The Story.

Anna Karenina is my favorite novel of all time. It’s a story told by Russian author Leo Tolstoy, who sets the scene around aristocrats in 1870’s Russia. Several plot lines are followed throughout, as decisions are made by the protagonists, resulting in the intertwining of the characters fates. The title character is a high society socialite who’s life quickly takes a downward spiral after meeting the charming young calvary officer Count Vronsky. When Karenina and Vronsky’s initial infatuation with each other turns into a tumultuous affair, they face the consequences by being cast out from society–Anna in particular is shamed for her infidelity to her marriage and no longer able to show her face at the parties and operas that once constituted her daily life. Although Vronsky stands by Anna throughout the tale, he begins to realize the extent of the damage they’ve done, and becomes increasingly less impassioned. Anna on the other hand, having left her husband, young son, and her place in high society to be with Vronsky, quickly becomes jealous, desperate, and obsessive over Vronsky while he attends social events without her. {Spoiler Alert} Karenina’s desperation consumes her, and as foreshadowed in the early pages of the novel with the death of a guard crushed by a train (Anna comment’s on the tragedy as being “an omen of evil”), Karenina throws herself in front of an oncoming train. The novel touches on dark themes such as social stigmas, repercussions of falling in love, gender roles, and isolation.

“All the variety, all the charm, all the beauty of life is made up of light and shadow.”
–Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina


The Inspiration.

 The most influential aspect of creating art is the inspiration behind it. My biggest inspirations tend to be historical time periods, tragedies that have an underlying beauty, and music. Russia in the late 19th century/early 20th century fascinates me. I’ve spent quite a bit of time studying Czar Nicholas ii and the Romanovs (The story of Anastasia. Look up Rasputin for an interesting read!). The fact that Anna Karenina takes place within 30 years or so of this time period, in addition to it being a dark and hopeless romance, makes it the perfect inspiration and allows the imagination to wander.

Russian fashion among the nobles during that era was incredibly decadent, and silhouettes worn in Moscow and St. Petersburg were borrowed and introduced from the most fashionable city, Paris. Dresses were heavily embellished with lace appliques, pearls, glass beads and velvet. Fur of course was prevalent.

Incorporating Anna Karenina’s Style into Your Own.

My interpretation of a modern day Anna Karenina retains all of the decadence and glamour worn in the late 19th century, but makes it accessible by pairing it with modern day trends. Fur lined (faux fur of course!) cossacks and stoles are paired with silk and tulle skirts, pearl and lace embellished bodices, and dainty jeweled shoes. In winter months, Karenina takes her place as the star inspiration in my wardrobe, as it is easy to implement faux fur snoods and stoles with just about any outfit. Ted Baker, Zara, and even Sweaty Betty do a great faux fur snood. Along with faux furs, wear lengthy gloves, and deep shades of ruby on your lips and in your jewelry.

This particular stole is from Zara’s Fall 2014 collection.

When I was younger, I asked for a sewing machine for Christmas so I could make my Barbie dolls clothes. It turns out that I didn’t have the patience to sew a whole
outfit, even a tiny one for a Barbie. So I became more interested in the design and styling aspects and began sketching. For years Anna Karenina has remained one of my inspirations, and I’ve used the story to facilitate several projects. My initial desire to take past Karenina designs that I’d done for fashion styling projects and turn them into digital art, came about after purchasing the most beautiful leather bound collectors edition of Tolstoy’s novel. For anyone a fan of this novel, I highly recommend purchasing this particular Barnes & Noble Leatherbound Classics Edition– the photos truly don’t do it’s beauty justice.

Kelebek x

This piece was created as a mixed media digital art portfolio piece. The background was created from photographs of the inside cover of the book, while the runway is made of stacked pages from the novel, circular swatches of fabric, and the rest is hand drawn. Copyright Kelebek, all rights reserved.