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in Period Film & Movies 3

Costume Related Films on View in UK 2005

Phantom of the Opera

By Pauline Weston Thomas for


Fashion and Costume History in Films


Short Review of The Phantom of the Opera

The long awaited PG13, 2hrs 23 minutes film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera is an enchanting, dramatic, suspenseful and sad film.  Set in 1870 Mid-Victorian Paris it is full of familiar music and graceful costumes making a spectacular musical extravaganza. The film timing was good and I left the cinema feeling as if I had been entertained. 

Christine Daa is perfect as the ingenuous heroine played by 18 year old Emmy Rossum.  She is an orphan girl being secretly trained to sing as an opera soprano by the Phantom called Erik, played by Gerard Butler.  Erik mysteriously tutors Christine the beautiful young soprano in the dungeon like cavernous depths of the Opera Populaire and as he does so, he falls in love with her.  Throughout the film Rossum performs her own songs and she does it very well too with a delicacy complimenting the age she is meant to be.

 The orphaned Christine Daa was brought up by Madame Giry played by Miranda Richardson.  But unknown to Christine the kindly Madame Giry also offered refuge to Erik many years earlier when she herself was a young girl and when he as a young boy was shunned by society and laughed at as a freak.  She rescued him from a freak show situation where he was daily abused by his carers all because his face was disfigured.

Wearing a sculptured mask at all times which almost enhances his rugged chiselled jaw line, Erik nurtures the singing talent of Christine in a Svengali like way as if he has a hold over her, which draws her to him.  He soon thinks he has found the love that can bring peace, comfort and contentment to his broken heart; a heart broken my lack of worldly love.  But Raoul, the Vicomte de Chagny played by Patrick Wilson arrives on the scenes and soon it is clear that Christine recognises him as her childhood boyfriend.

As the new patron of the opera Raoul is soon in a situation where he recognises her.  The feud between the two men continues as they fight for Christine's love.  I think most of us would not consider the phantom to be anything like as unsightly or frightening in a horror movie way as earlier film versions have shown him to be.  The phantom in this version with mask removed, is a man some of us thought a better catch than Raoul!  In Lloyd Webber's opera version the mask is now merely symbolic of a man hiding behind a cover.  The mask itself is beautifully made and a thing of sculptured beauty.

The film is full of spectacular and fantastical choreographed scenes which remind me of the boom bang, in your face effects of the fantastic Baz Luhrmann Moulin Rouge film of 2002.  I absolutely loved the film The Phantom of the Opera.   It's opera from start to finish, but somehow because one feels familiar with the songs having heard many pieces over the years beforehand, as soon as one moves into unknown musical territory it gets back on track into a familiar melody.  I normally like opera, but my husband who saw the film with me, does not usually like it and he enjoyed Phantom too.

The majority of scenes are all set within the opera house apart from the visits to the cemetery.  This setting almost totally in the vaults and dungeon like caves of the Opera house gives a sense of being penned into the opera house too.  You get a great sense of the claustrophobia and anguish the players all feel from the confines of working and living in the opera theatre premises.  As a viewer you begin to feel as if you are in the actual opera house and in the souls of both the tortured phantom and the torn Christine, who is drawn to Erik both fascinated and repulsed by him at the same time.


Short Review of Costume in The Phantom of the Opera

Well you are probably reading this review on this web site because you want to know about the costumes in Phantom and what little things were interesting and which might emerge as a fashion item.  I think I was so busy enjoying the film it's hard to be specific about so many costumes without watching it again.  Even the fantastic rich lush gold ornamented curtains of the opera theatre vie for your attention as do the simple Degas style ballet costumes of the chorus.

In brief the costume was worth seeing and was often pretty and feminine.  I'd say the diamond chandelier starburst earrings, the pink fur capelet and the swathed full voluminous skirts all stand a chance of emerging as fashion fads

In her debut scene the orphaned Christine the femme fatale wears a white Mid-Victorian styled soft dress and the most wonderful chandelier style diamond earrings.  The earrings sit atop the lobe as a large starburst and have a short link then another medium starburst, another short link and finally a third smaller starburst of diamonds.  They are exceptionally pretty and it would be great if a manufacturer copied them soon in either diamonds or cubic zirconia I think, as I kept thinking I want those when I saw them on screen prettily twinkling away!

(Since I first wrote about Christine's earrings in the paragraph above, a site reader  wrote ...... 'Well I was browsing Vogue recently and saw an advertisement for a pair of earrings very similar! They are by H. Stern. There is a picture of them on the website under advertising if you go to')
But see below - Swarovski crystal is the name to watch. 

In keeping with the hair styling of 1870 when hair was adorned with flowers with evening dresses, Christine's hair was decorated with tiny flower pieces and this also reminded me of the way evening updo hair was sometimes dressed circa 1969-1973 as well.  Maybe this will make a revival alongside the larger hair ornament corsages that have been fashionable.

