Nowadays, as Opera show has gone world-wide, it has become a must-see in Beijing for the tourists. Apart from the featured facial make-ups, Opera show has another highlight—the costume. Now let’s get close up to it.
The costume style in Opera show is based on Ming style of both court and civil people. Contrasting colors are matched frequently in deep red, deep green, white, black, yellow and blue, and many embroideries were done with gold, silver and colored threads. Respective styles are also designed for kinds of roles in different ages, statues and occupations. Due to the scarcity of props in Opera show, costume takes on added significance. Costume originally serves to distinguish the rank of the character being played. During the Opera show, you would notice that the emperor and his family always wear yellow robes, and high ranking officials wear purple. The robe worn by these two characters is usually called python robe. It is a costume suitable for the high rank of the character, featuring brilliant colors and rich embroidery, often with the design of a dragon. As far as Opera show is concerned, characters of high rank or virtue wear red, lower ranking officials wear blue, young characters wear white; the old wear white, brown, or olive, and all other men wear black.
During the Opera show, you may also find that on formal occasions, lower officials always wear the kuan yi, a simple gown with patches of embroidery on both the front and back. All other characters, and officials on informal occasions, wear the chezi, a basic gown with varying levels of embroidery and no jade girdle to denote rank. If you pay particular attention to the Opera show, you may notice that all three types of gowns have water sleeves, long flowing sleeves that can be flicked and waved like water. It’s said that these sleeves are waved or flicked to denote emotion or mood. Tertiary characters of no rank wear simple clothing without embroidery. Hats of the Opera show tend to blend in with the rest of the costume and are usually matched with embroidery. Shoes may be high or low soled, the former worn by characters of high rank, and the latter by characters of low rank or acrobatic characters.
Nowadays, the magnificent costumes in Opera show have enjoyed an equal popularity with the colorful facial make-ups. They have even influenced the fashion industry.