Anyone who has read “Anna Karenina” knows that Leo Tolstoy likes to take his time unfurling a narrative. A small detail can become a menagerie containing infinite pieces and a single moment in time can linger for pages.
So when Anna upstages everyone at Kitty’s society debut, the writer does not skimp on the details.
“Anna was not in lilac, as Kitty had absolutely wanted, but in a low-cut black velvet dress, which revealed her full shoulders and bosom, as if shaped from old ivory, and her rounded arms with their very small, slender hands,” Tolstoy writes in the first chapter of the novel. “The dress was all trimmed with Venetian guipure lace. On her head, in her black hair, her own without admixture, was a small garland of pansies, and there was another on her black ribbon sash among the white lace.”
This goes on for some time.
The glut of material has been a boon for the costume designers of “Anna Karenina” film adaptations — all 17 of them. The most recent is the upcoming version starring Keira Knightly that hits theaters this September.
Tolstoy’s prose will also inspire a new line from Banana Republic, a partnership between the retailer and the forthcoming film’s production company, Focus Features. Costume Designer Jacqueline Durrann told WWD that to create the look for the adaptation, she combined the Russian Imperialism austerity of the book with the more modern style of Dior’s New Look. She transferred this approach to the store’s capsule collection as well.
“I was given the chance to apply my passion for period styles to a collection that translates to fashion today,” Durrann said.
Tolstoy’s classic isn’t the first book to make the leap from the page to the runway. Prabal Gurung channeled Miss Havisham, from Charles Dickens’s “Great Expectations,” dressing show opener Karlie Kloss in a long ruffling red dress with a black sash and black lace gloves. Ralph Lauren has on occasion mined the dreamy satins and flapper dresses of the Roaring Twenties since he designed the clothes for Francis Ford Coppola’s 1974 take on “The Great Gatsby” (directed by Jack Clayton), and his spring 2012 collection featured what seemed to be one Daisy Buchanan after another (Brooks Brothers designed the suits and menswear in the new Baz Luhrmann adaptation of the film).
Then, last December, H&M released a line full of slashed-up black leather jackets and grimy jeans that were inspired by “The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and its sequels, designed by Trish Sommerville, the costume designer on David Fincher’s adaptation from 2011. And in February, Helmut Lang put on a show in New York that clearly referenced “Game of Thrones,” the wildly popular fantasy novels from George R. R. Martin. The boots and leather were battle-ready.
What book could be the next to inspire a leading designer? Our money is on a certain sexually explicit trilogy that’s already launched a lingerie line. Indeed, “Fifty Shades of Grey” would be a whip-smart choice to adapt on the runway.