In one scene she wears a lace trimmed robe which was some sort of peignoir masquerading as a tea gown.  It was divine and so feminine.  It dripped with lace and showed just enough of her creamy ivory stockings to show she was both desirable and innocent.  It is all very tasteful and chaste whilst showing the promise of what might be when this young woman would blossom.  Later there is a wedding dress scene and she also wakes without her stockings.  What exactly happened in between we are not shown (this is a PG13 film), but the loss of the stockings may be significant!

Many of the scenes are very entertaining particularly the Bal Masque (Masked Ball) which is costumed totally in black and white for all guests apart from Christine who seems to float around the ballroom in the softest of softest, pink magnolia dress.  Aspects of this setting brought to mind the famous Ascot race scene in the Audrey Hepburn film version of My Fair Lady.


La Carlotta played by Minnie Driver.

An interesting contrast to the pure and chaste Christine, is the operas house diva called La Carlotta and played by Minnie Driver.  She is everything opposite to Christine and plays her part well as over made up, over haughty and over straining her voice.  Her outfits are deliberately OTT, but wonderful with it as they are so outrageous too.   Driver is like the wicked and ugly sister all rolled into one.  Perfect casting I'd say.  Driver is the only actress who does not actually sing the high notes herself in this film.  But she can certainly act as a spoilt diva very well.

I thought Driver very good and her outfits equally fantastical.  In one scene where she exits the opera house she wears a deep plum pink softly swathed bustle dress from the first bustle period of circa 1870, all complete with a wonderful little pink fur capelet to die for and very much of contemporary fashion.  The pink fur capelet ties very cutely at the centre front and she tops it all off with a coordinating massive fur muff.  Totally over the top but costume lovers will just think wow so ridiculous an outfit, but marvellous at the same time.

In a later operatic scene on stage, La Carlotta dons a dress which is intended to be from an earlier era, circa 1770s and she wears a 2 foot high platinum white wig with it to complete the look.

The film photography is outstanding, the music always familiar, and the ending just rather sad and melancholy.  It really is very much a beauty and the beast film. 

The only aspect of it I really didn't like was the make up they used to show various actors as ageing people about 50 years later than the time of the action.  Ghastly job.  Some looked as if sacks of flour had been dusted over them.  But all in all I very much enjoyed what was a sensational production of pure spectacle, and have been irritatingly humming lines from it for the past 2 weeks!

I really enjoyed this film and would give it 8 out of 10.

The film was directed by: Joel Schumacher and produced by Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber.

You have been reading an original Phantom of the Opera film review by Pauline Weston Thomas of

Swarovski Press Release

Swarovski Crystals in the Phantom of the Opera Costumes, Jewellery and Interiors


Swarovski, the world’s leading producer of cut crystal for fashion, jewellery and chandeliers, was instrumental in creating the magnificent crystal chandelier that plays an important role in the film version of Andrew Lloyd Webber’s The Phantom of the Opera filmed at Pinewood Studios, directed by Joel Schumacher, released in December 2004.

The awe-inspiring ‘Hero’ chandelier, 17 feet high and 13.2 feet wide, is hung with some 20,000 full cut STRASS® Swarovski crystal octagons. Swarovski worked closely with the Phantom’s set designer Anthony Pratt on the design concept and construction of the chandelier, which has been produced by leading chandelier manufacturer, Tisserant in Paris, taking four months to construct and a full four days to assemble at Pinewood Studios. The chandelier weighs 2.3 tons and is estimated to be worth £730,000.

In its shining role in the film version of The Phantom of the Opera, the chandelier is a symbol of the opulence of the fictional Opera Populaire in Paris in the height of its glory in the 1870s. It also plays a central role in the storyline when, at the dramatic climax, the Phantom sends the chandelier crashing into the packed audience, setting the Opera House ablaze.

STRASS® Swarovski crystal is celebrated worldwide for its unrivalled brilliance and lustre, and for the perfection of its precision cut, which captures, reflects and plays with light, colour and movement. STRASS® Swarovski crystal has illuminated some of the most dramatic and historic interiors around the globe, from the Metropolitan Opera House, New York to the Palace of Versailles, Paris.



Swarovski jewellery stones and crystal textile applications were used by The Phantom of the Opera’s costume designer Alex Byrne to add the perfect note of romance and glamour to the costumes and accessories in the film. Christine’s engagement ring, worn prominently on a chain around her neck, is made with Swarovski’s precision cut cubic zirconia, while the lavish Swarovski shop window, into which Raoul gazes wistfully in 1919, is filled with evocative period jewels set with Swarovski crystal jewellery stones.

Since the company was established in 1895, Swarovski has supplied crystal jewellery stones to the world’s leading designers and manufacturers of fine couture and fashion jewellery. 

You can read about Swarovski fashion and jewellery today here.

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About looks at women's costume and fashion history and analyses the mood of an era.  Changes in technology, leisure, work, cultural and moral values. Homelife and politics also contribute to lifestyle trends, which in turn influence the clothes we wear.  These are the changes that make any era of society special in relation to the study of the costume of a period.Fashion History can take no responsibility for any information on the site which may cause you error, loss or costs incurred from use of the information and links either directly or indirectly.  This site is owned, designed, written and developed by author: Pauline Thomas and Guy Thomas. This site is designed to be viewed in 1024 X 768 or higher.

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 30 June 2005