FIVE EXTANT COSTUMES
FIVE EXTANT HAMBURG COSTUMES
"Phantom der Oper" opened at Neue Flora Theater in Hamburg December 1990, and got an exceptionally long run. It closed in June 2001 - nearly 11 years after the premiere. Throughout these 11 years the Hamburg production produced a large stock of costumes, both for the original cast and their various replacement. They had a solid in-house costume workshop which made several pieces, and they also used the many skilled workshops around town. When "Phantom der Oper" closed, they had as many as 10-12 versions of the same costume for some of the key scenes and roles. And that is despite taking some out of stock along the way.
In the mid 1990s there was a big auction for charity at Neue Flora Theater. Many costume pieces was auctioned off, including a Phantom suit, a Raoul suit, a Meg Giry "Slavegirl" costume, a Christine "Star Princess" skirt and a Christine "Wishing" dress. There were also minor items like boots, wristbands, veils etc.
When the musical closed in Hamburg in 2001, it was mainly to transfer to another city - to Palladium Theater in Stuttgart, where it opened in November 2002. The Hamburg sets and costumes were used here, and in addition there were costumes from the original Dutch production there as well. When the musical closed in Stuttgart in June 2004, the costume stock was considered so large some selected items were taken out and simply given to the staff. This included a Christine "Aminta" costume from Holland, a much worn "Christine" dressing gown worn by a double, and yet another "Slavegirl" costume worn by a ballerina.
Through various ways some of these costumes ended up in my care. The blue "Wishing" dress ended up on eBay, where I - with amazing help from my grandmother and sister - won the auction in September 2006. It was my first, and still one that means the world to me. One "Slavegirl" costume and a Star Princess skirt were originally bought by a woman working in the costume department at Neue Flora in the 90s. One day she simply contacted me and asked if I were interested in buying them. I think I responded "YES!!" in five different languages... Because not only is the Hamburg costumes some of my favourites, it was also items worn by two lead roles, and they were so beautiful. Two other costumes - a "Slavegirl" bodice without the rope skirt, plus a dressing gown - also ended up on eBay. I had no idea about the auction before a very kind soul on Tumblr made me aware of it, and to my big surprise I ended up winning the auction. These two costumes came from the Stuttgart take-out. And these five costumes are the items I'll describe more in detail here.
HANNIBAL "SLAVEGIRL" COSTUMES
The "Slavegirl" costumes is worn in the mock opera "Hannibal" in the beginning of the show. Leading lady Christine is featured as as a ballerina, and all 8 dancers are dressed alike, with similar wigs and accessories. These two costumes both originate from Hamburg, but was taken out of stock at different times - the one with rope skirt intact was sold in an auction at Neue Flora Theater in 1995 or 1996, while the other without a rope skirt was taken out of stock in Stuttgart in late 2004. Before that the latter had been used as a display costume in the lobby, along with a dressing gown. What defines these Hamburg costumes is the very defined hourglass shape and the massive amount of gold appliquées at the collar and belt. No other productions has ever gone all the way with these details as Hamburg has. It should be added that original designer Maria Bjørnson made at least 5 variants of the Hannibal "Slavegirl" costumes in her designs. They can be interpreted in different ways.
Three of Maria Bjørnson's designs for the "Slavegirl" costumes
Slavegirl costume 1, with rope skirt, was worn by dancer Julie Collins. She started in the Hamburg corps de ballet ca. 1992, and had become principal Meg Giry by 1993. She remained that for a year or or more, but had left the cast by 1995. The costume was thus worn by her between 1992-95 sometime. In style it corresponds more with what Anna Maria Kaufmann (original Hamburg Christine) wore in the show's first years, than the heavy-gold-collar ones Colby Thomas (long-running Hamburg Christine) wore in the mid-90s. So Julie Collins might have gotten a hand-me-down costume from a dancer who had left, or they were still made in this style when she joined. Whatever the case, the bodice is altered in the back, with black velvet inserts to make the bodice larger around the torso. It suggests a hand-me-down costume. There is a name tag on the inside of the bodice: "Name: Julie Collins. Szene: Hannibal". The field of the role is left blank, so it might be she first wore this costume when she was in the ensemble. Had she played Meg Giry at the time, I assume they would have written so on the tag. But she probably kept wearing it when playing Meg. As a side note, Julie Collins was one of the first Meg Girys to wear a dark wig. I didn't know that when I first started looking for photos of her, which obviously made things a lot harder... That said, I have yet to succeed in finding a photo of Julie Collins in Hannibal.
