A letter written by Richard Wagner to a firm of Italian couturiers in 1874 and only just published in the Wagner Journal, suggests that the composer of Der Ring des Nibelungen might have been more Brünhilde than Siegfried. In the letter, he details how he would like them to cut an outfit supposedly intended for his wife. “The bodice will have a high collar, with a lace jabot and ribbons; close-fitting sleeves; the dress trimmed with puffed flounces – of the same satin material – no basque at the front (the dress must be very wide and have a train) but a rich bustle with a bow at the back, like the one at the front,” he wrote, adding, “And so: richness of the material, width, ruches, flounces, bustles, ribbons – all to the good: but none of those basques attached by means of pins etc.” Wagner Journal‘s co-editor says the letter “adds weight to the theory that the composer exhibited the tendencies of a cross-dresser.” (The Guardian)
Rumours about his proclivities circulated during his lifetime. His disciple, Hans von Wolzogen, who published a guide to the Leitmotifs in the Ring, recalled that Wagner had once appeared dressed in a lady’s jacket. Another anecdote recounted that Wagner had escaped from his creditors in Vienna in 1864 dressed in women’s clothes.