THE AMINTA COSTUME




Me checking out a wonderful Danish version of the Aminta costume
Photo: Josefine S.


LATEST: As of now I can call the dress finished. There are some final details to take care of, but that's mostly decoration details. It's fully wearable, and had it's "premiere" at Det Ny Teater in Copenhagen April 4th 2009. And what a great evening that was! I've since used it at Phantom in Las Vegas, which was also a magical evening.



HISTORY:
This dress has been a dream of mine for a long, long time. Unlike the slightly unplanned Phantom wedding dress, I've long wanted and planned to make the Aminta costume. It is such a gorgeous costume, being a crossover between a Flamenco dress with scalloped skirt and the rose details, and a Rococo dress with A-shaped closing, revealing a corset/stomacher underneath, plus the engageants at the cuffs. It seems a bit Goya in style, taking the Spanish flair even further. I'm almost tempted to call it the Rococo equivalent of Steampunk! Last, but not least, it's worn in one of the most... erm... heated scenes in "Phantom of the Opera". Who does not want to be Christine after seing "Point of no Return"?

By chance I found the absolute perfect silk dupioni at my local (read: favourite) fabric shop, when fellow POTO costume maker Josefine was visiting me. She brought me some good costume karma. The silk dupioni is in a salmon shade; pink with a touch of golden undertone. I bought 8 meters of it at first, but went back for two more meters. I also won a wonderful black lace off eBay, 100 yards and dirt cheap. With those materials I could start making the spunky Aminta costume, used in "Point of No Return". I worked without pattern, mostly because I haven't seen anything too similar around, but also because I suck when it comes to using patterns... I did, however, glance at period stomachers and bodices, as I wanted mine to be front closed like a real Rococo dress. Easier to get in and out of the dress myself that way, which is a big plus. All the stage versions have the closing in the back, but there they also have a handful of dressers!

Maria Bjørnson's costume sketch for this dress is fairly detailed, and most stage costumes stays very close to it. There are however one detail that is very often left out which I will try to incorporate into my own replica - the white embroideried apron. Many European costumes has had variations of an apron, using a black-netting-with-embroidery one instead (see bottom of the page). That is neat as well, and maybe something to copy. But white linen aprons was much in vogue in the Rococo fashion, so it would be fun to add that little detail.



HISTORICAL DRESSES

1. Spanish Flamenco costumes (found on Google long ago)
2. "Masquise de Llano", A. R. Mengs, ca. 1775 (Royal Academy in London?)
3. A "Robe a la Fran�aise", French, ca. 1780 (Kyoto Costume Institute, Japan)
4. "Mary, Countess of Howe", Thomas Gainsborough, 1764 (Kenwood House, London)



STAGE COSTUMES


1. Costume design for "Aminta", by Maria Bjørnson, 1986.
2. Early Broadway gown, possibly Sarah Brightman's, ca. 1988/1989.
3. Jennifer Hope Wills, USA, ca. 2006.
4. Sarah Brightman, West End 1986.
5. Claudia Cota, Argentina ca. 2009.
6. Mia Karlsson, Copenhagen 2009.
6. Janine Kitzen, Stuttgart 2002.
7. Colby Thomas, Hamburg ca. 1998. Same as 5, without apron.
8. Closeup of the bodice in the costume design.

Aminta costume gallery



INSPIRATIONAL COLLAGES

The general dress, and stomachers I fancy.




THE BODICE
The costume sketch shows that the skirt should have 5 scalloped edges/layers, plus one for bodice - six in total. This means you can see the bodice as a small jacket just as much as a bodice. Not too many stage costumes has adapted this feature, as it's easier to do the quick change with one piece of garb. However, newer US versions seems to be made this way (probably with the skirt sewn to the inside of the bodice), and one or several Spanish Aminta dresses also showed this feature.

