THE ELISSA COSTUME




"Flowers fade, the fruit of summer fade. They have their season - so do we...."



The original design of the Christine Elissa costume hardly shows any skirt at all. It rather looks like the rope skirt is replaced by a tab skirt with a small apron. Christine's legs are still visible, and there's little decorations going on in the back. When the show opened in West End in 1986 they added a very plain, dark green skirt under the tab skirt. This plain skirt had no decorations, it only served as a sort of backdrop and support for the multiple tabs, giving the impression of the costume design while also making the costume grander.

When the show opened on Broadway in 1988, the original design and the West End solutionsseems to have been abandoned. Rather, Christine's costume was a close replica of the one Carlotta wore. That was also done in Canada and Australia, and that's how most productions has done it since.



Carlotta and Christine costumes in the US (here: Las Vegas)



Carlotta and Christine costumes in Canada



Carlotta and Christine costumes in Aussie style (here: the World Tour)


In Japan and Europe, on the other hand, these hybrid costumes were continued, slowly moving towards the design of Carlotta's Elissa dress, but never copying it. I assume this is why red skirts occurs every so often. As the actual design shows no skirts, while tradition made it a common feature, the costume makers was free to use the colour they preferred, as long as it was within the colour scheme of "Hannibal" (red, green, golden, black). This is also why Christine costumes often don't have any decorations on the hem. Which again gives us as similar, yet different costumes as these:




Red skirts, stripy skirts, green skirts, with a decorated hem, without a decorated hem.... Nothing of this is specified in the original costume desing (as it only features the tabs and the apron), so it's up to the costume maker.

For this reason, it is hard to give a general description of this costume. There are so many different features. But the general costume consists of a big green or red skirt, often with a pleated hem. Overneath the pleated hem there's usually golden X shaped ribbons, plus tassels. There are 3-8 beautifully decorated tabs/spears hanging down over the skirt, and on top there is an apron (opposite colour of the skirt) with golden decorations. The backside mostly shows waterfall backdrapes, though variants can be seen. The skirt has a false enlonging of the Hannibal bodice, so that the big skirt is only attached over the bodice, while it in fact looks like the bodice goes over the skirt. This is to echo Carlotta's separate bodice and skirt, as well as allowing a very quick costume change to take place.

So basically, this costume consists of the Hannibal slavegirl bodice with this big skirt on top. But the rope skirt of the slavegirl costume is removed, either wholly or partly. The costume also calls for a scarf to "play" with. The main colours of the costume is green, red and golden - the colour scheme of "Hannibal". Because of lots of golden details, "jewels" and sequences, the costume sparkle a lot on stage and looks very extravagant in an antique way. The V&A museum in London seems to be the owner of the costume sketch showing Christine in "Hannibal". They've noted on this sketch that "Bjornson’s designs must have been produced while the production was being developed because her annotations include both information for the costumier and reminders to ask the director to clarify certain points before she finalises the design." It also notes that "...Maria Björnson uses the favoured fabrics of the 1980s for ‘Phantom of the Opera’ - embroidered sari fabrics, gauzes and lamés.".

Read more at V&A's website


POSSIBLE INSPIRATION


The first one is a French fancy dress sketch from the early 20th century. The costume overall is not too similar the Elissa one, but the tab in front being gradually wider at the bottom and ending in fringes reminds a lot of the Elissa and Princess costumes worn in Hannibal. The emphasis on the breasts and the arm rings also reminds. The second and third picture shows Minoan snake goddesses from ca. 1600 BC. They show floorlength skirts; one with an X hem and one with pleats. Both have curved aprons in front and bare breasts, and a corseted bodice, reminding of the costume Carlotta appears in.


Visit this site to see a picture gallery showing different versions of the Elissa costume