(8/28/00 3:47:18 am)
|orchestra dress codes
Can't believe what I read in The
Times Newspaper a couple of days ago:Two articles.
Cover up, conductor tells fat fiddlers BY DALYA
ALBERGE, ARTS CORRESPONDENT
WEIGHTY women musicians should not
bare flabby arms in sleeveless outfits when appearing on the concert
platform. Nor should they show unsightly posteriors in unflattering
trousers, a leading conductor said yesterday.
Leonard Slatkin, principal conductor of the BBC Symphony Orchestra,
said: "I tend to favour covered arms, especially among the
violinists. You don't want to see too much flapping about." He
added: "Then there's the problem of women in trousers. If you're
slightly heavy in the rear end department, it does not look too
good. Of course, not everyone acknowledges that and no one's going
to tell them, which is why we need an across-the-board rule."
Women were not his only target. Turning his attention to the
men, Slatkin said: "If . . . you're slightly overweight, the
cummerbund will make you look even heavier. Actually, the only
really important thing is that no one stands out and detracts from
He voiced his concerns at a time when orchestras,
and even soloists, are discarding black tails and gowns, recognising
the allure of fashion in wooing younger audiences. The London
Philharmonic Orchestra is allowing its female players to wear a
politically correct trousered tuxedo; the Scottish Chamber Orchestra
has them appearing in multicoloured "jewelled" jackets over black
trousers or dresses. Slatkin, however, suggests that
instrumentalists go back to a "relatively uniform look". His views
found support from the cellist Julian Lloyd-Webber, who said: "If
you've got 80 to 100 musicians on stage, they have to wear some kind
of uniform. Otherwise it's distracting. You find yourself focusing
on how many dots someone has got on a dress."
month's Classic FM magazine warns the traditionalists: "There is a
danger that the orchestra in its tail coats and starched white shirt
fronts may come to be seen as nothing more than a fancy dress
Yesterday, the women vigorously defended their
"dress rights". Jane Glover, who is conducting the BBC Concert
Orchestra in Gilbert and Sullivan at the BBC Proms on Saturday,
said: "Women look great in trousers . . . Some frocks people wear
also make people look frightful. You can't say 'trousers bad,
dresses good' in a 1984 George Orwell way." She dismissed the
concept of a regimented visual look: "That's a horrible idea. Most
players would agree." She added: "The most important thing is the
music. The second thing is that the players should be comfortable.
Both men and women have been rather bound at the neck - the wretched
bow tie and stiff collars. Musicians are athletes, not tailors'
dummies. They sweat a lot. They work hard. It is terribly important
that they should be comfortable."
While accepting that black was
more appropriate for a requiem, she said: "If it's a jolly
programme, let's have fun with it." Cowen Margaret, a rank and file
violinist with the English Chamber Orchestra, said that trousers
looked "nice, as long as they are not tight jeans". She agreed,
however, that arms should be covered up: "I think women in bare arms
don't look good, especially the bowing arm, as you see the muscles
A spokesman for the Scottish Chamber Orchestra said
that jewelled jackets were worn in summer, as they were perceived as
"festive". The rest of the year, the players were in black. She took
issue with Slatkin's views. "I don't see why women should look worse
in trousers than men," she said.
This is not the first time that
orchestral dress has sparked debate. Last year, musicians from the
English National Opera were in revolt after a violinist was told
that she had to wear trousers to perform at the Millennium Eve
performance in the Dome. Orchestras, keen to avoid visual
distraction from the purity of their playing, have always been more
conservative than solo stars such as the violinist Vanessa-Mae, once
photographed in a wet T-shirt. The violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, one
of the world's greats, is promoted as the first of the sexy
fiddle-players, appearing in strapless Dior gowns. She has always
denied that she trades on her image. "Why not wear strapless gowns?
I like the violin to be next to my skin. The music is the most
One of Britain's foremost violinists, Tasmin
Little, spoke of the importance of a concert's visual presentation,
from the lighting to dress. But she lamented society's emphasis on
how someone looked "spilling over into classical music". A violinist
such as Ida Haendel, 72, might not get as many concerts as she
should because people were more interested in seeing young talent,
"particularly if they happen to be pretty".
Jennifer Bate said that repertoire and a concert hall influenced her
choice of outfit. If performing in a church, she was careful not to
offend anyone, whereas at the Wigmore Hall she recently wore
"something really revealing, a décolléte back and front" to
challenge the instrument's "dusty, musty loft image". She warned
those exposing audiences to bare arms: "The older you get, the
better you have to dress."
Some orchestras now offer guidelines.
