Wednesday, March 26, 2008

what I wore -- the opera!

This picture's neither flattering nor even very clear (in the photographer's defense, it's tough to photograph black) but supposedly it's worth a thousand words. I'm posting it because I felt good about dressing for the opera without buying anything new. While we've really enjoyed having season's tickets this year, sitting in the same seats every other month seems to demand different dress each time, and my usual wardrobe is mainly casual or work-focused. I don't regret the two dresses I already bought for the last two opera evenings, but I didn't want to have to do that again. Second-hand or vintage would be a good solution, but I just don't have the time that would take -- maybe for next year. For now, I want to keep the focus on enjoying the music and the evening out with my husband without too much trouble or expense.
So instead, I pulled out this colourfully embroidered black skirt I bought at The Gap (I know, it hardly seems Gap-ish, but they've pulled off a few successful surprises in the past) quite a few years ago for the Christmas parties. You can't really tell, but there's six inches of black fringe, knotted for the first two inches. I would have liked a black shirt to wear with it, but instead made do with my black cashmere v-neck. I've had these 9-West boots (2 1/2-inch stiletto, pointed toe, quite fitted) for a few years, so it was a free outfit that made me feel good about the state of my wardrobe.

There's such a wide range, dress-wise, even though our tickets are for opening nights which one might expect to bring out the fancy dress. I'm surprised how many people don't bother to dress up at all, wearing the kind of jeans I might have worn to watch TV back in 1985. But there are also many examples of elegant, creative, glamorous, and inspiring dress -- I wish I'd had a camera and some of Scott Schumann's nerve (never mind his whiz camera skills).

One of the best-dressed women we've seen there so far sits with her husband or partner, also very well-dressed, just a few rows ahead of us. This last evening, she wore a gorgeous burgundy peasant-sleeves-off-the-shoulder ruffly top over a pair of leather burgundy pants. Very sexy for a woman of a certain age. Earlier, she'd worn long, gorgeous evening gowns showing off a very beautiful back as she shrugged off her short white fur. Oddly, though, each evening she fails to come back after intermission -- and we've seen some great performances. Between the folks whose love for opera supercedes any concern about fashion and the ones who attend only to show off their latest wardrobe acquisition, I grudgingly give the nod to the former.

No worries about my mom's attire. She was thrilled to be attending an opera again, loving the whole evening, people-watching as well as the music -- she and my dad always managed to squeeze opera tickets out of a tight family budget, but she hasn't been in about ten years. I wish I'd thought to bring the camera with me, but instead, here's not-quite-a-thousand words -- she wore a black-and-white floral jersey skirt and matching top under a fitted black blazer. On the lapel she wore a lovely brooch with red stones, a nice piece of estate jewelry. The red was also echoed in the piping on her black clutch, and her silk scarf was black, red, and white, in a graphic First Nations design. She had a very cute, classy pair of black pumps, kitten-heeled with a patent-capped pointy toe, decorated with a small patent bow. When a young woman complimented us on our outfits as we approached the theatre, I cringed a bit anticipating being asked if we were sisters (a question I don't mind at all when shopping with my daughters!). Kidding, sort of, but really, mom looked wonderful. In fact, Paul commented the next day on some similarities he's noticed in our personal style, and although I bridled at first (that mother-daughter thing, you know?), I have to admit he's got a point.


  1. That mother- daughter thing really bugs me always has, thankfully my daughters really do look nothing like me. I too am atempting to be thrifty tomorrow by not buying a new outfit for my interview. I never do, which really irritates my sister but I think it brings bad luck and I also don't feel so bad when I don't get the job. But my sister would argue this could be a self fulfilling prophecy!

  2. You look lovely. And, I have to say that I am one of those people that feels like it is disrespectful not to make an effort for a night at the opera. If I were queen of the world I would not allow people to come to the opera, the ballet, or the theater in jeans( I dont care how much they cost). I think about all the work and effort that went into creating an evening at the opera and the least we attendees can do is to make a sartorial effort. And, I think it sort of heightens the experience to dress up. But, that may just be me. Sorry for the rant. Hope you had a great time. :-)

  3. Opera is a little lost on me, but the chance to dress up might make me rethink it. Of course, just wearing a tie to work sets me apart - people have no sense of occasion these days.

  4. Love, love, love the skirt! And I've only been to the Opera once --a few years back went to see a version of "La Boheme"* set in 1957-- but was also astonished to see people attending in jeans.

    *Incidently, my favorite part was discovering that my favorite aria (the one Musette does) basically translates to "I'm to sexy for my shirt."

  5. Good luck tomorrow, Alison!
    LBR: I'm with you -- of course, I like dressing up, but even if I didn't, I do think it's respectful.
    Thomas: There's so much to love about the opera, even if you think you wouldn't like the music (I have a classical music background, so perhaps it's easier to follow). As for the dressing up, surely if men knew how good they look in ties, etc., they'd make the effort. My guy has to wear jacket, shirt, tie, good shoes, etc., every day, and I appreciate the attire just as often -- every day!
    Pseu: If you were in charge of translating, opera companies might sell more tickets! I love it -- we see La Bohème next month and I'll be watching to see how they translate.

  6. I don't know what the opera house in Vancouver looks like, but the one here in Budapest is so beautiful, I don't think anyone would dare not dress up! I have to admit I've never thought of opera as being something I'd enjoy (Gilbert and Sullivan is the closest I've ever come to it) but I think I'll definitely have to try it here. If/when I do, I'll let you know how I get on! Patricia in Budapest

  7. Patricia,
    You know, you raise a good point -- ours is not specifically an "opera house" but a theatre that was built in the late 50s or early 60s. It's going to be renovated over the coming year, and perhaps its glamour will be enhanced and people will begin dressing accordingly. Meanwhile, you absolutely must go to the opera while you're in Budapest -- and be sure to report back!


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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