10 STYLE LESSONS LEARNED FROM MARIA CALLAS
In this post, we shall examine Maria Callas' style secrets. Maria Callas was a legendary opera signer, nicknamed 'La Divina'. Considered one of the most important and renowned opera singers of the twentieth century, Maria Callas's artistic and style legacy continues to inspire. Her stage life was relatively short, but her influence on opera was enormous. Maria Callas died in her early fifties from a heart attack, after battling dermatomyosis (a rare illness that affects the muscles) for years.
We could perhaps describe Callas as a citizen of the world. This Greek American singer was celebrated not only in her native countries (USA & Greece), but in Italy, France and England. Callas spoke four languages fluently. Maria Callas was intelligent, eloquent and well spoken. During her life, she was considered a style icon. It is her style that we shall examine in this post. I would describe her style as elegant and timeless. Callas was known for being always camera ready and beautifully dressed. However, before we get onto a subject of her impeccable style, I'll write a few words about her.
Life wasn't easy on Callas and the press often treated her horribly and cruelly, inventing scandals and exploiting her personal tragedies. I watched some interviews with Callas and I was appalled by the way some journalist talked to her. It is remarkable how in face of such incivility, Callas never lost her composure. On the other hand, Maria Callas was often put on pedestal. She was both adored and criticized, possibly more so than any female opera singer up to that time. Callas admitted to being terrified of 'glory', of feeling the constant pressure of having to perform 'a miracle'. Some describe her as a victim of her enormous talent, that drove her to strive to perfectionism. Supposedly, she put high demands on those working with her, leading her to be labelled as 'temperamental tigress'. There was and still remains a lot of speculations about Callas' professional and personal life.
What is known today is that Maria Callas had a serious illness that affected her muscles and that (combined with other factors) might have caused her early death. It is this and not 'a diva tantrum', that caused her to give up signing and step off stage. Next year it will be a hundred years since Callas's birth, so perhaps this anniversary will help to shed more light on the life of this amazing woman.
Born in New York in 1923, Callas moved back to Greece with her mother in 1937 (following her parents' divorce). Callas' career path is pretty well known to music lovers, so I shall not speak too much of that. I've been an opera lover since I can remember, but I will not pretend to know more than I do about the technical aspect of signing or about musicality. I have no musical talent or education myself. I'm neither a vocal coach, nor do I know much about signing from the technical aspect. However, as a language teacher I can testify that she had an incredible linguistic talent and sensitivity to accents, something she employed in her signing. In her speech, Callas was very extremely eloquent and well spoken. Maria Callas died before I was born, so I obviously never saw her on stage. However, from what I've seen on photographs and videos available, Callas had a great stage presence.
Now that we have talked about our diva, I shall share with you ten lessons we can learn from the great Maria Callas. I will first identify key aspects of Maria Callas style and then analyse them. Finally, I'll write about how you can employ Callas' style secrets to your advantage. When it comes to Callas' style in clothes, she was perhaps both 'a citizen of the world' and a Mediterranean lady. By that I mean, that her style was characterized by a classical elegance. She always remained a lady and a diva.
THE KEY ASPECTS OF MARIA CALLAS' STYLE
1. LUX AND QUALITY FABRICS
2. DRAMATIC MAKE UP AND HAIRSTYLE
3. TAILORED PIECES
4. STATEMENT JEWELS
5. FEMININE ACCESSORIES (HATS, BELTS, BAGS)
6. BLACK CHIC
7. DEFINED WAIST
The key elements of Callas style are: quality fabrics, tailored pieces, statement accessories and feminine make up/hairstyle. Now that we have identified the essentials of Callas' style, we can hack her style secrets. If you want to find out more about who dressed Maria Callas on stage, there's this fantastic Arts & Culture Google piece here.