The BBC Philharmonic, which is about to return its women players to
dressing in black after three years in aquamarine dresses, is asking
them to avoid bare shoulders because they draw attention to a single
Nothing, however, can compete with an orchestra
director who recently insisted that his female players did not wear
underwear because it "spoilt the line of the dresses". A friend of
one of the musicians said: "He even wanted to inspect everyone to
ensure that they weren't."
So what is the bottom line, Mr Blobby? BY
DOES it matter to music lovers how orchestras
look? I vividly recall a Festival Hall concert played by the Berlin
Philharmonic in the mid-Eighties. The players' suitcases had not
arrived and they were forced to go on stage in ordinary clothes.
Since the average German musician's idea of casual dress is a dark
suit, polished shoes and sombre tie, the audience did not notice a
tremendous difference. The Berliners, however, were clearly furious
at this public humiliation. They laid into Brahms' Fourth Symphony
with a fury that defied description. It was one of the finest
concerts I have heard.
Some may feel that Mr Slatkin is unwise
to pass comment on the appearance of others. The cruel wits of the
British orchestral world have nicknamed him "Mr Blobby".
Nevertheless he has reignited an old debate. In the early days of
the Soviet Union, Russian orchestras advertised their solidarity
with the proletariat by wearing overalls. They dispensed with
conductors and decided each tempo by vote. Both innovations were
Early in his career with the London Symphony
Orchestra, André Previn started a trend for wearing polo-necked
sweaters under his dinner jacket. In the mid-Sixties, this was
considered rather chic and dangerous. In reality the only danger was
that he would expire from hyperventilation.
Then several British
orchestras went through a hilarious "May Ball" phase, forcing the
women players to wear puffy, gaudily-coloured ballroom gowns. Nigel
Kennedy introduced the distressed-punk look to classical concerts,
about ten years after it had been abandoned elsewhere.
Anne-Sophie Mutter, the gorgeous German violinist, has worn a
series of gravity defying strapless, backless gowns. She maintains
that these help her bowing-arm technique.
The only posterior
that the audience can usually see is the conductor's. Back to you,
(8/28/00 6:49:25 am)
orchestra dress codes
Interesting. Though I'm not sure
why, if the article was about orchestral clothing, the paper kept
citing the dress codes and opinions of soloists. I agree that flappy
arms are a distraction and that a uniform dress code is important.
But it's amusing to see people say "the music's what's important" to
support diametrically opposite opinions. It's like the idiotic
aphorism, "there are only two kinds of music; good and bad." As if
there's any agreement on which genres go into which pile.
(8/28/00 9:28:26 am)
I recently got hold of a catalogue
intended for choruses, choirs, school performing groups etc (no, not
band uniforms) . . . and I wondered if any orchestras had made the
choice to have performers order from one source like this. I'm sure
several such companies exist; this one is Tuxedo Wholesaler,
Scottsdale, Arizona 1-800-828-2802. They have a range of formal
attire for both sexes, including comfortable, tasteful and
reasonably priced formals women can actually move in. Black, colors,
black with some jewel tones or decorations, sheer jackets, etc.
We had a discussion about clothes last year and all agreed
that some compromise is needed in individuality, if only to spare us
extra worry, expense, arguments and mistakes. I'd love to be in a
performing group which passed around a reasonably priced catalogue
and said, "let's vote to select our top 3 or 4 choices from among
these, and negotiate from there." Maybe you in orchestras can get
your personnel manager on the mailing list for a wholesaler.
(8/28/00 10:51:35 am)
orchestra dress codes
It is true what Slatkin said, though
I can't believe he said it. The point of an orchestra is to show off
the music, not the musicians, so even if you can wear that kind of
stuff and look good, you probably shouldn't. I agree with the
standards, all black or black and white, personally. Our orchestra
wears white shirts and black pants or skirts. One sixth grader, who
obviously hadn't been paying attention (or wanted some attention
himself), wore a blue shirt and khakis. He looked RIDICULOUS (and he
was all anyone saw, so we all looked ridiculous).
And comfort is
a worthless arguing point. It takes time (I think it took me a
couple years), but you can find clothes in dress code that are
comfortable and affordable.
(8/28/00 11:04:41 am)
If these conductors have such a beef
with the orchestra members' concert dress, let them persuade
management to bargain re it the next time contracts are negotiated,
eh? Wonder how far they'd get?!
Edited by MaryK
at: 8/28/00 11:04:41 am
(8/28/00 11:08:17 am)
CSO management suggested changing
our dress code away from the traditional tails, etc. Many of us
voted against it, citing that such uniforms are the last vestige of
dignity that we may have. I'd like to think of concerts as special
occasions and I don't mind donning tails as my "work clothes".
Besides, I really don't believe that our appearance is the most
significant reason that ticket sales are down. I think classical
music's commercial problems are of a much "loftier" nature.
(8/28/00 11:08:20 am)
I do like that "no underwear"
policy, though . . .
