Designers are also using stage costumes to create dramatic looks on red carpets and catwalks with long gloves and dramatic coats.
The world of sopranos, Wagner and vibrato is usually considered more classic than cutting edge but, thanks to Beyonce, who wore a pair of sheer opera gloves with her Schiaparelli couture gown to the Golden Globes last Sunday, opera and its sartorial trappings are having a fashion moment.
It wasn’t something she did alone. Celine Dion stepped out in a Marc Jacobs floral opera coat late last year. This was the same month as Lil Nas X attended American Music Awards wearing a Granny Smith-green suit from Christopher John Rogers. Rihanna wore single opera gloves and lingerie at her Fenty show in September. Lana Del Rey wore a pair opera glasses in 2018, as an accessory. Oper gloves were seen on the autumn/winter catwalks of Ralph Lauren and Balmain. Richard Quinn, a British designer, designed striking floral opera coats in pinks and greens.
Although it might not be a popular trend, you can easily find an opera coat on vintage websites. Pinterest searches for opera outfit saw an increase of 50% in December 2018 and 2019 while those searching for opera coat saw a 30% increase.
Dents, an old-school luxury leather goods brand, noticed an increase in demand for its extra-long gloves. It was founded in the same time as Mozart was likely to get his first girlfriend. It now makes opera-style gloves more than ever before.
Fashion designers love the grandeur of opera. Dolce & Gabbana presented a show that was inspired by opera at La Scala, Milan. They were trying, as Steffano Gabbana told Vogue at the time, to translate the drama in the music into the movement of the fabric. Gabbana said, “Opera” is drama. It’s very Italian drama. Some people have become costume designers. Comme des Garcons’ Rei Kawakubo designed the costumes for a production of Orlando at the Vienna opera house last month. Gianni Versace and Karl Lagerfeld also ventured into the worlds of divas. Valentino Garavani designed frothing couture costumes for a production of La Traviata in 2016, Miuccia Prada designed distressed leather coats and cycling helmets plumed with feathers for a production of Giuseppe Verdi’s Attila in 2010, and Christian Lacroix, who designed for many operas, most recently worked on a production of Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro.
Kanye West, a Yeezy designer and opera lover, starred as Mary in his second movie at Art Basel in December.
What is it that opera does to strike the right fashion notes? “Designers understand the shape of a body, the way clothing should support, how clothing can give expression to the way in which we move,” says soprano Aida Garifullina, star of the Royal Opera House’s current show La Boheme.
“That level of understanding is what a singer wants, and it is so obvious when someone has a deep understanding of both art forms.”
Natasha Mackmurdie is a costume supervisor at ENO. “The emotion that opera brings to someone can be extraordinary,” she says. “The combination music, voice, and design draws people in and can leave one breathless,” says Natasha Mackmurdie, a costume supervisor at ENO.
The garments worn by opera-goers traditionally reflect a sense of glamour and opulence. These include the long, below the elbow gloves, and the dramatic collared coats made with expensive fabrics. These garments have a retro appeal, but they are being updated. Prior to the Golden Globes, Beyonce had worn a pair of opera gloves by Lebanese brand Jeux de Mains.
Salim Cherfane, creative director, says that he gave a traditional clothing item a modern twist. His playful, colour-blocked design “attracted a lot of people” who previously viewed opera gloves as a boring and outmoded fashion item that was losing its relevance to younger generations.
Die Zauberflote meets pop royalty meets fashion … what’s not to love?