The Hannibal Slavegirl Costume
from "Phantom of the Opera"




Going from "slavegirl" to queen Elissa in a few seconds.
(This is achieved by removing the rope skirt and attaching a grand skirt with a false bodice continuation)




KEY COSTUME
The Hannibal slavegirl costume is Christine's key costume, because it's adapted and used in several scenes in the first act. She starts out as a ballet girl, wearing the same costume as the rest of the corps de ballet. This is the red and green striped bodice with rope skirt she wears in "Hannibal". Early in "Think of Me" the rope skirt is removed during a blackout (European versions remove the golden belt with rope skirt attached, and this is the version I'm trying to recreate. The US version only removes the front piece, to mention one alternaltive), and the big Elissa skirt with faux bodice is attached to the waist. The faux bodice gives the impression of Christine wearing a pointed bodice, like Carlotta. In the middle of "Angel of Music" the Elissa skirt is removed, and Christine puts on a dressing gown, only revealing the golden collar of the Hannibal bodice. I could of course had made my Elissa costume in the Carlotta version, with skirt and a pointed corseted bodice on top. It would LOOK the same. But I wanted to be able to recreate the whole process with the Hannibal slavegirl bodice, especially since I had already made the dressing gown.


The "slavegirl" bodice is kept for all 3 costumes




THE DESIGN AND INSPIRATIONAL PICTURES


1. Slave girl costume design I, Maria Bjørnson ca. 1986.
2. Slave girl costume design II, Maria Bjørnson ca. 1986.
3. Christine Daaé in Hannibal, Maria Bjørnson ca. 1986.
4. An unused costume idea for the Degas costume, Maria Bjørnson ca. 1986.
5. Sarah Brightman in West End 1986.
6. Renée Knapp as Christine, Hamburg, ca. 1991.
7. Janine Kitzen in Belgium ca. 1999.
8. Elizabeth Mata in Mexico ca. 1999.




WHERE TO START?

This costume looks easy enough. A semi stiff bodice with alternating red and green panels - almost like an odd bathing suit - with a golden collar and a rope skirt. I started with lots of enthusiasm, and cut 8 large panels which I thought looked right. I was so sure of what I was doing that I even cut the velvet. I wanted to make this costumes quickly! But when I pinned it together to try it on, it looked horrible. The front panels were too straight, the side panels twisted in an odd way, and the whole thing was narrow and not at all comfortable to wear. Scrap. SCRAP!

I bought a better-quality velvet and lots of unbleached cotton and decided on another approach. If I got the front and back panels right, the panels next to them could only be made in so many ways. And sure enough, by concentrating on the front and back, and drafting the rest directly on the body, I started building a better bodice. The panels this time around was a lot more curved. I studied various Phantom brochures and online pictures to see where they should curve and how it should fit over the bust and around the hips. In the end I had a toile I was happy with, so I cut two layers of unbleached cotton, boned each panel, cut the velvet and then stitched it together. It looked right this time around! A piece of advice still: buy a velvet with as short pile as possible for the slavegirl bodice. This will give a more consistent colour appearance, and it will be more in sync with the stage costumes as well. My velvet is a bit too "fluffy", and the lovely green colour sometimes appears black, especially in pictures. It gives a rich look to the costume, but I think I would have choosen a shorter pile if I were to make another version.

The bodice was made of 10 panels; each panel a double layer of boned unbleached cotton, and on top a viscose velvet layer, alternate green and red. As mentioned I boned it, except over the bust. The seams were trimmed with golden ribbons, alternating between a broad and a narrow one. Along with the curved vertical seams, it gives an illusion of the waist being slimmer than what it is. Like the European and Australian versions, this one closes in the back with hooks and eyes. A bit impractical, but at least faithful to what I wanted to copy. The US versions of the costume have a zipper in front, and often also lacing in the back, making it both adjustable in size and easy to dress oneself in. I think this is smart.

A golden V shaped "collar" was attached in front. The collar has a base of unbleached cotton, and overneath there's black tafetta. On top of that I've used a massive golden ribbon with pattern of alternating big flowers and fans (see gallery). I cut out some of the flowers and used them at the bottom, a little out over the edges of the collar. This is similar to Brightman's original West End costume, whose pictures I looked at a lot. I decorated the gold with red and green "jewels", not many but enough to add a splash colour. The same method was used for the belt, the tiara and the wristbands. READ MORE HERE The belt has green, red and black ropes attached, 55 meters of each. There are also several rows of beads in the front skirt. They're forming a skirt which only look dense when moving. I love the effect. It's attached to the bodice by snap buttons, like the European versions.

