Thread By Thread: Costumes on Screen
Anna & Vronsky’s attraction is physical not just in their dance moves but in their dress which are like Ying & Yang

Oscar Frontrunners Anna Karenina

With the announcement of Oscar Nominations out, I am pleased to resume my coverage of the nominees for Best Costume Design. I dropped the ball last year, but I truly enjoy the nominees this year. It’s a tough category but I think the nominee’s themselves are no surprise. First up I will cover previous Oscar Winner Jacqueline Durran’s costumes for Anna Karenina. Now, from my own viewing and from what I have gathered from others’ opinions, not many are surprised at the nomination but seem to agree that the film is stylistically pleasing but that the execution is off. Personally, I would have loved to see Joe Wright mount this adaptation on Broadway where I think much of the choreographed movements and static moments could have flourished.

Jacqueline Durran fought to keep this sumptuous scene where Anna visits an ice rink in the film.

Durran's sketch for the Ice Rink outfit

Durran’s sketch for the Ice Rink outfit

The film itself is set in Imperial Russia in 1873, during the reign of Tsar Alexander III (That is two more Tsar’s reigns and some 44 years before the Russian Revolution and a mere 12 years after the abolition of Serfdom in Russia.)  Factor these facts in with the complexity of the Russian Noble class you get the unique insular world of Anna Karenina.  Since the film was already going to be visually complex, Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran decided to simplify the period’s look by maintaining the same basic silhouette but simplifying and drawing from 1950 Couture. “[Joe Wright] didn’t really want to make it historically accurate, costume wise: he wanted to stylize it. The way he wanted to stylize it was to concentrate on the silhouette of each character and to take an 1870s silhouette, but simplify the surface details so that it really had the architectural simplicity of 50s couture. What I had to do immediately was look at the 1870s shape then strip away all the surface detail and just be left with that pure shape.” Durran says.

Anna being dressed, notice even in a moment of vulnerability she is caged and dismissive

Anna being dressed, notice even in a moment of vulnerability she is caged and dismissive

Anna matches Karenin in hue and simplicity at the start of the film, Karenin remains simply and clean yet symbolic of power and position in society.

Anna matches Karenin in hue and simplicity at the start of the film, Karenin remains simply and clean yet symbolic of power and position in society.

The film begins with Anna being dressed completely ignoring her maid as she dresses in her complex underpinnings, donning a purple silk gown that is likely the most period accurate in the film, a reflection of her role as a dutiful and virtuous wife of a high ranking official. The purple color scheme continues on to her visit to her philandering brother’s home to help repair his marriage.

Anna meets Countess Vronskaya , Vronsky’s mother and a renowned adulteress,  on the train. Notice she is clothed in ivory and similarly to young Anna, a foreshadowing of Anna’s future.

Anna meets Countess Vronskaya , Vronsky’s mother and a renowned adulteress, on the train. Notice she is clothed in ivory and similarly to young Anna, a foreshadowing of Anna’s future.

After her fateful encounter with Vronksy at the train station Anna begins her path towards darker colors, towards seduction. Tolstoy describes the dress Anna wears “She was enchanting in her simple black dress, enchanting were her round arms with their bracelets, enchanting was her firm neck with its thread of pearls, fascinating the straying curls of her loose hair, enchanting the graceful, light movements of her little feet and hands, enchanting was that lovely face in its animation, but there was something terrible and cruel about her charm.”  Also noticeable here and for the rest of the film is Anna’s modern jewelry, “We thought that it would be good for the characterization of Anna for all the jewelry  that she wore to be real because she lives in this rarefied world of late-19th century Russia where there is just an extraordinary amount of wealth. It seemed to play into the setting of her world and also the kind of vanity of Anna as a character to have a wide range of jewelry, and to wear it extensively,” Durran says. Durran came to the decision to stick with the classically elegant pearls and diamonds and approached Chanel, whom actress Keira Knightley and director Joe Wright have an established relationship with, who gladly provided the jewelry. Countering Anna and her new temptation is the pure Pincess Kitty (Side bar-Russian Noble titling denoted that the title Princess would be equivalent to a Lady, though there would still be a ranking of importance according to relation to the Imperial Family.) who dresses in a pink ensemble that is noticeably shorter than Anna’s.

