Martin is no stranger to Oscar voters, having won two statuettes in 2002 for her Moulin Rouge!costumes and set decor. In The Great Gatsby, her fourth film wit husband-director Baz Lurhmann, she mainlines fresh blood into F. Scott Fitzgerald‘s literary autopsy of the empty emotional lives of Long Island’s wealthy elite during the gin-soaked Prohibition era. Thanks to Martin, who again did double set and costume design duty, the film’s parties in Gatsby’s East Egg mansion are ocular orgies set to the music of Jay Z, Beyonce and Andre 3000. But Martin’s aesthetic also remains unerringly true to Fitzgerald’s period, including body-conscious gowns, assymetrical hemlines and iridescent satins.
Like many other costume designers, Martin is prone to putting hidden touches in costumes, details moviegoers won’t see but that give the actor insight into the character. To that end, she added a skull-and-bones silk lining to one of to-the-manor-born Tom Buchanan’s (Joel Edgerton) suits. The lining references his character’s Yale days and The Order of the Skull and Bones, the university’s elitist secret society, founded in 1832.
Martin prepares far in advance. “We were doing a 3D test for the movie with Leo [DiCaprio] andTobey [Maguire] about 18 months before we actually shot the movie, even before we got greenlit,” she recalls. One of the film’s key pieces is the suit worn by DiCaprio’s Gatsby during his final confrontation with Tom. “That suit is a character in itself,” she says. “Tom tries to undercut Gatsby’s position by implying that he’s nouveau riche and he mentions the pink suit disparagingly,” says Martin. “Brooks Brothers was actually making pink seersucker suits in the early ’20s.” She admits: “I don’t know whether Leo was that thrilled about having to wear a pink suit. But I think it’s an instrumental part of reflecting the intense romanticism that lives inside Gatsby’s heart.”