Cosplay Inspiration: Phantom of the Opera

22 Sep 2018
History of masquerading as the Phantom

A Guide to Costume Inspiration: Phantom of the Opera Masks

Possibly one of the most iconic masquerade masks of all time, the Phantom of the Opera half-face white mask cannot be mistaken. The original story told in the novel by Gaston Leroux is a timeless classic that’s been recreated throughout the decades with various film and TV adaptations putting their own spin on the character of the Phantom. As such an instantly recognisable character, the Phantom makes for good inspiration for a stellar themed party outfit or Halloween costume.

The Phantom of the Opera - 1925

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As the original film adaptation of the novel, the 1925 lon Chaney version is a black and white, silent horror film that became famous for Chaney’s self-devised makeup. The shocking makeup was enough to make viewers scream and faint, with ladies advised to take smelling salts when they went to see the film. This version is often regarded as one of the most faithful to the original novel, despite the fact that the climactic death of the Phantom in this adaptation differs dramatically from his heartbreaking passing in the novel.

The striking makeup that helped make this film iconic is revealed from behind the mask in an intensely shocking scene. The mask itself is a stark contrast to the makeup with smooth contours and regular features. Slightly unnerving is the extension to the bottom of the mask that covers the mouth and allows only for the chin to be visible. This style of mask featured heavily in the earlier adaptations of the Phantom of the Opera and increased the feeling of unease and fear in the viewers as the emotions and subtle visual cues shown in facial expressions are hidden. Copy this look by wearing a full-face or Bauta mask, tucked into a hat/cap to cover your hair and keep your mask in place.

For similar masks to Chaney’s, take a look at our Volto Bone mask, Traditional Bauta mask or the music-inspired Joker Melody Mask



Phantom of the Opera - 1943


Although it didn’t receive the most enthusiastic response upon its release, this Claude Rains remake brought a lot of ‘firsts’ to Phantom of the Opera, bringing the classic story into colour and adding a romantic twist to the historically horror plot line. The tragic one-sided romance that featured so heavily throughout the film was the precise reason for its lukewarm reception from its 1940s audience, however as the romantic adaptations of the novel have gained popularity, this remake has become a classic in the eyes of many.

Known for his persuasive acting, Claude Rains plays the Phantom who has, through a period of misfortune, turned from a talented musician to a scarred and infatuated Phantom. The mask worn to cover his scars is the complete opposite of the one worn in the previous adaptation; the sleek light blue mask with sharp lines and edges to emulate the contours of a human face, a stark contrast to the more realistic mask worn by Ion Chaney in the previous 1925 version.

The 1943 Phantom would be a great source of inspiration for anyone looking to attend a themed masquerade ball without the traditionally flamboyant fancy dress. Let the mask speak for itself by matching it with a black suit and cloak and slicking your hair back away from your forehead.

Consider our Smoking One, Colombina Grezzo or Joker Vivaldi masks if you’re looking to recreate Claude Rains’ version of the Phantom.



The Phantom of the Opera - 1962

The 1960s saw a return to the Horror genre for this Phantom of the Opera remake by the British Hammer Films company. Adopting a similar plotline to the 1940s adaptation, the reception for this film was slightly better, although the ending was not to the liking of many as the Phantom again becomes a tragic hero, sacrificing himself for Christine.

Horror films demand a certain level of sinister intrigue and terror, and the mask worn by the Phantom in this film certainly does not disappoint. If you are looking for Halloween costume inspiration then this should certainly be the high on your list of considerations. The Nitric Acid that scarred the Phantom left his face and hands damaged in such a grotesque way that he wears a full-face mask that leaves only one eye visible. The complete covering of the mouth and one eye adds to the terrifying inhuman aura of the Phantom and would create a truly stellar themed outfit for any event. Recreate this look with a black suit, grey bow tie and a matching ashen grey mask.

Consider our Volto Joker or Silver Bauta masks if you’re looking to replicate this unsettling costume for your Halloween outfit.



The Phantom of the Opera - 1983


This lesser-known TV film adaptation differs greatly from the original plotline in the novel, choosing rather to take inspiration from the previous adaptation and approach the character of the slightly mad Phantom from a different perspective. This vengeful main character returns to the opera to avenge his late wife, wearing a full-face mask after he was accidentally burned beyond recognition with acid. Like the majority of the previous versions of the story, this film keeps to a dark and suspenseful atmosphere with the Phantom wearing two different masks and only revealing his disfigured face at the end of the film.

The masks worn in this film bare the closest resemblance to a human face since the first adaptation over 50 years before. This added human aspect of these masks makes the Phantom more terrifying; create a similarly unnerving outfit perfect for a Halloween costume

One of the most mysterious Phantoms to date, Maximilian Schell fully covered his head with a hood and full-face mask, only revealing his hands briefly to play the organ. This would be great inspiration for anyone looking for an easy, yet less common themed costume for a masquerade ball, party or Halloween event.

Similar masks to the one worn in this film are our Volto Joker mask and Volto Joker Melody mask.



The Phantom of the Opera - 1986

As the large-scale stage musical debut of The Phantom of the Opera, Andrew Lloyd Webber was the composer behind this award winning production that includes songs well known to many. As a stage production, this retelling of the original story was dramatised to better capture the attention of the audience. Moving away from the previous trend for Horror adaptations, this tragic, romanticised retelling of the story of the Phantom continues to be a huge success and is the longest running show in Broadway history, having been seen by over 130 million people since the debut stage in 1986.

