A Fake German Heiress

“Inventing Anna” is a new true-crime mini-series on Netflix that follows the investigation of German socialite scammer Anna “Delvey” Sorokin.

According to the Independent, Sorokin, played by Emmy award-winning actress Julia Garner, used elaborate fashion as a way of posing as a wealthy German heiress in which she used to becoming a con artist.

“I think what’s really interesting about ‘Inventing Anna’ is that it was based on this real occurrence and everyday life, yet it wasn’t a documentary,” said Dr. Lori Bindig Yousman, department chair of Communication Studies. “Some of it was purposefully fictionalized because the character Vivian Kent doesn’t exist but other characters such as Anna do, so what sets it apart is the way that it is both true and fictionalized.”

According to CBS News, Sorokin scammed money from hotels, banks, and friends. She was found guilty of larceny and theft in April 2019, sentenced to between 4 and 12 years in prison and faces deportation to Germany.

“Fashion tells the story about the person without ever having to utter a word; it’s a form of non-verbal communication,” said Dr. David Loranger, a fashion marketing & merchandising professor.

“Initially, Anna is a blonde who dresses eclectically. When she approaches bankers, lawyers and investors she realizes that they won’t take her seriously because she doesn’t fit their idea of a ‘serious’ businessperson, so she takes on a different persona, goes brunette and dresses in dark-colored tailored clothing,” said Loranger.

According to Vogue, Delvey wore different styles to fit in with the various crowds of New York City society. Garner’s wardrobe, created by costume designer Lyn Paolo, was almost a direct match to the real Anna Sorokin.

“The saying, ‘never base a book off its cover,’ is pretty much what everyone did with Anna and the clothes she wore,” said junior Claire Mancini. “She was able to con so many people just by looking the part of being rich.”

Bindig Yousman said, “The costume needs to represent and reflect the character, the turmoil that they’re going through and their overall trajectory. You hear how fashion was really Anna’s escape route because the clothes were her armor and the way she was able to transform herself into character.”

Time reported that Paolo studied Sorokin’s Instagram account at length to discover the exact brands she wore and how to replicate them. She wore clothing from high-end designers such as Dior and Valentino and her Céline glasses were her signature accessory.

“There is a theory in fashion studies called Symbolic Self Completion, which says that people curate their persona and acquire dress items with a specific intent of becoming part of a social group or sub-group,” Loranger said.

Loranger believes that the theory of Symbolic Self Completion applies to defendants in a court room during a high-profile case.

“Anna’s lawyer was trying to make her appear to be trustworthy, professional and sympathetic. So even here, we see fashion used to craft her persona and get her followers on Instagram to pressure the legal system to go easy on her,” Loranger said.

Mancini said, “In the episode when Anna was in court, she was so scared, but she still wanted to put on a show by wearing something nice that people would remember her in. She was always so confident. She was a wall, and no one could break her down. No one could really get to know Anna.”

Deadline reported that Sorokin is in detention by immigration authorities for overstaying her visa. However, she is working with Bunim/Murray Productions on a new docuseries that will cover the next phase of her life.

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