I ponded a long time on how to solve the "bodice VS jacket" issue. One option was to make an overdress (everything pink), being closed over a petticoat (the black/golden skirt) and stomacher, similar to Baroque Mantuas and Rococo dresses. I've posted a few picture references above which shows historical examples of such garbs. It would make it easier to put the costume, but a good solution had to be worked out for the stomacher area. Would a full bodice/corset be needed? How firmly should the overdress be fastened to the stomacher? And how? Another alternative was to make a short "jacket" (the bodice) and a separate skirt, still with front closure. A third alternative was to make it like the stage costumes, with either zipper or hooks and eyes + velcro in the back. The latter was something I didn't want. I wanted a plausible historical twist to the dress, and I wanted it to be easy to put on myself. So... alternative one or two?

I started with what I would need no matter the solution: the stomacher. The two ground layers are of unbleached cotton, with black silk on top. It's heavy boned with rigilene, and has five defined tabs and a curved top. On the sides I've attached various velvet appliqu�es in burgundy, green and black, cut out from a velvet fabric. The middle has a sort of crushed silk in black, with rich sequenced flower trims on top. They're so sparkly! The stomacher is currently fastened to the bodice with three hooks and eyes on each side.


1. Before cutting the fabric. Quite extreme shapes.
2. When the bodice was first sewn together. Didn't look too awesome.
3. First try-on. It looked like a ski jump in the back! Had to modify the boning.
4. Lace just attached. Now that's more like it!
5. The extra fabric around the lace cut off, and fringe trim ironed.
6. Finished bodice (sans lace engageants). I dig the bustle shape.
7. Bodice just finished, experimenting with how to make the skirt.
8. The stomacher. Velvet and sequin appliquées were put on top black silk and ribbons.

Then I continued with the bodice. It has borrowed it's pattern in the back from my precious Hamburg Wishing gown, providing a nice, tailored bustle look. The front is drafted especially for this costume, to get the A opening closing over the bust, and to continue the flounced layer in the waist. With the back in place there were only so many options on what the front panel should look like... I've used two layers of unbleached cotton, with rigilene boning, and salmon silk dupoini on the top. All raw seams have been bound, and the bottom of the bodice is flounced and with black lace fastened with zig-zag seam. I've also sewn on a rich, ornamented black trim with fringes in the neck opening, which has been decorated with sequins. A bow has also been added in front, made of the same trim as the stomacher trim, so I can tie the front securely together. I'm attaching the stomacher to the bodice by hooks and eyes. The added bow in front also helps holding it together. So in the end I went for alternative number two. But I'm still not sure if this will be the permanent solution. I want to to be tight-fitting and snug, and I'm not sure the hooks are up to the task. We'll see. Anyhow, the bodice as of now is finished!



THE SLEEVES
The sleeves were also adapted from the Hamburg Wishing gown. They are quite narrow and elbow length. At the elbow 1,5 meters of scalloped and lace decorated fabric has been attached. It was cut to be shorter in the front than in the back, and was gathered with fine pleats (raw edge folded in to make the pleats thicker). The gathered "engageant" was sewn to the sleeve, and got a black leaf ribbon attached on top. Originally I wanted pompons, like in the costume design, but I couldn't find anything in the right size and quality. Under this flounced layer a similarly shaped cream lace was attached. The costume design suggests a white lace engageant. In many stage versions a black/golden one is often used instead, or it's a combination of black/gold and white lace. I used only the latter, and I kinda like the delicate touch it adds. Less dramatic than the stage costumes, and slightly more historical. That is not to say I don't like the black/golden ones. I luuuuv them! It just wasn't right for my dress.


1. 1,5 meter of scalloped lace trim fabric was used.
2. It is about twice as long in the back as in front. This makes all the difference when worn!
3. I originally planned to use a pompon trim as in the design, but this black leaf trim was just so delicate.
4. Trying out the cream lace. Loving the cream lace.
5. The inside of the cuff before the cream lace was attached.
6. Finished cuff. Lots of fabric for such a small area!



THE SKIRT
...has been the craziest project I've ever worked on. Simply because it demands so much lace, and to get the lace how I want it to look I have had to cut it into shape, stitch it on and THEN zig-zag it on. Lots of work. I think I've used app. 15 hours on each scalloped layer, or app. 50 hours in total - and that is for the lace flounces alone. I see now that I should have made the flounced layers even fuller, so get a rich look in front as well. It seem s a bit tight/strained there. But the result overall is really neat, I'm loving it, and I've never felt more feminine in a costume.