The mask worn by this Phantom may be more familiar to the general public as the iconic phantom mask, so if you’re looking for inspiration for an easily recognisable character, this may well be the option for you! Pair a classic white half-face mask with a dinner suit or tux and bow tie. Simple and easy, this suave fancy dress costume for men requires minimum effort and can be quickly upgraded with added makeup to add a creepy edge for a Halloween themed party.

Browse our range of iconic Phantom of the Opera masks here.



The Phantom of the Opera - 1989

Not for the fainthearted, this remake strays from the trend of the time to romanticise the character of the Phantom, opting rather to stick to the more traditionally popular Horror genre. With a grotesquely disfigured face, this Phantom wears a skull-inspired mask or the face of his victims when out of his lair.

This dark and unsettling retelling makes for great inspiration for a Halloween outfit, and with the choice between the skull mask or facial makeup it’s ideal for any party-goer. Like most of the other Phantoms, this character spends most of his screen time in a black outfit, copy this by wearing a black cloak with a black suit, shirt and tie. Add a little extra to distinguish the specific Phantom you’re recreating by adding a broad brimmed hat and long, layered black coat, like the ‘present day’ Phantom.

View our range of skeleton and skull masks here for further inspiration.



The Phantom of the Opera - 1990


A traditionally romantic take on the Phantoms character, Charles Dance embodied the perfect gentleman who was willing to go to extreme lengths to protect his love from the harsh world. This adaptation of the story was very well received, winning two Emmy Awards and nominated for a Golden Globe Award in 1991.

This elegant portrayal of the Phantom wears clothing fit for his heritage, regularly seen in formal suits with Victorian dress shirts and a gold waistcoat to compliment his golden hair colour and accentuate the white mask. Easily replicate this look with a tailcoat paired with a waistcoat in a colour to complement your own colouring and hair.

The mask worn by Charles Dance in this TV miniseries maintains the romantic approach of the whole production, emphasising his masculine features and revealing just enough of his face to show expression without showing too much of his disfigured skin. Adopt a similar approach when choosing your own mask for a themed event and select one that emphasises your favourite facial feature while still maintaining a mysterious air.

Consider our Joker Melody, Larga Gold or Giglio masks when recreating Charles Dance’s romantic portrayal of the Phantom.



The Phantom of the Opera - 1998


Taking a darker turn once more, this Italian version differs from the novel in many ways, the most notable of which is the Phantom himself is not disfigured and never wears a mask. Hardly a family film, this adaptation is rated 18 for violence, gore and sexuality and received mediocre reviews from critics. This Phantom - like most of previous portrayals of the iconic character - takes a slightly strange approach to life and his pursuit of love, however it is all understandable considering Julian Sands’ character was reared by rats in the basement of the opera house!

Another unique aspect of this version is the absence of the Phantom’s iconic mask. The only mask in this film features in the poster/promotional artwork - this mask is the now extremely familiar white half-face mask. Recreate this unique interpretation of the Phantom with a long dirty-blonde wig and dark clothing. Wear the white half-face mask to help others recognise your costume, or carry it as an accessory, along with a fake rat for a real Halloween outfit. Our Fantasma dell Opera mask is almost identical to the one in the poster.



The Phantom of the Opera - 2004


Gerard Butler starred in this modern day adaptation closely based on the immensely popular Andrew Lloyd Webber stage production. Keeping the plotline closer to the original novels than previous adaptations, this film focuses on the Phantoms ernest feelings towards Christine and his wish for her to succeed as a soprano in the Opera. Much like the stage production, this film adaptation proved extremely popular across the globe, with particular success in Japan, South Korea and Great Britain.

The iconic white half-face mask was worn by Gerard Butler throughout this film, with the exception of the black colombina mask and detailed skull mask from the ball scenes. Recreate Butler’s traditional style as your outfit for a costume party or themed Halloween event. Slicked back hair, a mask and a long dark coat are the key to successfully copying this Phantom’s outfits.

Copy the iconic style of the Phantom’s white half-face mask with a mask from our Phantom of the Opera range. If you’re looking to recreate Butler’s black ball scene outfit with a Colombina Grezzo, Larga Fiore, Colombina Cuoio or Quadra masks.




The Red Death Costume


This may not be an interpretation of the Phantom’s character in yet another adaptation of the novel, but this distinctive red outfit deserves a mention for its key role in many of the plot lines. Worn by the Phantom as his costume for the masquerade, the Red Death is loosely based on Edgar Allan Poe's short story "The Masque of the Red Death". When describing this head turning outfit, Gaston Leroux was extremely detailed, specifying that the cloak be embroidered with: “Touch me not! I am Red Death stalking abroad!”

Be inspired by this outfit and don an elaborate Cavalier costume, a large heavily plumed hat and a skeleton mask. This is the perfect look to recreate for an extravagant event or if you’d like to pull out all of the stops. Pair a skull mask from our range with your Cavalier costume for full effect.

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By: Tracy Chandler

Tracy has been in the masquerade industry for over 15 years.

As an expert crafter, she spends her time sourcing, and buying, Posh Masks designs from the Venetian artisans in Venice, along with researching, and compiling, news, views, ideas, and advice on Venetian mask history and design, Commedia dell’arte characters and masks, the modern day masquerade party and the fancy dress world of Cosplay

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