“I never meant for it to happen. If anything I assumed I would find it tolerable, or at best, vaguely enjoyable. Never did I expect to develop the instant intensity and emotion that inevitably ensued.”
This was how I began the letter I penned to Peter Gelb, the General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, in the summer of 2016. Little did I know that one performance of a lifetime would take my life in a new direction.
Going into my first opera, I didn’t know what to expect. But I did know one thing: I wanted to dress up for the opera ! Starting with scarves and skirts from my closets, the dawn of a new phenomenon occurred, which I often describe as “cosplay for sophisticates.”
When I attend a live opera broadcast in the movie theaters as part of the Metropolitan Opera’s Live in HD series, I dress the part. “Theming” each of my outfits around 1) a central character in an individual opera, 2) the historical time period in which the opera takes place, or 3) the regional dress of the geographical locale in which the opera is set, I classify my opera outfits into three alliterative categories:
A Costume is a garment that I usually have to build from the ground up and can generally only be worn as a costume. They include historical fashion and character specific garments.
Closet outfits are the easiest: they involve ready-made garments from my mother’s closet, my own closet, or articles that others have either lent or gifted to me. A Closet classification can also include supplemental accessories/garments made with household materials.
The Couture classification refers to high-end garments that can be worn to real-life events. Typically, they require more specialized sewing techniques and are undoubtedly more expensive to produce.
These are the fundamental foundations of my opera outfits─ all of which can all be combined with one another to create unique looks of varying degrees. Expanding on my creative classifications (and alliteration advocacy), I have now included Casual and Chic as other modes of dress (but usually not for the operas). Occasionally, I have the opportunity to sew for Children and then there’s the Cuisine category: recipes that have been relished as part of the Met Stars Live in Concert watch parties I’ve enjoyed with my friends.
Many have asked why I do what I do: why do I spend my time, energy, and money to play “dress up” to the theater ? And while there are numerous answers to this loaded question, my answer is simple:
“Dressing up is half the fun !”