Costume 1: Restored, and worn with my own Elissa skirt.
Slavegirl costume 2, without a rope skirt, doesn't have a name tag on the inside. There is traces of a rectangular seam on the right side, which by all accounts once was for a name tag, but it has been removed, probably when the costume was taken out of stock. There is no other indication of who might have worn this, apart from the size. It's very tiny - I would think an European 34/ US 2/UK 6 - and with a defined hourglass shape. The hips has gotten some additional hip pads, either because the costume got a second wearer which was narrower around the hips, or because it chafered. But judged on the small size, and the lack of snap buttons for an eventual removable belt, this has been worn by a ballerina rather than a Christine.
Costume 2: Without rope skirt and belt, but visible signs of where it once was.
Now, how does these two compare? As mentioned already, one have the rope skirt intact, attached to a golden belt sewn to the bodice. The other doesn't have the rope skirt, but there is very visible traces of a belt once adorning the lower half. So it must have been removed at one point. The skirtless bodice does however have all the "gems" and beads at shoulders and collars. Apart from one string being broken, they all seem in fine shape. The bodice with skirt was at one point stripped of all the gems decorating the collar. They've been cut off in a rather crude manner, as all threads where they once were was still in place. The gold over the bust and belt was also very damaged, giving the costume a sad look. I spent many hours working on restore it as gentle as possible. This version also lacked the strings of beads over the shoulders, but here too there were traces of them once being there. My best guess is that they've used quality glass beads and gems, seen as too valuable to follow the dress when sold. They've probably been reused.
Another difference is the shape of the collars. Both are V shaped, but one has a broad V shape and with appliquées overlapping the velvet. The other has a narrower V shape and without the overlaps. They way they are made does however correspond - a black fundament, generous layer of golf metallic appliquees in various shapes, and outlined with a golden trim.
The collars are built in similar manner, but in different shapes
Both bodices are made of 12 panels; 6 green and 6 red. The velvet used seems to be an exact match, and ditto for the gold trims on top of the seams. The insides both have white cotton drill lining, and with a waistband. The waistband is just a tiny bit smaller than the costume itself, and attached on each seam. This anchors the bodice in the waist and makes it stay put when dancing. It is however not a dance specific detail - it can be found in tons of Victorian bodices. A nice, period detail. The costumes are boned, with metal boning put over the seams, in small pockets. The one with a skirt has black cotton pockets, while the one without a rope skirt has white cotton pockets, and also some additional rigilene boning in between the panels. This colour difference can also be seen in the band around the neck opening at the inside, to prevent wear and tear - one is black, the other is white.
One of the biggest surprises when studying the costume was the biggest trims used vertically on the bodice. It's sparkly from all angles, and rather wide. It's always appears so ornamental in photos, and now I understand why. It's made of a semi broad trim; a silver weave with gold outerlines. This has been looped backwards, on the left, then on the right, then on the left again etc, to create pointed folds. Think a Pink Ribbon as starting point, the ribbon always folding backwards, every other way. I've tried to demonstrate it with a green ribbon with gold outerline underneath. To achieve a good result, it's essential the ribbon is identical on both sides. The narrower trim is also metallic, with small stiff loops on each side, reminding of an agraman. It seems like the broad one is consistent in most European and even Canadian versions of the costume, while the narrower one varies greatly. The Hamburg one seems to be extraordinarily narrow compared to what's used elsewhere.
The wristbands are circular in front, and with straps going around the wrist. They seem to have a buckram core, with gold lamé fabric wrapped around. The inside it lined with a black felt like fabric. One large and two smaller gold appliqués are sewn to the gold lamé, and red and green "gems" are attached on top, in a "flower" pattern echoing that of the appliqués. They're closed with one big snap button. There is a name tag on the inside, only letters still viewable are ELAN on one, and LANI on the other. My best guess is that they were worn by dancer Melanie Luepené Turner, who was in the corps de ballet in Hamburg ca. 1995-97.
