Education is never out of fashion. Neither, it seems, is fashion ever out of education. Style-consciousness has spurred a continuing debate nationwide about dress codes, the advantages of uniforms, and the range of freedom of dress advisable for schools.
Last week, San Francisco Opera Guild co-presented an extraordinary fashion show with Saks Fifth Avenue to benefit our education programs, featuring the hot young designer Erdem. The intersection of opera and fashion is centuries old. Through history, opera performances have been dress-up occasions, with competition in audience attire often rivaling the drama on stage. And costumes, of course, form a critical part of characterization and the mise-en-scène of a production.
In our education programs it’s an exciting moment for students when they get their costumes. George Lucas, a veteran Guild director who has created costumes for our signature Opera à la Carte school programs for more than twenty years, remarked on the transformation students experience the minute they don a costume.
Many of the Erdem designs on view last week had a distinctly theatrical bent, incorporating bright colors, vivid patterns, and rich textures. But as George, with his long career as a tailor, pointed out, they work not only because they are inventive, but also exquisitely shaped to look natural on the body.
A highlight of the evening was the appearance of three of our students, following the runway show, in costumes from Opera à la Carte productions. (I heard tell that backstage the Erdem models were coveting the outfits for themselves). As George explains, building costumes to be used interchangeably by hundreds of students has its own set of challenges. For our young performers, clothes make the man, the princess, the solider, and even occasionally the dragon. It’s one more avenue for them to find outward expression of their inner voices, in a context where being a little over the top is not only permitted, but encouraged.
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