The skirt consists of cording in red, green and black, in the manner of the European and Japanese costumes. Other version has broad fields of red and green echoing the panles of the bodice, while European versions use alternating red, green and black all the way around to make a dense skirt. Though I am a fan of both looks, I think the latter one correspond better with the costume design, and it's also what I intended to make originally. The original West End costume had a third look: broad fields of green and black (mixed), and with red marking the outlines of the bodice panels. I slightly regret not trying that out, because that's even closer to the costume design, but on the other hand I am much content with the achieved look.

The ropes are gathered on a thick string, alternating black-green-red-black-green-red, and then attached inside the belt. The belt was then lined so the end of the ropes is not visible. The black cording is the broadest one, while the red is the "slimmest". Ideally they would all have the same width, but I got the black and red for free (huge bolts with app. 200 metres on each). They were perfect in colour and look, so I ignored the fact that they were different in size, because it saved me huge amounts of money. I bought the green cording (probably the biggest expense of the whole costume), and I choose a size in-between the others. So the three different ropes are of different texture and width, but looks good together. All versions of the slavegirl costume use a sort of rope, except the US ones. There velvet identical to the bodice is slashed and sewn to the bodice, corresponding with the width and colour of the bodice panels. The belt is permanently attached to the bodice, except the golden front with beads.



MY REPLICA IN PROGRESS


1. The very first draft for the Hannibal bodice. Scrap!!
2. Second draft for the bodice. Much better.
3. First tryout for the belt. Wanted something similar to the ca. 1995 West End ones. But it looked crap.
4. Decided to add lots of gold instead, without copying a version.
5. and 6. Front and back of almost finished costume. Getting there!
7. The bodice without the belt, and with a tryout tiara.




1. to 3. Closeups of the belt and the golden front.
4. Closeup of the ropes used for the skirt. They have knots in the bottom to avoid fraying.




THE FINISHED COSTUME





I finished this costume looong after I first started on the project. The hardest thing was to get the bodice right. But it was also a challenge to figure out how to adapt the rope skirt to the bodice, and how to make the various golden items needed. In the end I was very happy with the costume, though. The skirt behaves very well when moving, and the collar and belt have very sculpted golden details. But when trying on the costume some years later, it was clear.... uh, the costume had shrunk. So I had to replace the original back panels to make the bodice bigger - this way I didn't have to make a new belt/rope skirt. Luckily I had more of the green and red velvet, as well as the unbleached cotton and the gold trims. The most noticable change is that the back panels now are a bit broader than the side and front ones, but I've seen that in actual stage costumes as well, so it doesn't bother me. When replacing the back panels I also started replacing the glass beads and the shoulder straps. The straps were too flimsy and the beads too heavy, making it slip off the shoulder. The current version has elastic straps and light plastic beads of alternating red, green and gold.


DETAILS


1. The costume seen from MY point of view...
2. The new strings of beads on the shoulder. Very lightweight... and coloured with nailpolish!
3. Close-up of the wristbands.
4. Inside of the bodice, with bound fabric ends and boned panels.
5. The beads on the shoulder. Some are of glass (=too heavy), and need to be replaced.
6. Collar with various "gems" attached, inspired by Sarah Brightman's original West End costume.
7. Ditto for the belt front.
8. The rope skirt, made of three alternating ropes, and with strings of beads in front.
9. Various golden appliquées used to make the collar and the belt.



MATERIALS USED FOR THE SLAVEGIRL COSTUME

FABRICS AND TRIMS
*1,5 metres of green viscose velvet (bodice)
*1,5 metres of red viscose velvet (bodice)
*3 metres of unbleached cotton (double layer of bodice lining + base for belt and collar)
*0,5 metres of a black silk tafetta (belt)
*5 metres of a broad golden ribbon (covering panel seams)
*6 metres of a golden agraman ribbon (covering panel seams)
*3 metres of a gorgeous, broad golden appliquée ribbon (belt + collar)
*4 metres of a narrow golden ribbon (trimming outerlines of belt)

OTHER
*7 metres of rigilene (boning of bodice)
*6 golden appliquées (to fill in on belt and collar)
*55 metres of green cording thread (rope skirt)
*55 metres of red cording thread (rope skirt)
*55 metres of black cording thread (rope skirt)
*9 metres of a golden bead ribbon
*4 rows of greenish bead-ropes
*16 red and green "jewels" for decorating the collar
*app. 1700 green, red and golden beads (shoulder decorations and front skirt)
*8 hooks and eyes (back closing)
*1 metre of elastic ribbon, made skin coloured with makeup (shoulder straps)






My "Phantom of the Opera" costume replicas





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