Buchanan would wear!

1920s Fashion Deanne McRae

Deanne McRae, 22
Mississauga | ThreadBare

I am enamoured by 1920s fashion and the way that women were so extremely sexy while remaining relatively modestly dressed (by today’s standards).

The silhouette of my outfit is influenced entirely by the ‘20s flapper dress, with the boxy, loose structure, and my long shirt lying over top of a flouncy skirt to mimic the dropped-waist look that is so typical of the time. This was the era of flashing a little garter, and in honour of that, I sport my thigh-high socks, sans-garter.

1920s Fashion Nicole Wilson


Nicole Wilson, 29
Toronto | Dainty Girl

When I pay tribute to this elaborate era, I go for a mini cocktail dress in a comfortable shift shape with playful embellishments—perfect for dancing the night away (with Leonardo DiCaprio of course). Gatsby is all about excess, so don’t be afraid to pile on the sparkling accessories and metallic shoes! You can dress down your tribute with a beaded blouse and jeans, but don’t be shy ladies, Daisy Buchanan was far from a wallflower.

Nicole’s wearing: Dress, French Connection. Shoes, Aldo. Bracelets, Vintage and Rebekah Price. Clutch, H&M.

1920s Fashion Lyndsey Forest


Lyndsey Forest, 23
Edmonton | Over My Styled Body

When I think of 1920s fashion, I automatically think of fringe, a dark red lip, and piles of pearls—three good reasons why I’m obsessed with the era.

A quick tip to looking like a modern day Daisy Buchanan is to pick one trend from the twenties and build your outfit around it. I decided on fringe for my look and a leather fringe mini, a floral kimono and a gold chain instead of pearls.

1920s Fashion Cee Fardoe


Cee Fardoe, 27
Paris Via Vancouver | Coco and Vera

It’s hard not to want to celebrate a decade that brought about social and intellectual freedom for women, but dressing in 1920s style without looking like you’re on your way to a costume party is no easy feat. Personally, I like to take one element that represents the revolutionary styles of the 1920s, like this embellished headband from Adeli Paris, and combine it with simple, classic pieces from my wardrobe for an outfit that is subtle and understated but still pays homage to the fun, rebellious nature of F. Scott Fitzgerald-era fashion.

Cee’s wearing: Sweater, Kookai. Dress, Zara. Belt, H&M. Booties, Prism Couture. Headband, Adeli Paris. Necklaces, Keltie Leanne Designs and Mon Collier Prenom.

1920s Fashion Kayla Short

Kayla Short, 26
Halifax | Short Presents

When I think 1920s fashion, I think dropped waists/straight silhouettes, plenty of pearl accessories (like this necklace I’m wearing which I made myself, I might add), creamy pastels, strappy shoes, and elaborate headgear. When trying to pay tribute to this trend avoid going over the top with crazy head pieces or dosing yourself in head to toe jewels (thinking Britney Speaks in her “Toxic” video), but instead simply try incorporating a few aspects of this trend into your regular wear, by combining some of these items with current pieces.

If you’re as smitten with Carrie Mulligan’s style as I am, simply toss on a straight dress, some pearls and hair parted slicked back into a low ponytail or bun. Paint on some rouge lips and you’re ready to pucker up to Leonardo DiCaprio.

Kayla’s wearing: Dress and cardigan, H&M. Shoes, Calvin Klein. Bag, Aldo. Sunglasses, Joe Fresh. Necklace and earrings, Short Presents Etsy Shoppe.

1920s Fashion Becky Kung


Becky Kung, 30
Calgary | Velvet & Vino

The Great Gatsby-inspired style is an exciting way to get creative with your existing closet. I find the best way to have fun with this trend is to pick one or two components from this era and inject it into your regular style. For example, I have built this into my outfit by pairing a pleated skirt, a vintage necklace and a jewelled headband. Other ways to incorporate this 1920s trend is by adding a vintage brooch to your favourite blazer, wear your scarf as a headband, or accessorize with a pearl necklace.

