Film adaptations of classic novels represent the intersection of very disparate art forms—beautifully composed words on a page must be translated into the visual language of the cinema. The characters conjured by our imaginations must be manifested in the flesh, complete with wardrobes that evoke another age. This is the challenge that faces director Joe Wright as he seeks to bring Anna Karenina to the big screen. Anna Karenina, Leo Tolstoy’s masterpiece, is a behemoth of a book, considered to be one of the best ever written. Anna herself is an iconic character, as tragic as she is elegant. Tolstoy describes her as a charming woman known for her black curls and natural grace. Anna eschews the girlish frocks favored by the young debutantes who flit around the ballrooms of St. Petersburg like so many pretty young butterflies for refined, dark-hued gowns that allow her own luminous beauty to shine. To say that Keira Knightley, who is playing Anna, and the filmmakers are under pressure to get Tolstoy's heroine right is an understatement. Stills from the movie, due to be released in November 2012, however, seem to indicate that they are on the right track.
The fashion involved in Anna Karenina extends beyond the actors’ wardrobes, though. Banana Republic is also releasing an Anna Karenina-inspired collection for the fall, conceptualized by the film’s costume designer, Jacqueline Durran. The dresses' dark colors and classic cuts channel the grandeur of the old Russian elite in a modern way, incorporating trendy materials like velvet, lace and faux fur.
Designed by Jacqueline Durran, Banana Republic, Fall/Winter 2012
The standouts of this collection are the hats, doubtless inspired by the ushanka, a Russian fur cap. A statement piece like this is daring and could make or break an outfit. Another notable feature of the line is the dark red hues, which were popular on the Fall/Winter 2012 runways. They provide a sophisticated way to channel holiday cheer without resorting to the distressingly ubiquitous ugly holiday sweater. The cranberry red dress echoes a ballgown Knightley wears in the movie, reinterpreted for the twenty first century.
Mixing and matching the Karenina-inspired articles with more contemporary pieces -- and throwing on some crystal costume jewelry, if not the ropes of diamonds and pearls Knightley wears in the movie -- may allow us to experience the spirit of the bygone world of Russian aristocracy that has haunted our cultural imagination ever since Tolstoy captured it on the page.