In the second episode of Shonda Rhimes’ new Netflix series, Inventing Anna–which follows the rise and fall of Anna Delvey, New York’s most infamous scammer–Anna (portrayed by Julia Garner) spontaneously travels to Ibiza to board a friend’s yacht for a few days. She arrives on the ginormous boat wearing a fitted red Alexander McQueen dress with a flouncy hemline. The look is finished off with a silk scarf tied around her head like a babushka, gigantic sunglasses, and a Dior tote with her name embroidered onto it. The extremely glamorous outfit shows what you can buy with fraudulently-acquired cash – provided you can swindle enough New Yorkers, of course.
By now, you’ve likely heard the real-life story of Anna Delvey (née Anna Sorokin), who was convicted in 2019 on charges of attempted grand larceny, larceny in the second degree, and theft of services. From 2013 to 2017, she tricked Manhattan’s elite into thinking she was a German heiress. She defrauded banks, hotels, and acquaintances, all while ostensibly raising funds for The Anna Delvey Foundation, the contemporary art centre of her dreams. Huge tabs were left unpaid in the process; money borrowed from friends was never paid back. (To this day, Delvey still remains in immigration limbo, and is currently in custody with ICE. She completed her criminal sentence last year, but is now awaiting deportation back to Germany.)
If you’re posing as a German heiress, you have to dress the part. Costume designers Lyn Paolo and Laura Frecon began their research by taking a deep-dive into Delvey’s Instagram account, where she often posted selfies of her designer outfits, as well as reading journalist Jessica Pressler’s viral profile of her. “We went down a rabbit hole – googling and stalking friends who were tagged – and then we tried to match every one of her looks as best we could,” Frecon says. “We even recreated a little black bomber jacket that was mentioned [in the article] and that was in a lot of her Instagram photos too.”
Delvey’s fashion choices evolve throughout the show to accentuate her character arc. As a lover of all things fashion and New York street style, Anna’s style begins as youthful and graphic. She sports a loud floral-print Dolce suit while browsing an art gallery in one early scene. But her wardrobe slowly begins to change as Delvey infiltrates a more glamorous, high-class circle. “Her style becomes more curated and conservative, so that she can be taken seriously in that business world,” Paolo says. They chose to dress her in more discreet clothes from labels like Oscar de la Renta, Chanel, Givenchy, Prada, Gucci, Valentino, and Celine. The project was a dream job for both the costumers and Garner alike, who got to play dress up every single day. “She would come in, and we would have 10 racks of clothes, and she would just be beaming,” Paolo says. “She would want to try everything on!”
For the more mature, secondary characters in Delvey’s circle, meanwhile, the costumers took great inspiration from New York’s “ladies who lunch”. “Everything is curated. The jewellery matches the jacket that matches the nails,” Paolo says. Though any character, no matter how big or small, had plenty of clothing options. “People were basically throwing things at us,” Paolo says. “We started reaching out to our friends in the fashion world, and asking them to give us pieces that weren’t out yet. We wanted to be ahead of the curve.”
They added that the many discussions with Pressler, and the constant re-reading of her bombshell story, were pivotal to understanding what just may have been in Anna’s real-life wardrobe. “Jessica was invaluable to the research–even down to what Anna wore when she was arrested (Chanel flats),” Paolo says. “We did so much research just trying to figure out who she was. But I think that’s the whole point of the show–nobody really knows who Anna is.”
This story was first published on Vogue.co.uk.