Phantom of the Opera is known for its lavish production standards but the single most iconic element from the show is the Phantom’s mask and his facial deformity.
As it stands, the Phantom get a few costumes all of which are memorable, so like my other page comparing Christine's musical costumes with the movie counterparts, this page is going to compare the Phantom’s costumes from the stage show and the 2004 movie version.
Every cast version has a slightly different look to the Phantom’s mask and facial deformity, so for somewhat continuity this page primarily uses Ramin Karimloo’s Phantom depiction.
Movie costumes designed by Alexandra Byrne.
Musical costumes designed by Maria Bjornson
It has been long established in the musical that the Phantom has a white half mask to hide his deformity. The half mask is also for ease of singing. Every mask is different since it is made for the actor playing the role but between Karimloo’s mask and Butler's mask there are some differences that are beyond just face shape.
Difference number 1, Butler's mask is more circular. It doesn’t really add any other details than just covering the face. Karimloo’s mask on the other hand is more angler and exaggerates his features like his eyes, nose, eyebrows and lips. It also has a curve detail at the forehead.
Both masks fit the style of their intended media, the movie has a subtle approach and the show has its grandiose details. Comparing them is like apples and oranges, well maybe more like an apples and mangos. If I had to pick however I would go with the movie mask and here is the reason, the mask is meant to hide, to blended in, that is its purpose for the Phantom. The musical version seems to flaunt it which is opposition to its existence.
Point goes to the movie.
The Main Costume
Out of the few costumes the Phantom wears, he wears his main suit the most. The suit has a few layers to it, most notably his hat and cloak, which have their own section below. The suit mainly consists of a jacket, vest, shirt and pants. The Phantom wears the suit mostly with the jacket on till the finale when he takes it off.
The basic idea of these versions is the same, a sophisticated elegant suit but the approached is quite different. The musical opts for more of an evening dinner white-tie look that is monochromatic with moire silk and velvet detailing.
The movie version is more casual by comparison and that is by no means a negative, the costume has a more day time vibe. It has a few thing in common with the its musical counterpart like it’s mostly dark tone and has the same velvet detail on the label. Unlike the musical, it sports an ascot and brown patterned vest. He also wears black leather gloves.
The musical version is better though as it fit the Phantom’s flair for the dramatics.
The Cloak and Hat
Without a doubt the cloak is the Phantom’s most dramatic article of clothing and the hat, or rather his fedora, is the most beloved part of this main costume. Karimloo’s hat as featured here is not the standard fedora as it has feathers and the movie does not feature a hat at all. So for the hat, the musical wins by default.
The cloak isn’t that much different between the versions, as they have the same basic shape with a similar labels. Though it looks like the movie version is made with a thicker fabric. As is standard with the musical, the musical has more details to its cloak as it has beaded embroidery on the front.
It has to be a tie on cloak.
The Red Death
Just going to say this right off-the-bat, comparing the Red Death costume is unfair. The Red Death costume is the Phantom only real costume change in the musical. He wears this when he crashes the Masquerade. The concept for this costume is lifted from the book and it’s pretty much based on the costume wore by Lon Chaney in the 1925 movie version.
In the musical, the Phantom wears a full skull mask, a massive hat with feathers and gold trimming and a renaissance looking outfit with huge puffy sleeves. The costume has lots of ribbon details. It very over-the-top in a great way. It’s a statement costume and a show-stopper or in the case of the narrative a party-stopper.
The movie version by contrast is much more subdue and streamline. He is pretty wearing a red velvet suit with a half skull mask. Much like Christine Daae’s masquerade costume, this one doesn’t feel like a costume in the same way as the musical. It is more costume-like compared to Christine’s pink ball-gown but for costume in a movie that is meant to be a costume in the story, it just doesn’t work. It a decent interpretation of the musical version but it doesn’t measure up.
Double point for the musical.
The Point of No Return
During The Point of No Return the Phantom takes the stage with Christine. The musical and the movie take vastly different approaches to this costume.
In the musical the Phantom dons a full cloak and hood which disguises him from Christine who doesn’t know it’s him till she feels his mask through the hood. In the movie it is super apparent that Christine knows that it’s the Phantom. Most people have complained about this aspect in the musical, that Christine should have recognize the Phantom’s voice even with hi wearing a cloak.
In the Movie, Phantom dons a cape, a leather mask, a ruffle shirt with a black jacket and pants. The cape has some floral details with pom-pom trim that matches the tango-like mood of the scene.
So we have one costume that is a full back cloak that muddles elements of Christine’s character and a costume that looks like it should be on a romance book cover. Movie gets the point though I would point out that the mask used in this scene messes-up the deformity as when Christine takes off the mask, it's clear that mask wouldn’t have covered it all.
The Facial Deformity
Let’s be real here, this comparison is unfair because the movie went WAY too subtle. The Phantom’s deformity, the source of his isolation and madness is a sunburn. Sure, means he has a flaw but devil child, this is not. I can’t tell you how disappointing this “deformity” was when the mask was pulled off. I don’t believe that this would have isolated him from society as freak of nature.
The musical version featured massive distorted lips, exposed holes, and general unpleasantness. In this version you can see some exposed brain. He looked grotesque which is perfect for his character. He is meant as someone you can’t look at without fear.
No contest, musical gets the point.
The Ruffle Shirt
Before we conclude, I just want to mention the movie’s Ruffle shirt. The Phantom wears a ruffle shirt periodically throughout the movie. There is no equivalent to it in the musical.
Unlike Christine Daae’s costumes that have more differences between the movie and the musical, the Phantom’s costume are pretty close to each other betweens the adaptations.
There is a split on points for the costumes but it considering the crux of the Phantom’s character is his face the musical has the better costumes plus the movie doesn’t have a fedora.
Musical has the better costumes.