Construction of broad trim, closeup of trims, and also a closeup of the wristbands.
The "Slavegirl" costumes have fascinating skirts. It's made entirely of ropes, in alternating red, green and black, with additional gold in front. The ropes are attached to a golden belt with the infamous "crotch tiara" and "butt tiara", the ornamental curves in front and back. The belt has the same black fundament as the collar, with layers of appliquées in front and back, and with denser pattern over the hips. The ropes used are thick, extremely light-weight, and the gold cords in front has large tassels. When the ballerinas stands still, these ropes looks like solid skirts. But when they start dancing, the ropes flows with every movement, and their leps and partly hips comes to view. It makes it an alluring costume - one second dressed, the next half naked.
The rope skirt and one of the large golden tassels in front.
Slavegirl costume 1 was in good shape overall when auctioned off, but the gold appliquées on collar and belt was in a rather sorry state. I spent weeks trying to restore it. Not first and foremost to make it blingy again, but to avoid further damage. The gold appliquées are made of metallic gold cords, spiraled and tucked down. A lot of these had came loose and was stretched, and even easy to pull apart entirely. In some areas only the yellow fundament was left. In between the appliqués strings of golden beads (rocailles) has been tucked down spirals and "lumps". This creates a very nice effect, adding texture. I'm glad these weren't cut off, but they were probably not expensive enough to be re-used like the gems. But as mentioned all larger "gems" had been cut off. Thick gold threads told where the "gems" once sat, and approximately the shape. One single red one survived the cut-off, partly hidden under an appliquée.
The loose metallic threads were re-spiraled and tucked down in their original position. Plastic beads which had lost their colour got a new layer of golden coat. There are four thick gold cords in front of the skirt, with tassels in the bottom. One of them had lost the tassel and was unravelling. I stopped the raveling by stitching the loose threads in place, and when I find a matching black/gold yarn I will make a similar tassel to replace the lost one. The collar and "crotch tiara" had many thick yellow threads showing signs of where gems were previously attached. These threads were kept in place, and new gems placed over them. The colour composition is of course just guesswork, but it would originally have red and green gems, as both pictures and the one surviving gem shows. When details were mended, the costume seemed to come to life again. The shape of the collar and "crotch tiara" became more defined, and the replaced gems makes it glow. It is a beautiful item, with flattering tailoring and so nice materials.
A complete slavegirl costume would not only include the bodice and skirt, but also a golden tiara, golden wristbands, pale tights, green velvet slips and pointe shoes (often ballet flats for the Christine Daaé actress). "Slavegirl" costume 1 came fairly complete, with bodice and rope skirt, the green slips and the golden wristbands. Only beads over the shoulders and a genuine tiara is missing. "Slavegirl" costume 2 has the beads over the shoulders, but lacks the rope skirt, the golden wristbands and the green slips. Still, in total, and fantastic lot, and it's so valuable to be able to study them side by side. The green slips and the golden wristbands was a surprise gift from the original owner, and were included in my package as a bonus. That made me VERY happy.
For more info and photos, see "Slavegirl" costume 1 study site
THE DRESSING GOWN
The cream coloured dressing gown made of silks with various flounces is worn by our heroine Christine. She puts it on when she is to change from stage costume to evening gown. Her dressing room is first interrupted by her childhood friend Raoul, Vicomte de Chagny, who invites her out for supper. When he leaves, a jealous Phantom emerges from behind the mirror and whisks her away. What was originally meant to be worn in private, suddenly becomes a garment both her suitors sees her in. From a wardrobe perspective, the dressing gown enables a super quick costume change. Christine is removing the gala skirt, putting on the dressing gown, and changing from ballet flats to pumps. It only takes a few seconds, as she keeps her Hannibal "Slavegirl" bodice underneath, only peaking through at the neckline.
