Raise your hand if while clothes or shoe shopping you’ve found yourself asking store clerks to see if you can get something in black so you can use it for concerts as well as daily life, or worse, simply NOT buying that amazing pair of red patent leather peep-toe heels because you can’t wear them for concerts.
……..oh look, IT’S ME!!!
Yeah, I’m not surprised. As a classical musician, I have a hard time NOT thinking in classical music terms regarding all sorts of life choices.
In my experience, the proper attire for a classical orchestral musician will likely be defined as fancy all black for women, a tuxedo for men, and a wide range of additional specificities. Some of these rules make sense, some do not, and many are completely out of date and need a re-vamp!
When looking at what stays and what goes, there are a few important questions we need to ask ourselves -
Is this wardrobe welcoming to first-time Symphony attendees?
Does this inspire folks to want to continue to attend the Symphony?
Are musicians comfortable with the rules?
The most important thing is for musicians to connect with their audiences in meaningful ways, so let’s not miss out on finding those connections in either our performance OR our wardrobe.
THE THINGS WE LOVE
Having one uniform
All black or black and tuxes creates a blank canvas for your audience. This means the artistry of the performers and their music can shape the audience experience instead of the visual impression or potential on-stage distraction.
You can generally dress up or down all-black attire
By changing the type of fabric or shoe worn, adding certain accessories, or going all out (or not) with hair and makeup, one can still be creative and individual with a basic uniform.
You don’t have to wonder what you’re going to wear if you only have the option of wearing a tux or solid black. Let’s alleviate stress where we can, shall we?!
This uniform prevents the orchestra from looking more important than a soloist, which is tantamount to upstaging a BRIDE at her wedding!
All Black….All the Time
What if all-black really doesn’t fit the bill, like kids' concerts or pops concerts? Sure it can work, but I LOVE being able to add a little “holiday flare” to the holiday pops concerts I play with some orchestras, and the audience LOVES the change of pace.
What if we were able to connect with our audience on a different level by changing up our wardrobe. Consider adding a few more “dress up” opportunities in your season outside of the winter holiday pops concert. Here are some ideas: “Color-pop concerts” on Valentine’s or St. Patty’s Day, as well as for seasonal or nationality-themed concerts, a Hollywood, Disney, Western, or Pirate themed concert with an opportunity to dress up for both the orchestra and audience, maybe even a Baroque, or Classical Masterworks series where you can dress like the time period, or perhaps a Masquerade?
I say we scrap the gender-specific part altogether. Simply have all requirements apply to all persons. If it’s a concert that requires tuxes and fancy black, then anyone should be able to wear a tux or fancy black, regardless of gender identity or expression. Let people be comfortable, both with how they look AND how they feel when playing.
*GASP* Her ankles (or toes, or forearms...or whatever, it’s dumb!) It comes as no surprise that rules for womxn’s attire make up the bulk of the rules for Concert Black in general. Men: tuxedo. Women: a laundry list of items.
Sleeves and skirts. What if we’re in a really hot environment and I literally NEED a tank top to not pass out while playing? Or what if I have a super full coverage dress but it only extends to the middle of my calf?
Really?! Ok, I haven’t seen this one much, but Y’ALL....sure higher quality fabrics than that of a black sweatsuit or skinny jeans generally looks better, but MUST you add yet ANOTHER requirement for me to attempt to figure out what I can wear at a reasonable price?
Though it’s likely always going to be a hot topic in our world, why not kill two birds with one stone by adopting rules for Concert Attire that are not only comfortable and affordable for musicians, but innovative and progressive as well. Music is an immersive experience!! Let’s start bringing folks together from all walks of life in more ways than one.