Bring together a team of eight multi-talented Australian milliners and what is the result? Fabulous headwear for "The Great Gatsby"! We chat with Sydney milliner, Margaret Gill – one of the costume milliners, about her once in a lifetime opportunity to fulfil a milliner's dream.
How wonderful to be involved with the millinery masterpieces for "The Great Gatsby" movie, Margaret. What other movies have you been involved with & in what capacity?
My first film was another Baz Luhrmann's, 'Australia' also in the headwear department. I then worked on 'X-Men Origins, Wolverine' as a seamstress. So for a while I could say 'I only work on Hugh Jackman films', now I can add Leonardo to that! I worked briefly on 'Goddess' and 'The Wolverine' as a costume maker. The Great Gatsby was my 4th film.
As a theatrical Milliner do you find this more demanding than fashion millinery & if so why?
Yes, theatrical millinery is physically demanding. On a film you work a 50 hour week minimum. I was on Gatsby for five months and also teaching at TAFE on Saturdays, so a very exhausting schedule. Theatrical millinery is very hard on your hands. You usually work with foundation fabrics such as scotch canvas/fosshape and wire to retain the shape and for strength and then the outer fabric, so you are sewing through thick layers plus the majority of this work is by hand. On the Gatsby though, the materials we were using were more 'real', so not as heavy silks, organzas, feathers, jewels etc.
Working in a team to create the Gatsby headwear were you assigned particular pieces or were you able to choose what you wanted to do?
Our head of headwear, Rosie Boylan, is very good at knowing her team's strengths and delegates the work accordingly. I was given a lot of the 'featured extra's' pieces. These were extras who were considered part of 'Gatsby's' party themes / styling, e.g. the butterfly and spider webs / fish fin headdresses / mermaids and the dancing twins in the green sequin bug headdresses and baby doll bonnets. The spider web / fish fins and mermaids were inspired by photographs taken by Paul Getty from actual partygoers in the 1920's. The yellow beaded headdresses worn by the dancing twins were made by my colleague Millie Adams and were also inspired by an image from that period.
Beyond that we were given an idea as to how many 'poor' hats / party pieces / cloches / turbans / men's caps / women's cloth caps etc were needed. The majority of the pieces were created for the parties and the speakeasy. We also had the 'valley of the ashes', the street scenes and the rooftop on the plaza hotel and, Myrtles' apartment scene.
We were given lots of inspiration, from fashion catalogues of the time, fashion photographs and sketches, story boards, feathers, beads, jewellery and beautiful fabrics. We had a 'bible' of character images / ideas.
Hat styling & costumes are designed to portray the personality of the character. How has Head of Costume schooled the Millinery team to understand the characters?
In the earlier stages Rosie and CM would have detailed discussions about the' look' and personality of the characters. We would often create a few of these ideas for CM to view and give her input.
The yellow cloche with the three dimensional felt flowers ( worn at Myrtle's apartment ) was made to match the outfit that character was wearing, the flowers were made to complement/match the flowers on her top / skirt. This was a colourful / loud hat for a 'loud and loose' woman.
Jordan's beautiful grey cloche was made by Rosie and Cheryl, the hatpin was an original Tiffany's. Jordan was a strong character, very at ease with herself, a 'look at me and see if I care ' sort of person... so a striking and elegant, yet strong hat.
Daisy, in her public persona, I think never really grew up, so her hats were elegant with a 'girl next door' naivety to them. We had a 'bible' which had references to the 'looks' for each of the main cast. Some of these were the actual designs to be made or general character ideas.
How many hats/headpieces were made?
Of all the pieces you created which was the most challenging technically?
The most technically challenging would have to be the butterfly.
Which is your favourite headwear piece?
How many milliners were involved in the making of the headwear?
There were seven of us for different lengths of time. Rosie, Cheryl and I were there for the entire build. Unfortunately you were only in the credits if you had worked 20 weeks or more. Isobel Hutton, Sonia Bennett, Renata Beslik, Eliza Clark, Millie Adams and of course, Rosie Boylan, Cheryl Rounsefell and myself.
The head hugging cloche does not suit all especially those with a wide face or large nose. Do you have any tips for some of us who do not have a sweet Daisy shaped face?
Yes, I agree the cloche is a hard style to wear. Perhaps an asymmetric brim is the answer, tilting higher to one side. Your hair should also be tucked behind the ears , constrained in some way.
With so much detail in costume and activity many are going back to view the movie again. How many times have you seen it?
I have seen the film four times now and have another two viewings with friends planned. After that I will probably see it once more, to just indulge. The first time you see it, having worked on it, you are looking to see what pieces have made the final cut. As you say it is very busy, especially the party scenes, so at every viewing there is something else to discover!
At Oaks Day at Eagle Farm the winner was definitely Gatsby styled. Can we expect to see more of this styling going into Royal Ascot & Melbourne Cup styling.
I agree that the next few race seasons will be influenced by this film. I think because this period of costume was fairly recent, most of us would have photos of our grandmothers and Aunts wearing this type of headwear and wearing this type of look would not be so foreign an idea to us. The look will probably be more prevalent for the Autumn carnivals.
Anything else exciting on the drawing board?
I have recently finished working on 'King Kong, the musical' which opens soon in Melbourne. I am currently working on a Steam Punk show for Nigel Shaw Costumes. The show is called 'Life As We Know It' for the P&O cruise line. We made this show last year and due to it's popularity it is being rolled out again, so it will be on two ships. After that... just waiting for the phone to ring.
» Say hello on Margaret Gill's profile page
» What did you love about The Great Gatsby
» Check out The Great Gatsby millinery album
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