The dressing gown in Maria Bjørnson's design, and the one in my care
Through the mirror, Christine is taken down to the Phantom's lair, deep under the opera. This scene is one of the truly memorable ones in the musical. It's also a scene where no less than two Phantom and Christine doubles appears; one pair crossing the stage at the beginning of the title song; another pair walking down the travellator. That means at least three dressing gowns is needed for every single performance.
This dressing gown was most likely worn by a double. Construction wise there's nothing indicating that. But the size is tiny, suggesting its wearer was a ballerina. The materials for the skirt and the ruffles correspond to what the Christines wore in Hamburg in the early and mid 90s - a dotty silk for the skirt, sheer organza with lace trim for the ruffles, and rich lace for the engageants. But the bodice in this specific version is made of a plainer material; a sheer organza over a plain lining. The Christines of the era had patterned bodices. So the slightly plainer bodice and the small size makes it likely it was worn by a double.
The dressing gown correspond to what was worn by Renée Knapp (1990-94) and Colby Thomas (in 1993-94). It also corresponds to the one that was on display in Stuttgart at one point.
The dotty silk in the skirt was used in the dressing gowns in UK, Germany and Canada in the late 80s and early 90s. A black version was also used for a black robe the Phantom wears in the second act. No wonder this fabric was so popular, it has a perfect drape and the dressing gown's skirt looks as fresh as when it was new. It's in great contrast to the bodice, which is literaly falling apart. The sheer organza is ripped all over, especially at the shoulders. It's been mended a couple of times, until they simply gave up. That, combined with the style being outdated in 2002, can explain why it was taken out of stock.
I haven't worked anything at all on this dressing gown. Mostly because the rips, holes and repairs aren't a threat to the construction. Not as long as it isn't in use, and I don't plan on exposing it for any wear. In a way I like that the damages gets to tell of the many stage performances it's appeared in. But should the rips be a danger to the construction in any way, I will probably add a fabric for support on the backside and gently whip in in place. We'll see how it holds up.
THE STAR PRINCESS SKIRT
The "Star Princess" costume is Christine's Masquerade costume. As a hint to her ballet past, the pink skirt is like a romantic ballet tutu, decorated with stars. The bodice is corseted, with a pink/blue ombre effect, and beaded all over. The upper part has a ruffle and more star decorations. She also wears a crescent moon tiara, a star studded mask, and blue/silver boots. She looks like the sunset in her blue and pink colours sprinkled with silver stars, and has gotten the nickname "Star Princess".
Seen here is only parts of the costume - the star studded pink skirt, and the blue/silver boots. These two items were auctioned off at Neue Flora Theater in Hamburg around 1995, and was bought by a lady working in the costume department. The skirt has a name tag on the inside saying "Name: Colby T. Rolle: Christine. Szene: Maskenball". In other words, this skirt was worn by Colby Thomas, Christine in Hamburg from 1992-2001. This was her second skirt, and I'm honestly not sure why it was auctioned off. It's in very fine shape, apart from some minor repairs.
Maria Bjørnson's design, the skirt before being sold, and the skirt in my care
Colby Thomas was Christine for over 9 years. Obviously she went through several costumes, even the "Star Princess" one which doesn't see too much wear and tear through dry cleaning, floor work and other things slowly breaking down the fabrics. Colby Thomas wore at least three different "Star Princess" skirt styles, and she might have worn several of the various styles. The first shows a fairly triangular skirt with a straight hem and semi stiff fabrics. The stars are big on top, and gets gradually smaller towards the hem. This was worn ca. 1992-93. The second one shows a more bell shaped skirt with softer materials. The hem has also gotten tabs, and the stars are applied in mixed shapes all over the skirt. This was worn in the mid 90s, ca. 1993-95. The third style shows the same bell shape and soft fabrics, and the same kind of tabbed hem. But this skirt features tiny stars on top, getting gradially bigger towards the hem - opposite of the first skirt. The skirt also seems somewhat longer. Here's Colby Thomas in her three skirt styles:
Left: ca. 1993. Middle: ca. 1995. Right: ca. 1998.