Becky’s wearing: Pleated skirt, Laundry by Shelli Segal. Top, Uniqlo. Necklace, my great-grandmother’s. Jewelled headband, Aldo. Nude pumps, Sam Moon. Bracelet, H&M.

1920s Fashion Jennifer Pistor


Jennifer Pistor, 33
Vancouver | Prairie Girl in the City

When I think of The Great Gatsby, I think of lace, pearls, jewels, and exotic head wraps—luxury and opulence are bountiful. To take a style cue from this flick, based in the Roaring Twenties, I opted for a flattering white lace dress. To keep that ‘20s feel without getting too flapper, I went with a modern ombre print scarf that I knotted and tied up turban style. I also went with a ‘20s inspired T-strap shoe in modern nubuck leather. Accessories like this tassel pearl necklace, large gold cuff, and sequin clutch complete the look by adding some luxe.

Jennifer’s wearing: Dress, Marshalls. Shoes, Coclico. Head scarf, Emu. Necklace, Banana Republic. Cuff, H&M. Clutch, Kiss & Make-up.

1920s Fashion Barbara Ann Solomon
Photography by Trevor Negin

Barbara Ann Solomon, 25
Toronto | Barbara Ann’s Style Blog

The Great Gatsby inspired trend is absolutely perfect for this upcoming wedding season. The roaring 20s was beyond glamourous, with all of the sparkles, sequins, and beading. The sophisticated and clean cuts of the garments and yet fun detailing of the dress will allow you to dance and sparkle the night away. This look is just perfect for most day or evening affairs this summer.

To ensure that you don’t look like you’re wearing next years Halloween costume, keep details simple, and allow for modern elements of your wardrobe to bring this look to 2013.

Barbara’s wearing: Dress, Hoss Intropia. Shoes, Steve Madden. Hairpiece, Vintage Necklace

1920s Fashion Zoe Smythe

Zoe Smythe, 30
New York City | Zoe’s Fashion Feed

I just finished reading the Great Gatsby and I can’t wait to see the movie! I have always adored the Art Deco period, and from what I have seen in the previews, the sets and costumes in the movie look spectacular! I’m sure the movie will be a huge source of Art Deco fashion inspiration, full of beaded and feathered embellishments, loose narrow dropped waist silhouettes, abstract graphic prints and beautiful draped materials. To wear a 1920’s inspired look without looking costumey, try combining just a few of the many 1920’s fashion elements. There are so many to choose from. Here, I chose a long draped graphic print dress. Finish any look with a great piece of Art Deco inspired jewelry.

1920s Fashion Mo Handahu

Mo Handahu, 29
Halifax | Lion Hunter

The great thing about inspiration is that you take what you need and make it your own. When it comes to The Great Gatsby I loved the tailored and charismatic looks the men were draped in. For my look this week I took the striped shirts, blazers and bow ties and made them my own!

Mo’s wearing: Shoes, Steve Madden. Everything else, Value Village.

1920s Fashion Amber Desilets

Amber Desilets, 30
London | Canadian Fashionista

1920s fashion was all about the new modern woman: the flapper. With the release of The Great Gatsby, it’s once again, all about her. When recreating the look for today, stick with one or two pieces from the era and add some modern pieces to keep it current. The flapper girl was all about fringe and feathers so I wore this beautiful white fringe dress and a feather clip in my hair, but kept it up-to-date with chic jewellery and open toed pumps. I finished my look off with a matte red lipstick, a smoky blackout eye since I’m already lucky enough to have the 1920s bob. If fringe and feathers are too much for you, you could also play around with a drop-waist dress, geometric print, T-bar shoes or bold blinged out jewellery to create a perfect 1920s look.

Amber’s wearing: Dress, Le Chateau. Feather Clip, Smart Set. Ring, Cocoa Jewelry. Bracelet, The Bay. Shoes, Urban Original.