10 STYLE LESSONS WE CAN LEARN FROM MARIA CALLAS
1. EMBRACE YOUR INNER DIVA BY WEARING LUX AND GLAM FABRICS
Callas often choose luxurious fabrics such as: silk, satin, lace and fur. Fur items, in particular, are perfect for adding glam to our outfits. Naturally, if you don't wear fur (like me), you can turn to faux fur or even vintage fur. Keep in mind fabrics and textiles have a timeless quality to them, so they can be a great investment. Educate yourself about textile quality if you want to shop smartly. The fabrics Maria Callas wore were often expensive, but there's always a way to get the look for less. If you are on a budget, you might find affordable lux clothing items in vintage and second hand shops. When you're buying clothes pay attention to the quality of materials. Vintage clothes is usually more quality made than what we can find in shops today (i.e. mostly fast fashion). If you can afford designer and locally made clothing made from lux materials, that's great, if you can't- charity shops it is.
2. DRAMATIC MAKE UP AND HAIR STYLE (ESPECIALLY WINGED EYE)
Maria Callas was known for her diva appearance. She always looked polished and put together. When it comes to signature beauty style, for Maria Callas it was all about the dramatic make up. She often accentuated her eyes and brows. In addition, Callas often opted for a red lip. Her make up style was quite dramatic at times, but reminiscent of what opera signers really wear on stage. It could be said that she applied what she learned at theatre to every day life. One thing that I love about Maria is how she embraced her ethnic features. The dramatic make up she wore emphasized her strong Mediterranean features rather than hid them. You could say that she fully embraced her looks, never trying to be anyone else. People change, as she said, but the core remains the same. I think that was the secret of her style- staying true to herself. In one of her late interviews you can see Callas without any foundation, but her signature cat eye make up remains. In the same way Callas' winged make up accentuated her large dark eyes, her hairstyle accentuated her dark and thick hair. Whether she wore her hair in a bun, or in a more elaborative hairstyle, Maria's dark hair was often styled glamorously. Callas' hairstyle sometimes reflected trends of the time and sometimes it was more classically styled, but it was always elegant and looked put together.
3. WEAR CLASSICAL CUTS AND TAILORED PIECES FOR THAT TIMELESSLY ELEGANT LOOK
Another style lesson we can learn from Maria Callas is the importance of tailored pieces and classical cuts. It is easy to achieve a classically elegant look if you wear tailored or timeless items. Callas often had clothes made for her. Moreover, Maria Callas enjoyed wearing classical cuts, proving you cannot go wrong with elegant classics. If you don't have classical items in your closet, you might find some in vintage shops or with vintage sellers. If you haven't already, consider investing into tailored pieces. How to get that tailored look on a budget? If you cannot afford having something made for you by a seamstress, consider investing into a sewing class and become your own tailor. It might pay off in the long run. Nothing fits as good as a clothing item that was tailored for you.
4. WEAR STATEMENT JEWELS AND CHANNEL YOUR INNER DIVA
Like many divas, Maria Callas loved her jewels. A style lesson to take to heart: 'Never underestimate the power of jewellery. ' A well selected piece of jewellery can take an outfit to a whole new level. While an average girl's jewel's collection is much more modest than those of Callas', it is important to know what you have, what you like and what works for us. If you're on a budget, consider creating your own statement jewellery- that's what I do. If you're not crafty or artistically inclined, you can look for unique locally made accessories or jewels. Today there are a lot of faux options when it comes to jewellery, so anyone can get those classical jewellery items. Whether you're investing or shopping on budget, do make sure you buy jewellery items that are in accordance with your personal style. If you're not feeling inspired, go for classics. For example, a faux pearl necklace can help you achieve that classically elegant look on a budget. I remember when bijouterie pieces were pricey, but today one can get nice looking bling for less so that's a plus.
5. WEAR FEMININE AND CHIC ACCESSORIES ( CHIC HATS, BAGS, BELTS)
Besides jewellery, there are many other accessories that can add glam to your daily outfits. Maria Callas often spiced up her elegant outfits with eye-catching accessories. Callas often wore beautifully elaborative hat styles that added to her diva style. Moreover, she knew how to select the right bags and belts to go with her outfits. If you want to create that Callas's chic, don't forget about the chic accessories.
