Costume Design

The Character of Cloth

Houston Grand Opera teams with Arts Brookfield for an intimate look at the art of costume design

By Nick Esquer September 28, 2015

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A sketch from La Cenerentola by designer Joan Guillen

When sitting inside Wortham Theater to catch a Houston Grand Opera production it may be tough to see all the details whirling dizzily in front of you. The sets are often elaborate and colorful, the music stunning and enthralling, but attention to detail when it comes to other visuals, namely the costumes, may be hard to interpret. Sitting in the balcony or a ways back in the auditorium may not give audience members the best look at the intricate and divinely inspired costume pieces the opera has featured over the years. To place some of the company’s costume craftsmanship in the limelight, HGO has teamed with the global arts and culture arm of commercial real estate company Brookfield to give people a one-of-a-kind, up-close look with The Character of Cloth, on display through Nov. 20 at Total Plaza in Downtown Houston.

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A piece from Maria Stuarda from costume designer Jessica Jahn

“For me, this is a visual celebration. I wanted to highlight this part of the company’s art,” says Sally Reynolds, curator for the exhibit. Reynolds pulled together 11 different costumes from seven HGO productions including pieces from Aida, Maria Stuarda and Madame Butterfly. Visitors can get an intimate look at the stitching, the colors and patterns otherwise invisible to the eye from a greater distance.

“It’s really beautiful to see the rich fabrics used in these pieces,” notes Reynolds. “They’re so dramatic and luscious; very particular and peculiar to opera.”

Works from award-winning designers, including Zandra Rhodes, Christopher Oram, Joan Guillen, Anita Yavich, Murell Horton, Zack Brown and Jessica Jahn, are posted next to graphics and details about the designs. Viewers can see the overall process of the pieces from sketch to stage and all variations in between of how a costume is crafted.

“Being this close to the pieces, it’s very interesting to see the draping and lines that come together to create the costumes.” 

The Character of Cloth. Sep. 28–Nov. 20. Free. Total Plaza, 1201 Louisiana St.