A Closer Look at the Anna Karenina Costumes with Oscar-Nominated Designer Jacqueline Durran

Anna Karenina marks the third time costume designer Jacqueline Durran has teamed up with director Joe Wright and the film's star Keira Knightley--and we think it's safe to say that the trio has definitely hit its stride. We got the chance to catch up with Jacqueline to ask her why she mixed 1950s couture with Russian aristocracy and what it's like to work in costume design. Read on to hear what she had to say and get a behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal look at some of the costumes.
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Anna Karenina marks the third time costume designer Jacqueline Durran has teamed up with director Joe Wright and the film's star Keira Knightley--and we think it's safe to say that the trio has definitely hit its stride. We got the chance to catch up with Jacqueline to ask her why she mixed 1950s couture with Russian aristocracy and what it's like to work in costume design. Read on to hear what she had to say and get a behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal look at some of the costumes.
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Anna Karenina marks the third time costume designer Jacqueline Durran has teamed up with director Joe Wright and the film's star Keira Knightley--and we think it's safe to say that the trio has definitely hit its stride.

Their previous projects, Pride and Prejudice and Atonement, each earned Durran an Oscar nomination for her designs, so let's just say that her Dior-inspired designs for Anna Karenina are probably worth the price of a ticket alone. The rest of the cast (including a brief, line-free cameo by Cara Delevingne) look just as brilliant in the visually stunning film. We got the chance to catch up with Jacqueline to ask her why she mixed 1950s couture with Russian aristocracy and what it's like to work in costume design.

Read on to hear what she had to say and get a behind-the-scenes, up-close-and-personal look at some of the costumes.

Fashionista: How did you get into costume design? Durran: I left university and I didn't know what career path to take, and I had no contact or knowledge of costume design at all. I'd never worked out in my head that someone did that job, and I didn't have any idea how to get into it. Someone that my mother met was working on a commercial who got me a job on that set, and they suggested I work at Angels, a costume design place in London. I've always been interested in period clothes and period costume--I could probably date clothes in the 20th century. Once I was there, I met lots of costume designers I could work out what the job actually entails, and I could make contacts.

What is the advantage of mixing references rather than trying to be historically accurate? It's quite liberating because it means you can fall back on a kind of sense of style, and you can take chances and you can experiment. If you're doing something that's completely accurate you have to find a reference to anything you do or make, but once you're freed from that you're left to the sense of style or sense of interpretation and that's quite liberating.

Joe Wright mentioned that you found inspiration in 1950s Dior Couture; was there any particular look that inspired you or that you took reference from? It's not about the specifics of the looks, it's really the approach in terms of kind of combining two things cleverly. I took inspiration from 1950s couture because it was a stark, architectural approach which doesn't involve a lot of surface detail but at the same time captures a kind of romanticism. Together those two things were the inspirations.

What was it about 1950s couture that you thought would blend well with the costume of Imperial Russia?

Jacqueline on set

Jacqueline on set

What was it about 1950s couture that you thought would blend well with the costume of Imperial Russia? Joe [Wright, the director] wanted to bring things back to a kind of essence, he wanted the costumes brought down to a silhouette. When you think about that silhouette, the high point of the pure silhouette was 1950s couture. The 50s combined stark architectural elements with a point of elegance and that feeds into Anna--she's kind of the essence of those two things.

What is the advantage to working with the same director more than once? I think it very much frees you from the nerves you might have the first time you work with someone. When you first start working with a director, you feel that if you take a chance or push something a bit or play around with something, that they may think you don't understand what you want. The first time you work with someone, you spend so much time concentrating on getting on their wavelength and making what they want. Once you work with a director you get there much more quickly and there's more trust, so you can take bigger risks.

Atonement

Atonement

You're part of the same team that made the green dress from Atonement--one of the most beloved film costumes. When we spoke with Keira, we asked which of her costumes was her favorite, and she said she loved the looks from Pride and Prejudice, so we have to know, which look is your favorite? [laughs] I didn't even know that she liked the Pride and Prejudice costumes. Funnily enough, I like a costume in Atonement that's entirely overlooked, but it was so difficult to do. It's a costume that she wears in the morning where she's got a mauve brown patterned blouse and skirt, and the problem is in that movie Joe Wright wanted me to combine pattern with pattern and no one did that in the 30s. So when I came to try and do it, it was really difficult, because not only was there no example, there were no fabrics that matched. I couldn't find any fabrics that worked together, so in the end I had to get the skirt pattern printed in the palette of the blouse inspired by the style of Sonia Delaunay. It was so difficult to do!

Tell us a little bit about the Banana Republic collaboration--how was it different for you from costume design? Well, I didn't design the pieces. I came on quite late, and how it worked was that Simon had already designed the holiday collection and my role was to take the holiday collection and combine them to make a style inspired by Anna Karenina. So from his collection I chose pieces--mine was more a curating role than a designing role.

Click through to see exclusive behind-the-scenes images from the set.