All Things Fashion DC | Stage Costume Meets Your Wardrobe: Anna Bolena at Kennedy Center
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Stage Costume Meets Your Wardrobe: Anna Bolena at Kennedy Center

Anna Bolena Inspiration

04 Sep Stage Costume Meets Your Wardrobe: Anna Bolena at Kennedy Center

by ATFDC Contributor Sophie-Marie

This Fall, the Washington National Opera is staging a production of Gaetano Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, an 1830 opera about the final days of Anne Boleyn, the second wife of King Henry VIII and mother of Queen Elizabeth I of England. Popularized by Maria Callas, Beverly Sills and more recently Anna Netrebko, the opera is one of my favourites, as much because I’m a huge fan of Anne Boleyn as for the wonderful music and for the exquisite vocal acrobatics (when executed properly…) that are so characteristic of bel-canto style.

I do find a lot of fashion inspiration in opera (such as here, where I had done it for Brünhilde’s costume in the Met’s production of Richard Wagner’s Ring…); I think I love the challenge of finding wearability from stage costumes. Before starting, let’s set a little soundtrack:
  •  The famous duet scene where Jane Seymour tells Anne that she is the other woman Henry is abandoning her for. Explosive. Sung by Maria Callas and Giulietta Simionato.
  • The madness scene. Donizetti is famous for his madness scenes (Lucia di Lammermoor, anyone), and this one is exquisite. Knowing Henry doesn’t love her anymore and is having her executed, Anne looses her head. It is incredibly touching. Sung by Maria Callas.
So with no further ado, here’s how to infuse a little bit of Anna Bolena in your fall-winter wardrobe.
Fur cape: Anne Boleyn is famous for having walked to the scaffold adorned in rich furs and carrying herself with the utmost dignity until the end (this is why she rocks, really). On a day-to-day basis, you can opt for a fur-trimmed cape; it’ll keep you warm and has something very royal to it.
Crystal-embellished cape: If you cannot stand the idea of wearing fur, skip the fake variety (it looks way too much like shredded plastic… so not queen-like) and opt for a dark cashmere cape. I love the crystal detailing on this one; it looks like a cross (and we know the Tudors were very religious) but without being too much.
Dress: Without being an actual Tudor costume, this dress has the very typical Renaissance neckline, which is subtle but very chic.
Earrings: Henry VIII constantly showered Anne Boleyn with extravagant jewelry, even while he was still married to his first wife, Catherine of Aragon. Chandelier earrings are very typical of the Tudor era, and purple is a colour fit for a queen.
Corset: When asked, Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, who sang Anna Bolena last year at the Met, said that she wore “Victoria’s Secret” under her period costumes. To stay slightly more within the era, here comes this exquisite sculpture-like corset. Actually, it’s so lovely it could be worn as a dress (but you need to have the guts to pull this off…)
Hat: Anne Boleyn was reputed to have introduced the French-style hood to the English court, as she had spent her youth as a lady-in-waiting to Queen Claude of France. Since you can’t just parade around with a Renaissance hood (although, again, if you really think you can pull it off…), a cloche hat is a good alternative. It has this French touch to it.
Tudor costume: Halloween is coming soon, and if by then you go watch Anna Bolena at the Kennedy Center and you’re so moved (as I am certain you will be) that you feel the need to honour Anne Boleyn by dressing as her for Halloween, this is the perfect costume. Be sure to pair it with the famous B Necklace that helped identify most paintings of Anne Boleyn, and now is an essential in almost every Anna Bolena production. It is a little cliché, which is why it should only be worn for Halloween, so everyone knows who you are.
To learn more about Anne Boleyn, visit:

To learn more about the WNO production and purchase tickets, visit:


Sophie-Marie was born in a small French-speaking Mediterranean country and moved to the DC area in 2006. In 2010, she started her freshman year of college at NYU in Paris and then took a gap year during which she used her free time to blog ( and cultivate herself as much as possible. History, languages,  film, anything about the 1950s and before, literature (19th century French Romanticism is my favourite), opera, are among the many things that inspire her and her style. Follow her on twitter @miss_sonushka