Ardent feminist ex-communist designer Miuccia Prada is handling the costumes for the Met's upcoming production of Verdi's opera Attila. But according to an anonymous source on set, Prada has balked at dressing anyone who couldn't fit into a sample size.
Attila's non-singing supernumeraries — the opera's extras — had been cast months ago. But when Prada met the supernumeraries in person yesterday, the designer allegedly told the producers that there was no way she could outfit them with her costumes. As Paper's Peter Davis reports, a tipster says she "took one glance at the women and groaned: 'I cannot clothe them! I need models!' "
The Metropolitan Opera swiftly fired the non-model extras and threw together a casting for models who would take their roles. "Employing models is ridiculous," says Davis' source. "Being a supernumerary is about how you move, not how you look." The Met confirmed the abrupt about-face to Page Six, saying the re-casting was "due to a change in concept."
Prada has long been a sort of intellectual hero for a certain kind of woman: those who, and I class myself among them, respect the craft, beauty, and artistry of high fashion even while being put off by its materialism, its insistence on acknowledging only the merest sliver of the world's supply of female beauty, its pageantry of excess.
With her doctorate in international relations, her self-awareness, her covetable pretty/ugly aesthetic and obvious design chops, Prada always seemed like she got it. The existence of someone so level-headed, so reasonable, in an industry of puffery was living proof that it was possible to love fashion without forgetting or ignoring that there are very solid grounds on which it can be criticized. That she did not see a flat-out contradiction between being a smart woman and working in her industry was heartening. In 2004, she told the New Yorker "Today I am having a crisis. And why? Because I can't match a dress with a pair of shoes. I am embarrassed to say that. But in the end I cannot forget what I do. I make clothes. It's silly. But it's my job."
She's a serious art collector; she had a slide installed in her office; she used to be a mime. She always sounded pretty damn cool. So why the hell, of all people, is Miuccia Prada telling actresses to step off and let the skinny, pretty people have their jobs? Surely she ought to recognize that the most important part of a stage production isn't how it looks, but how all the elements come together to make the audience feel something — and while one might argue that these are "only" non-singing roles, it still seems fundamentally short-sighted and wrong-headed to institute a beauty standard for a production like Attila. Miuccia Prada is the last person I would expect to see a roomful of women with non-model bodies as problems to be solved, rather than as people to be dressed. And what must it say about her confidence in her own design skills that Prada balked at adjusting her designs to suit a different physical ideal? Consider my girlcrush canceled until further notice.