To make a kimono from scratch

To make a kimono from scratch

Posted by Opera Gal in Costumes, Madame Butterfly 19 Sep 2014

Our costume department is making a brand new wardrobe for this year’s production of Puccini’s masterpiece, Madame Butterfly. Witnessing the process, from start to finish, has been dazzling. So, I thought I would share some of the steps that it takes to create a kimono from scratch.


First, we hired a designer. She provided us with sketches for every costume that look like this one.

Artist Sketch

Next, our milliner crafts artisan, Anna Marie, tests which dyes to use to get the colors to match what the designer has drawn.

Testing Dye

The silk gets stretched out on a wooden frame.

silk on frame

 Then she draws the designs (freehand!) using a product called resist which causes the dye to stop traveling along the fabric.

Resist on silk

After she has drawn out the design, she begins painting with the dye.

Anna Marie dyeing silk by hand.

Once all of the dye has been applied, Anna Marie hangs the panels to dry.

The silk is hung to dry.

When the panels are completely dry, she folds the silk between newspaper end-roll (thank you Media One) and hangs it in a contraption on the stove to steam the silk and set the dye.

Steaming to set the dye.

After steaming the silk panels, they are sent to the cleaners to have the resist removed. When the gray color of the resist is gone, clean white lines are left behind.

Resist removed

Then, it’s time to start building the kimonos.

Starting to piece together a kimono.

Our costume shop is a hotbed for talent. Not only do they have Anna Marie, whose abilities range from dyeing silks to making hats and everything in between, they also have a wonderful staff of tailors to put the costumes together. I watch in amazement every time they build costumes (for us, other opera houses, TV shows, the list goes on). They construct custom patterns out of butcher paper, sew together muslin fittings (when needed), and then bring the whole piece together.


Nearly completed kimono.

The kimono above is nearly completed. Keep in mind that this process is being repeated for 24 kimonos and that there are still other costumes (which are not kimonos) being made. I cannot wait to see these vibrant colors on the Capitol Theatre stage in October.

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  • Utah Opera's Madame Butterfly October 13, 2014 at 9:45 am / Reply

    […] Utah Opera’s production was nearly flawless, from the set to the costumes and especially the singers. The handmade kimonos created a burst of colors as the chorus came on stage during the first act, coinciding with the entrance of Cio-Cio San, played by Yunah Lee, who announced her presence with her angelically beautiful voice. (Read more about the painstaking process to create the kimonos on Utah Opera’s blog here.) […]

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