why was mavey holding up the short like a horse's collar?
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Matvey was holding up the shirt like a horse's collar because he was helping his employer to dress. Matvey is Stepan's valet.
"Matvey was already holding up the shirt like a horse's collar, and, blowing off some invisible speck, he slipped it with obvious pleasure over the well-groomed body of his master."
Anna Karenina/ Chapter 2