(8/28/00 6:59:49 pm)
didn't we see that coming??? *sigh*
(8/28/00 8:08:42 pm)
I remember when I was younger,
people dressed up more. While comfort makes sense in many instances
nowadays, I still have a special place in my heart for that "night
at the symphony" or a nice dress-up dinner. I know the food tastes
the same, the music sounds the same, but there is an appeal about it
for me. There is just something about the black and white -- it's
classic, distinguished, and quite elegant. I hope they don't do away
with it. My favorite animals are pandas, penguins...
other side of the coin, I can see where it is ridiculously
confining, but I just know when I'm sitting in the audience, the
look is part of the whole experience. I don't think I'd feel the
same about it if I was looking at a sea of colors and styles. Again,
I think it's what you grow up with, and this is an image that is
"tradition" sort of burned into my brain. I am resistant to change,
as you know. A character flaw.
(8/28/00 10:33:31 pm)
I'm with you. I like the special
occasion feeling of dressing up. I always regret having no occasion
in my life to REEEEALLY dress up. Even all in black, I always wear
my sparkly bracelet and clean all my jewelry for a concert. And now
that my hair is all cut off, I'll probably even wear a pretty pin or
two in it, come concert time! I wouldn't even WANT to do anything
that would actually stick out, though.
I think the
uniformity of traditional orchestra attire makes the group seem
stronger and more coherent. And, I think the dressed-up uniform is
important because it offers class and elegance.
December concert of one of my orchestras last year, the women were
allowed to wear jewel-colored solid tops - but that was supposed to
be scattered throughout the orchestra, lending a uniform look of
festivity, just like multi-colored christmas lights. I thought that
made sense, too.
(8/29/00 3:22:48 am)
I don't see anything wrong with the
formal look - as Mr Stucka says, a concert is an occasion.
do agree that women (and men as well) should make sure that their
clothes fit! Maybe they should leave the skin to the soloist. I
don't think having a set "uniform" for women is a good idea. Most
choirs and orchestras I've seen with that always have about 5%
looking OK and 95% looking terrible.
As long as there is
some sort of "code" for the ladies - i.e. no shorter than elbow
length sleeves, ankle lenght skirts or dresses or trousers it is
fine. And as for flappy arms and large posteriors? Well, it's about
how you feel, isn't it! And black is a slimming
You men should just be greatful that you
don't have to face such dilemmas
(8/29/00 6:18:38 am)
I should clarify. When I say
"uniform," I simply mean "code," as others may call it. Be it all
black, white tops/ black bottoms with men in dark jackets, men in
tuxes, whatever, I think it aids in the presentation.
(8/29/00 8:01:57 am)
I agree. When it's all black,
nothing/ no one/ stands out and the music itself can be enjoyed more
even by those who like to watch. I still, and always will, recall a
concert I watched in which one of the violinists was a young woman,
with slightly heavy legs, wearing a very mini skirt and playing with
her legs crossed. (I was there as part of the auditoning process on
the conductor - so I remember him - but the only other thing I
remember is that mini skirt - and that the concert was good enough
that we hired him for our community orchestra.)
It just feels
special to play that way and draws the line I want between the
presentation and the audience. (I even had a special set of studs
and cuff links made up by an arisan in Toledo, Spain which shows a
violin and bow done in the gold thread on black that is a typical
craft of that town.)
And then, there is always the fact that
if I had to, I could wear the tux as a waiter.
(8/29/00 9:08:13 am)
orchestra dress codes
Well, I was thinking about this as I
drove in to work today. I think I've come up with the only fair and
reasonable solution. Uniforms are a very good idea -- black jackets,
white shirts, and black skirts and pants.
The descision on
pants or skirts should be made by the instruments played, not
depending on gender. I mean this is the year 2000, so the gender
thing just doesn't work any more.
This is the way I would do
Conductor should wear pants, because a skirt could restrict
the view of the musicians for the audience.
should wear pants since it is awkward to play a cello in a
Bass players should wear skirts so the fullness will
hide as much of the ugly backstage stuff as possible.
Violinists should wear skirts since it looks nice to have them
sitting in the skirts at an angle, very proper.
Violinists will be in pants so we know who they are.
players don't really need pants or skirts since they sit in the
middle, and it would be a wast of money to buy them. We'll send them
out in shirts only. Infact much of the orchestra is hidden and will
only need tops.
Well, you can use your imagination on how the
rest of the orchestra will be dressed.
Just a friendly
(8/29/00 10:14:38 am)
orchestra dress codes
"Bass players/First Violinists
should wear skirts"
Not all of them would, but I'll bet many of
the guys would object.
"much of the orchestra is hidden and
will only need tops"
Sounds like a plan OyOy would approve