The San Francisco Opera opened its 94th season with a pair of gala nights that gave the city a reason to dress to impress — with geographic thematic options for added inspiration. The Opera Ball on Sept. 9 was tied to “Andrea Chenier,” an Italian work based on a French poet executed during the French Revolution, so most ladies went “v” for volume — full-skirted ball gowns ready for the courts of Versailles. That included solid jewel tones, ikat patterns, florals light and dark, bold and delicate, and feathers, too. Models from Look Model Agency, in cotton fanciful Marie Antoinette wigs and gowns by Los Angeles designer Ali Rahimi, walked French poodles. Gents took a few risks, including patterned tuxedos and midnight blue dinner jackets, gussied up with jeweled studs. Want to make a man really happy on a gala night? Ask him for the time, so he can show off his watch and his cufflinks.
At the Sept. 10 world premiere of “Dream of the Red Chamber,” an opera based on an epic Chinese love story, the dress code was business (to make it easier for corporate types flying in overnight from Beijing and Hong Kong) or Chinese chic. For men, that meant dark jackets with Mandarin collars, and for women, antique Qing dynasty robes, dresses by local designers Tokyo Gamine and Victor Tung, and — for one Parisian guest who hadn’t heard about the dress code in advance — a blue cheongsam purchased in Chinatown, gussied up with a relative’s antique jade necklace — and her it-goes-with-everything travel staple, a sequined Blumarine jacket.