Anna & Vronsky’s attraction is physical not just in their dance moves but in their dress which are like Ying & Yang

Anna & Vronsky’s attraction is physical not just in their dance moves but in their dress which are like Ying & Yang

Durran’s Sktech of Anna’s  Black Gown

Durran’s Sktech of Anna’s Black Gown

The diamond necklace Anna dons in this scene is provided by Chanel and features their famous Camilla motif.

The diamond necklace Anna dons in this scene is provided by Chanel and features their famous Camilla motif.

The young angelic Kitty in a sugary pink whilst being seduced by the dark Count Vronsky. The young angelic Kitty in a sugary pink whilst being seduced by the dark Count Vronsky.

***The young angelic Kitty Princess Sorokina in a sugary pink whilst being seduced by the dark Count Vronsky.

Kitty, thoug introduced to society is still innocent as to it's workings, especially when it come to love.

Kitty, thoug introduced to society is still innocent as to it’s workings, especially when it come to love.

For Anna and Vronsky’s next fatal encounter at Princess Betsy’s ball  she dons a rich red gown, playing up to the part of harlot ,reminiscent of Scarlett O’Hara’s red gown Rhett makes her don.  The gown is off the shoulder and features a unique bell shape silhouette. “There were a few photographs from the 1870s that I found where the dresses had a simple quality that I liked and were quite clear on the structure. Because 1873, when we set the film, was the kind of transition point between the crinoline and the bustle. It wasn’t the narrow type bustle that you get later on, where from the front view of the woman it’s quite narrow over the hips and all of the extension is towards the back; it was in the middle and slightly bell-shaped, and it tipped forward a bit at the front but extended at the back, so it was growing into a bustle. There were a few photographs that showed that shape, and we decided pretty early on that that would be the shape of Anna Karenina”

Noticeable in this photo are her fascinator which forms a bird’s head, which hold a diamond in its beak. Also noticeable is the unique 1950s trim on the bodice.

Noticeable in this photo are her fascinator which forms a bird’s head, which hold a diamond in its beak. Also noticeable is the unique 1950s trim on the bodice.

Durran’s sketch of Anna’s red gown she wears to Princess Betsy’s ball

Durran’s sketch of Anna’s red gown she wears to Princess Betsy’s ball

After the consummation of her affair with Vronsky, Anna’s palette lightens. When alone with Vronsky her state of dress reflects the airiness of the impressionist movement (Wright even sets the scene before the fateful horse races to have Anna look like Monet’s Woman With A Parasol.) Anna even continues to add color to her wardrobe at the races when she unintentionally confirms her affair with Vronsky by wearing a pink hat. Even after her brief reconciliation with her husband Karenin and dying after giving birth to Vronsky’s daughter, Anna is dressed in a brighter blue than the races.  When she finally decided to run away with Vronsky and abandon her family, her color palette begins to turn dark once more.

Anna & Vronsky share a moment alone, notice they share the same color pallet and are both more relaxed than we have or will see them.

Anna & Vronsky share a moment alone, notice they share the same color pallet and are both more relaxed than we have or will see them.

Anna stands out from the crowd of browns in a blue, much less a modern fabric of denim and an asymmetrical cut.

Anna stands out from the crowd of browns in a blue, much less a modern fabric of denim and an asymmetrical cut.

Durran’s Sketch for Anna’s Horse Race Gown

Durran’s Sketch for Anna’s Horse Race Gown

Upon fleeing home Anna dons an asymmetrical black crushed silk gown with a hat and veil that essentially hides Anna’s face.

Upon fleeing home Anna dons an asymmetrical black crushed silk gown with a hat and veil that essentially hides Anna’s face.

The next time Anna sees her son she is dressed in a similarly rich tone of red, though in a significantly more Russian dress, a symbol of her desire to be re-accepted into Russian society.  Anna’s push to re-enter society is symbolized in the gown she dons to go to the theater in. Wearing all white and covered in jewels and fur, Anna is the opposite of herself from when she first fell for Vronsky at Kitty’s ball. She attempts to be a bride, fresh in love but her pleas for acceptance fall on deaf ears and she is humiliated.

