A SELECTION of the Oscar-nominated costumes from Anna Karenina go on public display tomorrow. The London exhibition features pieces worn by Keira Knightley in the film, created by award-winning designer Jacqueline Durran.
The exhibit is on display at Ham House in Richmond – a key location used during the filming of Anna Karenina – and will be open to the public from January 26 to April 4. The costumes have been nominated for Best Costume Design at this year’s Oscars and BAFTA awards – recognition that Durran describes as “such an honour”.
“I’m delighted, particularly because the entire production was such a strong team collaboration. Everyone was completely in tune throughout the project, so I’m really pleased,” the designer told us. “You have to go into it thinking that you’ve got a 20 per cent chance of winning – it’s just such an honour to even be nominated. You can’t worry too much about it. It’s too traumatic! It’s almost a relief when you find out that you haven’t won, because you don’t have to go up on stage.”
Durran worked closely with director Joe Wright on the project, who, she explains, had a very strong vision from the outset when it came to the film’s wardrobe. And with a tight schedule, and each costume taking around 50 hours to complete, there was little margin for error.
“Joe wanted me to concentrate on silhouette – the film was very stylised and in the early stages he was already thinking of it as a stage performance, so how the costumes would look on a figure on a stage,” the designer told us. “We took Fifties couture as a starting point, but set it in the 1870s. The costumes aren’t historically accurate, but at the same time had to be believably period and have an aura of period opulence. We took a design, minimised the frills and lace, stripped everything back to leave just the silhouette and then worked out a way to make that really beautiful.”
It’s not the first time that Durran, Wright and Knightley have collaborated to silver screen success – the trio notably worked together on Atonement(which resulted in that scene with that green dress), and undoubtedly have found a winning formula. And if Durran had her way, she’d work on every project with the actress.
“Keira’s always so interested in her character and does a lot of research. She takes it very seriously,” said Durran. “And what I love about her is that she’s not at all vain. She won’t ask us to make a costume in a certain way so that it suits her – it’s always about what’s best for the character and the shoot. She’d never turn around and say, ‘Oh, but I don’t wear red’. Keira’s very astute about what works, she’s very involved and very collaborative. There’s no starriness interfering.
“Of course it helps that she’s more than beautiful and everything just looks beautiful on her,” she added. “She wears costumes so well. I’ve never dressed her in a modern wardrobe, I’d like to do that.”
For a costume designer to have their work on public display must be the ultimate accolade – or so you’d think. Durran describes the honour as a “double-edged sword”.
“In a way, it’s taking away from the magic of cinema – these costumes weren’t designed to be seen up close on a mannequin or in an exhibition. So on the one side, I think they should stay on film,” she explained. “But at the same time, I’m so moved that people are so interested, and it’s quite special to see a costume in front of you. But things are often uglier in real life. Some things just aren’t as beautiful in reality as they are on screen. I’m very proud, but it’s a double-edged sword.”
The Anna Karenina costume exhibition will be open at Ham House from January 26 until April 4, visit nationaltrust.org.uk for more details.