6. EMBRACE THE TIMELESSNESS OF BLACK CHIC
Maria Callas often embraced the timeless elegance of black chic. She often wore black gowns and dresses for formal occasions. Callas wore colours (especially in her later years when she dressed in colourful caftans) but she understood the elegance of black clothing. All black outfits can be very powerful. If you are afraid of blending in, don't forget what Maria Callas taught you about accessories. With well selected accessories, black outfits don't have to be boring.
7. EMPHASIZE YOUR WAIST FOR A MORE FLATTERING SILHOUETTE
Observing Maria Callas outfits, I've realized the importance of putting the emphasis on the waist. If you observe Callas's outfits, you'll notice that she often empathized her waist, adding to the elegance of her outfits. She did this either by wearing tailored pieces that emphasized the waist (Maria Callas' style lesson number 3) or by belting her outfits (style lesson number 6). If want a more feminine silouette, putting the emphasis on the waist is the way to go.
8. HEELS ARE A GIRL'S BEST FRIEND FOR THEY ELONGATE THE FIGURE
Despite being a tall woman, Maria Callas often wore heels. She knew that heels help elongate the figure. You could say that she embraced the words of Marilyn Monroe: "Give the girl the right shoes and she can conquer the world." If I remember well, Marilyn Monroe was an advocate of wearing heels. I read somewhere that Callas liked Marilyn Monroe and I distinctly remember seeing a photograph of them together. Anyhow, if you do decide to wear heeled shoes, don't think the heel has to be high. If you aren't used to wearing high heels, consider wearing kitten heels. Nicely designed one or two inch heel can look just as elegant as a higher heel. Remember that comfort is important. From what I found online, Callas was quite sensible in her footwear choices (unlike yours truly) she never wore extremely high heels. Callas often wore classical and elegant pumps that look fantastic with everything.
9. WEAR GLOVES TO LOOK MORE LADY LIKE
I have already wrote about how Maria Callas utilized accessories to add feminine glamour to her outfits, but there is one accessory that deserves special attention and that is- the gloves. Maria Callas often wore gloves. She used this feminine accessory to add glam and elegance to our outfits. Why not try the same? Add some vintage chic to your style by wearing a nice pair of gloves. They have the added benefit of keeping you warm in the colder months. Let's not forget that gloves can help to keep the bacteria away. If you're tired of washing your hands every ten minutes, why not wear some gloves?
10. SAY YES TO A DRESS AND WEAR A DRESS LIKE A LADY
Maria Callas loved wearing dresses, didn't she? Her wardrobe famously included more than 200 dresses. That doesn't sound like such a big number these day (with fast fashion and everything) but back in the day when dresses were more expensive and better made, it was a considerable number. Not that you need to have that any dresses to evoke Callas's feminine and classical style. What you need is a dress you can feel good in- and there are budget and sustainable options for that as well (altering something you already have, buying vintage etc). If you want to wear dresses but don't know how, take baby steps. Find that one style that you feel good in and work from there. Once you feel comfortable wearing a dress you can figure out how to wear them with tres chic. The way Callas wore dresses was always glamous, elegant and chic. The historically inspired dresses she wore on stage were obviously glamous but her everyday dresses were stunning as well. If you have read all my other style lessons learned from Callas up to know, you'll know why she looked so polished in dresses. In case you forgot here's a little revision: accessorize well, choose classical cuts and wear (reasonable) heels. In accordance with her style, Callas often choose classical and feminine cuts and patterns. Later in life (she died very young so later in life for her was late forties and early fifties) Maria Callas often wore caftans and I think she looked absolutely amazing in them. Moroccan silk caftans in particular complemented her beautiful Mediterranean skin.