It's hard to explain how I made this skirt. Basically it's a mess... As I didn't have enough fabric to make a full pink skirt and attach flounced layers directly to it, I tried a method of attaching the flounced layers to curved, non-gathered panels. These were sewn to eachother (don't ask me how), so each flounced layer emerges from underneath the other. Overall it works well and saved me some fabric. However, one of the middle layers of the straight panels are too strained and pulls the flounced layer up, making them uneven. I have to fix that. I also wish the skirt was fuller in the front, but ah well. Whatever the case, the Aminta costume needs a full underskirt to get the right shape. I've tried my own dress without it, and it looks so sad! Here's a short tutorial on how to make giant netting underskirt of doom.

I've noticed that many stage costumes only have four layers in the skirt, possibly with the addition of one bodice scallop-layer (five in total). The costume design, however, suggests six layers in total, five in the skirt and one from the bodice. That's what I aimed for, and since I'm a fairly tall woman it suited me well. It's almost like I could have another layer of lace - or maybe a bit more distance between each layer. The skirt looks so long on the mannequin, but when I'm wearing it it's *almost* a bit short (but in synch with the costume design).


1. No, not like this...
2. Lots and lots of fabric. To this day my sewing machine hates zig-zag sewing...
3. The lace was cut into shape, zig-zagged on at the hem, and stitched down on the top.
4. Two finished layers, ready to be attached to straight panels.
5. FOUR layers finished! Hooray!
6. The four layers with the bodice.
7. Getting there, getting there....
8. The finished skirt, seen from the back.
9. The inside of the finished skirt. Looks a bit... creative...



A SKIRT IS BORN

One... two... three.... four.... five flounced layers, plus the bodice flounce.


For the front I came across a lovely golden/black lace fabric reminding of what was used in the stage costumes in the 90s. I lined it with black, shiny polyester, gathered the top, and tucked it to a black waistband (I.E. only the front of a waistband). The lower half got yellow zig-zag seams following the pointed pattern of the lace. The extra fabric was cut off. This left me with a pointed hem for the golden front, echoing the scalloped layers of the skirt. I used two meters for the front. It might seem like a lot, but the front skirt has a nice fan effect when I'm sitting. The dress is front-closed. The bodice is attached to a decorative stomacher. Similarly, the skirt is attached to the golden front. One side of it is sewn to the skirt, the other side is attached with hooks and eyes in the ways, and velcro down the skirt. This means i can get in and out of the dress myself, very essential...


THE GOLDEN FRONT

1. The inspirational dress: closeup of Colby Thomas from Hamburg, ca. 1998.
2. The fabric folded and used horizontally before lining. Horrible!
3. Lined and used vertically. So much better.
4. In an odd way, the gold of the lace compliments the golden undertone of the salmon fabric well. Ditto for the black.
5. Yellow zig-zag was used at the lace hem, echoing the pattern of the lace. Extra fabric was cut off.
6. The golden front fans out when sitting. Even when I'm doing apple PONR....
7. The coolest discovery was that the gold of my lace matched the Phantom's boat well.
8. Trying out red for the stomacher. Not sure yet. Skirt is now properly sewn to the bodice.



THE APRON
Later on I want to add the apron. The costume design shows a white apron, possibly with embroidery or lace in the bottom. The apron feature was long ignored in the stage costumes, until some European productions adapted it (West End, Spain, Germany and Denmark). However, they don't use white aprons, but transparent netting ones (either gold or black) with colourful embroidery and trims in the bottom. I'm not sure which route to take, as I like both looks, but here are some picture examples in the mean time:


1. "Mary, Countess of Howe", Thomas Gainsborough, ca. 1764.
2. Costume design for "Aminta", by Maria Bjørnson, ca. 1986.
3. Mia Karlsson, Copenhagen, 2009.
4. Janine Kitzen, Stuttgart, ca. 2002.
5. Gina Beck in West End 2010.



