I am not in the habit of paying too much attention to the outfits of celebrities. But after seeing the photographs of some Cameroonian celebrities who graced and “ungraced” the red carpet of “Broken” movie premiere, I could not hold back, especially after seeing a friend trying to justify the unjustifiable when a fan of his celebrity crush wondered why she wore trainers (sneakers, if you prefer and what could go for an evening dress with the right accessories) to such an event.
When the dress code was first announced, my sister wondered if it was not a little alien in the Cameroonian context and we made a few jokes about it. Little did we know that a significant fraction of the popular names and guests were literally going to joke about it too and some went as far as being the joke/joker of the event.
I saw a post by Henriette Thatcher, probably written on the eve of the event, which said Gatsby was the most googled word in Cameroon in the past month. I wonder if some of the guests were banned from googling this word or the phrase. How many of them know that The Great Gatsby is an American post war or Jazz Age novel (1925) by F. Scott Fitzgerald? How many people know that the movies are adaptations of the novel and the one in which DiCaprio plays Jay Gatsby (2013) is just one of the movies?
The novel is fascinated by the down sides of or the disintegration of The American Dream and the excesses of (extreme) wealth. It chronicles the lavish, materialistic and unethical lifestyles of the rich, highlighting the clash between old money (aristocrats) and new money (nouveau riche) wannabes who try to copy or replace the former. The economic boom of the 1920s gave rise to the materialistic, pleasure seeking and emotionally barren lost generation; purposeless partying was common.
In relation to the fashion of the time, dinner coats (tuxedos) or evening jackets replaced dress coats (tailcoats) and the latter was reserved for highly formal occasions. Gatsby wears a pink suit (typical of the late 20s) and this gives the men allowance to play a little with colour. For accessories, they had hats (the upper class wore top hats and homburg hats), walking sticks, bowties, neckties (semi formal), vests etc).
As for the women, 1920s evening dresses were basically the same as modern ones so the accessories are key in attaining the look (long gloves, feather hand fans, fringed velvet or fur shawls, headwear etc).
If some of these celebrities actually found out what the concept behind this dress code is, then it is obvious that instead of paying attention to the costume of the 1920s or 30s and adapting it to suit our context like was done in the 2013 film adaptation, they decided to embrace the disregard for convention, rules, ethics and normalcy by the lost generation that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s work depicts.
It seems like some of the guests/celebrities took the title of the movie (Broken) for the theme of the event (dress code). Others probably thought it was a Halloween or a costume party; did you see the Cameroonian Kanye?
This “wardrobe massacre” (for lack of a better expression) has shifted attention from the movie and we are still to get any reviews. A search left me one (review) which I am reluctant to call a review.
We have a culture of giving excuses for almost everything and this transcends entertainment. We have tolerated, if not accepted, mediocrity to the point that it is celebrated and anyone who manages to go an inch above the mediocrity bar is hailed a hero. However, there were well dressed celebrities whose stylists and designers deserve our applause.