Anna returns home to her son in traditional noble Russian garb, symbolizing her appearance of normality but ignoring her total abandonment of her son and husband.

Anna returns home to her son in traditional noble Russian garb, symbolizing her appearance of normality but ignoring her total abandonment of her son and husband.

Anna even dons the same Camilla necklace that she wore when she first met Vronsky, showing the parallel to her previous dress but reverting it from societal norm.

Anna even dons the same Camilla necklace that she wore when she first met Vronsky, showing the parallel to her previous dress but reverting it from societal norm.

Jacquline Durran’s sketch of Anna’s Opera Gown

Jacquline Durran’s sketch of Anna’s Opera Gown

Anna begins to unravel further and further as she and Vronsky flee St.Petersburg once more, whilst she still dresses fashionably her costumes reflect her increasingly jealous and foul demeanor.  Her state of dress also becomes less and less. We see Anna become addicted to morphine and her dressing gowns and robes reflects that.  During her meeting with her sister in law Dolly, Anna dons the beautiful yet somber attire of a pale gray gown with black lace overlay and a black fur coat. The next red ensemble we see her in is darker in hue, a deep red in velvet complete with a matching hat with a heavy velvet rose. It is blood red in hue and looks suppressing on her, it reflects her bloody thoughts as she contemplates and finally commits suicide by throwing herself in front of her train.

Anna is finally shown in a state of undress but has gone past the state of vulnerability to beyond repair, driven mad by her own actions.

Anna is finally shown in a state of undress but has gone past the state of vulnerability to beyond repair, driven mad by her own actions.

During her breakdown Red is no longer a color of seduction or a spot of color but rather a maddening reality in a suppressive world without others to interact with.

During her breakdown Red is no longer a color of seduction or a spot of color but rather a maddening reality in a suppressive world without others to interact with.

The somber gown is certainly beautiful but acts as a foreshadow to the death that lies ahead for her.

The somber gown is certainly beautiful but acts as a foreshadow to the death that lies ahead for her.

Durran’s sketch of Anna’s café gown

Durran’s sketch of Anna’s café gown

Anna in her final gown notice that her veil is significantly harder to see through than the first one she wears at the start of the film, signifying her increasingly clouded judgment.

Anna in her final gown notice that her veil is significantly harder to see through than the first one she wears at the start of the film, signifying her increasingly clouded judgment.

About these ads
This entry was published on January 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm. It’s filed under Entertainment, Jan. 2013 and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

11 thoughts on “Oscar Frontrunners Anna Karenina

  1. Wonderful article!

  2. Great post! ‘Anna’ us my favorite film of 2012 and I loved reading this insightful look at Durran’s Oscar-worthy costumes.

  3. Joelle on said:

    Great post – so interesting! Love your posts

  4. Only one little thing… That is not Kitty in the pink gown Vronsky’s supposedly seducing. It’s Princess Sorokina. Lovely article, by the way. :)

  5. Reblogged this on Patterns from History and commented:
    Brilliant anaylsis of the costumes from Anna Karenina, with some lovely original sketches from the designer.

  6. Briana13 on said:

    An amazing article. Such a great attention to detail and historical and cinematic references. I hung on every word. Definitely a new fan.

  7. Great article, I still haven’t seen the movie. When it comes out, I can’t wait to see all the costumes and jewelry!

  8. Really interesting article! I’m an aspiring costume designer, (only 17 now!) and I find these analyses fascinating to read. I’ve just started my own blog, theeditedmakers.blogspot.com, and I hope to begin writing my own articles. I’ve linked this article to one of my posts, and hope other fanatics get to read this!

  9. It’s great to see pictures of the original costume designs. I also write about costume design on thecostumerail.blogspot.co.uk and it’s good read articles by people who really understand costume design.

    • Rachel I love your blog! We are very similar in opinions (though I am one of the few who adores Keira Knightley and all she does!) and cannot wait to read more of your posts!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 356 other followers

%d bloggers like this: