Having recently read the tediously long novel, Anna Karenina, for my English class, I noticed that Tolstoy repeatedly divulges some interesting tidbits about various characters clothing choices. Set in seventeenth century Russia, fashion was quite different than today- in terms of the garments themselves. But, one thing that has not changed (and hopefully never will) is how women want to look in their clothing. This poignant element of fashion has remained constant for centuries, as all women usually have the intentions of looking their very best.
In the following passage, the Russian aristocrats are off to enjoy themselves at a lavish ball full of pomp and circumstance: “Kitty had been seeing Anna every day; she adored her, and had pictured her invariably in lilac. But now seeing her in black, she felt that she had not fully seen her charm. She saw her now as some one quite new and surprising to her. Now she understood that Anna could not have been in lilac, and that her charm was just that she always stood out against her attire, that her dress could never be noticeable on her. And her black dress, with its sumptuous lace, was not noticeable on her; it was only the frame, and all that was seen was she- simple, natural, elegant, and at the same time gay and eager” (Tolstoy 75).
In describing the beauty of Anna and her garment, Tolstoy reveals timeless truths about women’s fashion. Like Anna, most women desire to wear their clothing and not allow their clothing to wear them. Women want to be seen for their beauty- inside and out- not simply have their garments viewed as beautiful. True and palpable beauty is not material- found in clothing and make-up- but it comes from within. Although, superficial items (such as Anna’s black lace gown) can enhance a woman’s natural beauty. An enduring topic in today’s culture, fashion provides the ability of self-expression. Tolstoy delivers a unique yet timeless view of women and how they choose to present themselves.
For a better visual of Anna’a sumptuous black lace gown, watch this clip from the motion picture Anna Karenina.