Type wise, the skirt in my care definitely belongs to the middle style. Bell shape, soft materials, mixed stars, tabbed hem. It might even be the very same Colby Thomas wears in that middle photo - there is a slight shortness in the second layer of the hem in front, which is present both in the stage photo and in the skirt in my care. The placement of the stars also corresponds. But whatever the case, it places the skirt in the mid 90s, and it can't have been all that old when auctioned off.
To my big surprise, I discovered that though the skirt appears pink, there is only one - ONE pink layer. The costume design describes an ombre effect, where the underlayers should be blue and the outer layers pink, so when Christine dances you get the full scale of colours. This particular skirt has a dark blue fundament, gradually fading to pale blue, then grey, then silver, then pink, and a neutral netting layer with silver stars on top. This gives an idea of the build-up (the all-blue photo shows the reverse of the skirt):
The various layers of the skirt.
For more info and photos, see "Star Princess" study site
THE "WISHING" DRESS
This is the only personal dress we see Christine Daaé wear throughout the show. Which is quite a feat, seeing she has some 12 costume changes throughout the show. But for the most we see her in opera-within-the-opera costumes, or her dressing gown. The "Wishing" dress, or the Blue 2nd Managers, as it's known backstage, is worn in the second act. Christine has just learned the Phantom has chosen her for the leading role of his brand new opera, and she's in the manager's office to discuss this further. She also wears it in the Mausoleum scene, where she sings "Wishing You Were Somehow Here Again". The dress is one of the most iconic costumes of the show. Throughout the musical's soon 30 year long history, all but a handful of dresses has been made of the same floral blue silk. Adorned with velvet details, tassels, trims, appliqées, lace and a waterfall backdrape, it is a Victorian dream of a dress.
Maria Bjørnson's costume design, the restored dress, and auction photos of the dress
The blue silk is said to be unique to "Phantom of the Opera". It might have been originally, but it's since appeared many other places. In the original West End production they featured the "civil" Hannibal princess dress in a purple version (1986). The same purple fabric later appeared in the movie "The Piano" (1993). Blue versions could be seen in costumes in "Forsyte Saga" (2002) and Lincoln (2012), while a golden version appeared in "Dangerous Liaisons" (1988). And those are just the ones I've spotted, there might be several out there.
The "Wishing" dress is in a neo Baroque style, emulating the mantua dress of the late 17th and early 18th century. But where the mantua would consist of a petticoat, stomacher and overdress with a draped train, the "Wishing" dress has gotten a Voctorian construction - separate bodice and skirt, additional apron, panniers and waterfall backdrape. The backdrape is further underlined by the use of a bustle and a stiffened petticoat. The bodice is boned, so the actress don't have to wear corsets or other kind of underpinnings. The front of the bodice has a "faux vest", meaning it looks like a jacket worn over a waistcoat. The "faux vest" is of velvet, as is the collar and cuffs. The velvet parts are usually decorated with appliqées, or sometimes even beading like in this dress.
This dress still have the name tag inside: "Production: Phantom. Character: Christine. Renee Knapp. Manager". Renée Knapp was the original Hamburg alternate when the production opened in 1990. She took over as principal in 1992, and went back to alternate in 1993-94. She also had a guest appearance in Melbourne, Australia in the autumn of 1991, doing a 4 month fill-in. Renée Knapp is one of the tallest Christines ever featured in the Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, being around 1,80 in height. This is obviously reflected in her costumes. It might also account for why this particular costume was never altered, and eventually taken out of stock. But in addition it is severely faded. In some parts of the bodice the blue colour is all gone, only leaving a pale mint green shade showing how the fabric weave and dye originally featured a blue silk shot with green. This accounts for the changeable quality of the silk, sometimes appearing royal blue, sometimes pale blue, sometimes turquoise. The fading is at its worst around the shoulders and neck opening, and continues down the bodice and top of the skirt. The back is in much better shape. This makes me think it might have been on display at one point, exposing the front to damaging sun rays? Though I don't know where and when this would eventually have happened. It might also just be from the stage lamps, where the back is partly protected by the wig, and partly by the cloak worn in the Mausoleum scene.
For more info and photos, see "Wishing" dress study site
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