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What Not To Wear At The Opera: Outfitting Sociability at the Met

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posted on 2022-10-18, 18:40 authored by Kate Marland
This research project proposes that fashion performs a critical role in the perpetuation of class hierarchies in American opera audiences. Dress is used by opera patrons as a mode of expressing their economic, social, and cultural capital, thereby affirming their status within society. The Metropolitan Opera house, opened in New York City in 1883, was built intentionally to create a space for the New York elite class to socialize, incorporating architectural features that reflected the power dynamics of New York society, effectively prioritizing sociability over musical integrity. This study is supported by analysis of early Vogue magazine articles that directly contributed to the formation of the opera as a pursuit for the upper-class; as well as a critical investigation of photographs drawn from the Met archive revealing the ways in which fashion at the Met performs economic and social power.. Ultimately, this project uses dress to examine the embedded class hierarchies that sustain an elite, exclusive audience for opera in America; indeed, the study shows that the combination of opera and fashion created class cohesion through mutually acknowledged cultural literacy in New York City.





Master of Arts



Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type


Thesis Advisor

Irene Gammel