ACCESSORIES
To become a full-born Aminta, the dress is not enough. No, I'm not thinking about a pretty face and a gorgeous singing voice. I'm thinking about accessories! The coolest feature is the black, semi-high, high-heeled boots. In the design they are curved over the legs, and the fronts are pointed. I found a pair years ago with a lovely punctuated pattern. They have curved fronts, but other than that they are the perfect Aminta boots. The heels are also rather low, which suits me well. I'm tall enough as it is. In the entrance of the "Point of No Return" scene Aminta also wears a large black shawl with embroider and black fringes. I bought one at a time they were fashionable and affordable, at the Swedish fashion chain Indiska. Mine is a bit smaller than actual stage shawls, but definitely lovely. I need to take a proper picture with it.

And of course there's the underskirt. Very essential. Frankly, the Aminta costume looks a bit sad without it. I wear it as a separate piece, and it opens in front like the actual dress.





AMINTA VISITS COPENHAGEN
I got to wear this costume to the coolest Phantom event ever. Det Ny Teater in Copenhagen made what could only be described as a phantastic celebration for my friend Josefine, who saw her 100th Phantom performance at Apil 4th 2009. We were invited on stage after the show, to meet the leads, the conductor and the stage manager. Josefine got flowers and we got to take photos. We also got a backstage tour. All the time were were dressed in Phantom costumes - Josefine in her fantastic blue Wishing dress, me in the Aminta costume. Fellow costume friend Gunilla was in the last days of her pregnancy and did not wear one of her many gorgeous Phantom costumes - but she gave birth to little Erik a few days later...

My Aminta costume wasn't quite finished for this event. The stomacher lacked a bit of decoration, and the skirt was not sewn to the bodice. But I don't think anyone noticed. I got to see two versions of the Aminta costume backstage, and I noticed that they both have a lot of red in front, similar to the Gina Beck picture above. For some odd reason, that is a spunky accent colour to the salmon silk and black scallops, it brings out the best of the nuances. I will add that, somehow, to my own dress (which has a rather dark stomacher). So more to come....

The event in Copenhagen was fantastic. In so many ways. I can only wish for others to experience something similar. A big thanks to anyone involved, and for allowing us to tag along on Josefine's big day.



1. In the dressing room we got to borrow at Det Ny Teater. I like the silhouette here.
2. Me and Flemming freakin' Enevold. Pure love.
3. In the Don Juan sets. Felt like home!
4. Being showed around on stage. Wow oh wow!
5. Me in the Phantom's boat. Again pure love.
6. A rare backshot of the dress
7. Good thing my camera match the dress, eh?
8. Me with Teresia Bokor's dress. LIKE!
9.Josefine and me right after the performance.




THE SKIRT AND SCALLOPED EDGES (FLOUNCES)
The original 1986-88 versions of this costume used real lace for the scalloped edges of the skirt. Sarah Brightman had this in her original 1986 West End costume, and it was repeated in her 1988 Broadway costume. However, the "standard" embroidered version started appearing around 1989 and has been adapted all over the world. The embroideried pattern varies slightly, but all have this "heart-with-leafs" as a ground motif. For my own version I have chosen lace. I won a wonderful black lace off eBay, 100 yards to a most affordable price. But although the lace was beautiful, I wanted defined, pointed scallops as the early Broadway dresses, so I used a lot of time cutting it into shape. Even more time was used on stitching and zig-zag-ing it to the pink silk. The result is cool, but it was a time consuming task... Now, what's best to head for, lace or embroidery? It really depends. If lace is used, go for one with an open pattern so the pink can be seen through. Some of the early West End dresses had denser lace, which gave a heavy look for the scallops. If embroidery is used, do chain stitch. It's quick and decorative, and the stage versions has chain stitch (except for the leafs).

PROS for LACE:
It's how the original costumes were made.
It gives a rich flamenco look for the outfit.
It might be easier than embroidery if the lace is ready-to-be-applied.


PROS for EMBROIDERY:
It gives a "lighter" look than lace.
There'll be pattern on both sides of the fabric, very nice in the cuffs.
It's how current costumes are made.
If you have an embroidery machine it'll make the job much easier compared to attaching lace.


Lace before and after moderation. It was then stitched and zigzagged to the salmon silk.





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