Oscar Nominated Costume Designer Jacqueline Durran on Creating Character Wardrobes and Bad Style Advice

Durran with her EE British Academy Film Award | Photo courtesy of Dave M. Bennett/Getty ImagesWhen last we spoke with award-winning costume designer Jacqueline Durran, we were crossing our fingers for an Academy Award nomination for the lauded designer's most recent effort, "Anna Karenina." Now, with the Oscars quickly approaching not only is she nominated, but she's a favorite to win! And for good reason--"Anna Karenina" has been referred to as "costume porn" by some and as visually stunning by pretty much everyone else. From sumputous furs to sweeping ballgowns, the film is chock full of stunning outfits and accessories we're lusting over here at The Thread. We got a chance to ask Durran a few burning questions about her process and the making of "Anna Karenina."

The Thread:
How did you get started in costume design? What made you want to go down this road?
Jaqueline Durran: Well, I had finished at university and didn't really know which direction to go in and I realized in my early 20s that costume designing existed as a job by watching TV and watching films. I realized that someone made these looks for these characters and I have always been interested in how people made a look, [either] a fashion look or just how people put looks together as individuals. And so I realized that the two things would go together. That's what made me get interested in it. I went to work in a costume house in London--a place where costume designers come in and hire clothes for shows, so that's how I started out.

TT: What was your favorite part of the design process for "Anna Karenina?"
JD: I really liked working with veils. I had never had the opportunity of putting veils on leading actresses before, and I was fascinated by the effect they had.
Check out the veil action in "Anna Karenina." | Photo courtesy of Focus Features
TT: If you could bring one style element from the film back into style today, what would it be?
JD: Well, that's quite tricky. Wearing hats. I don't wear hats, but I think they're very great for making a look.

TT: What, if any, runway designers do you look to for inspiration?
JD: It completely varies from film to film, but it's very, very rarely that a runway designer has any impact on what we're doing in a film. It's kind of like separate worlds. Most times films are not about anyone who would wear or be interested in high fashion. Very rarely do you get a film that's about fashion. And I think that high fashion and what people wear in real life are kind of parallel universes, so I tend not to look at fashion at all but look at pictures of people. I do very much like those books [with] people on the street--they might be very fashionable people, but they are just people that make a look rather than [an outfit from the runway]. The Sartorialist. I really like him, I love that book. So, that's what I like to look at for inspiration rather than anything on the runway.

TT: Best piece of styling advice you've ever received?
JD: Oh my, I don't think I ever had any. I can give you the worst advice I ever received! Those people who do those color things--when they say you can only wear this [specific] spectrum of color. I think you should ignore all advice about color just wear colors that you like.
Seriously. Costume porn. | Photo courtesy of Focus Features
TT: "Anna Karenina" has now garnered nine total design nominations, including a BAFTA and an Academy Award--what was different about making this film compared to your other films?
JD: I think it's because it's such an intricate, integrated, and complex visual design--because of the theatre, because of the way the things interweave with the cinematography, the theatrical set, and the costumes being quite theatrical and stylized. I think that all these things mean that technically peoples eyes are drawn to those parts of the movie most of all. I think we achieved something quite beautiful by working so closely together, so I think it's all of those elements. We've all [the cinematography and production crews] worked together a lot now and Joe Wright (who hasn't got so many nominations) is a very strong, visual leader. So he has a strong vision and so we all know the path that we are taking and so the working together is very close and collaborative.

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