Leo Tolstoy was a fashionista.
They don't teach you that in Comparative Lit class. But just leaf through his 1870s masterpiece, Anna Karenina, and you'll come across enough detail on rosettes and lace sleeves that you'd think he was a judge on Project Runway.
And then there's velvet. Don't get him started on velvet. Flip to Chapter 22 for a memorable ballroom scene in which he dresses Anna in "a black, low-cut, velvet gown, showing her full throat and shoulders, that looked as though carved in old ivory, and her rounded arms, with tiny, slender wrists. The whole gown was trimmed with Venetian guipure. . . . Round her well-cut, strong neck was a thread of pearls."
In another passage about a velvet choker, he notes that "about all the rest there might be a doubt, but the velvet was delicious."
So ol' Leo would perhaps be pleased with this fall's Russian-inspired apparel and accessories. In stores and online you'll find velvet, brocade, lace, and lots and lots of fur (or faux fur) trim - just in time for the new film version of Anna Karenina, starring Keira Knightley and Jude Law, which is now in theaters.
"I read the novel at university and again now, and it's much better when you read it when you're older - it's just brilliant," says Jacqueline Durran, who not only served as costume designer for the film but as consultant on a special Anna Karenina capsule collection produced for Banana Republic.
Yes, Bahnahnahhh, as the British costumer so elegantly pronounces it, is offering up a line inspired by costumes in the film. For women, they've whipped up black lace dresses, a wool cape, and - get this - a faux fur stole, which can be wrapped around the head and worn as a hat. Seriously. And while that may seem like something out of the wardrobe stylings of Little Edie Bouvier Beale from Grey Gardens, it actually doesn't look half bad. And to make sure gents don't feel left out, there's a smaller line for them, including a flannel suit and top coat.
It doesn't take much, says Durran. "You can put one element into your wardrobe that will make it pop and give it an Anna Karenina twist."
Here are some suggestions to get you started.
A black monogram accordion-pleat sleeveless dress, $140, with patent skinny belt, $49.50, black crystal lace bib necklace, $79.50, lace floral tights, $22.50, black suede Mary Janes, $128, and a gray speckled faux fur scarf worn as a Russian hat, $79.50, all from Banana Republic's "Anna Karenina" Collection; at Banana Republic stores and bananarepublic.com.
If the proletariat ever had boots like these, they never would've revolted. Here, Børn Crown's "Saila" boots, $340, in dazzling paisley velvet; at borncrown.com.
Three Dots' faux fur open cardigan with tie, $220; at shopthreedots.com.
Dressbarn jacket with faux fur trim and velvet ruffle trim at neck, cuffs, and hem, $62; look for this or similar styles at dressbarn.com.