Shop Outside the Box

Houston Grand Opera's Costume Sale Will Make Your Closet Sing

Did we hear someone say they were looking for a “Tragic Murder Clown” Halloween costume?

By Julai Whipple October 4, 2016

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Have you lately found yourself staring into the depths of your armoire, wondering WWMBW (What Would Madame Butterfly Wear)? Maybe you’re dying to update your bohemian style with something inspired by La Boheme. Maybe you’re a tone-deaf fashionista who considers Purple Rain to be the pinnacle of man’s musical performance (I might be with you there). Let’s put our musical opinions aside for a minute, because the Houston Grand Opera’s costume sale really isn’t about that. It’s about style.

Houston Grand Opera has never skimped on costume design, frequently collaborating with award-winning designers. Its shows are known for the imaginative detail poured into its on-stage styles. And now you’ll be able to pour yourself into one of these wearable confections—this Saturday’s costume sale promises a feast for your eyes and a drought for your wallet.

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Claire Hummel of HGO’s costume department promised “thousands of pieces—at least 50 racks of 8-10 feet each.” The clothing will be a mix of contemporary and vintage clothing, and “built” costumes, trending more toward vintage and handmade costumes. Where does it all come from? Shows HGO hasn’t performed in more than 15 years will be giving up pieces—Bizet’s Carmen, Herbert’s Babes in Toyland, Adams’ Nixon in China and Leoncavallo’s Pagliacci among them. (Did I hear someone say they were looking for a “Tragic Murder Clown” Halloween costume?) 

What, exactly, is up for grabs? Although HGO hasn’t finished unpacking and displaying all the pieces that will be for sale, Hummel promises “tons of hats and headpieces, Egyptian crowns, crazy patent leather shoes, big sparkly things, mantillas, sparkly skirts from Carmen, and a lot of stuff for Ren Fest, including capes.” We’re also promised “headdresses for Cleopatra, Shakespearean doublets, royal capes and crowns, kimono and wedding dresses.”

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She had me at “crazy patent leather shoes.”

The costumes, which have traveled the world with the company and received the utmost care from HGO’s costume department, would be enough. But the sale will also feature props and unused fabric, for those who prefer to sew their own costumes. Item prices will range from private box ($150) to orchestra pit ($1). I’ll see you there. I’ll be the one wearing the sparkly Carmen skirt, topped by a pharaoh headpiece and Nixon suit jacket. 

The Houston Grand Opera costume sale takes place Oct. 8, noon–4 p.m., at the Houston Grand Opera private warehouse, 1977 Tellepsen St. More information at

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