“There are certain shades of limelight that can wreck a girl’s complexion.” Audrey Hepburn
In case you are wondering, today’s blog has nothing to do with the Rolling Stone’s “Paint It Black;” nothing whatsoever. It wasn’t until I was typing the title out that the Rolling Stones connection came to me. And speaking of the Rolling Stones; they have it easy as far as what they wear when they perform, which is really what today’s blog is about.
Like many groups in the early to mid-1960s, the Rolling Stones wore matching suits, thin neckties and the same haircut. As the world of Rock’n’Roll matured, how they dressed to reflect trends, and possibly, start trends, evolved. Anything they wore was fine because they were Rock Stars, and they were men, and everyone encouraged them to be who they are.
Concert attire shows the audience what to expect. Most Rock Stars (I’m including all “popular” musicians, no matter their genre) wear what reflects their music, what image they would like to project, and what is comfortable enough to do what they need to do. Classical musicians (except solo singers singing in Classical concerts) wear attire that should not distract from the music they are playing or conducting. Male Classical Musicians need not worry about being taken seriously but female and non-binary musicians NEED TO and there’s the dilemma.
Male musicians, be they classical or rock or hip-hop or anything else, have always had it much easier than their female counterparts in choosing concert wear. They are allowed to be themselves. Those who are more “serious” musicians may wear the standard uniform of a tux or tails, and not have to think further about it. Or if a concert is a bit more casual, they may wear a business suit or a white shirt and a tie or a black shirt and black pants and be done with it. Some male conductors mix it up a bit with different types of collars or perhaps the cut of a jacket, but essentially, it’s usually black and pretty simple.
Female musicians, be THEY classical or rock or hip-hop or anything else, have a much more challenging time choosing concert attire so they may be taken seriously. Nothing too low-cut or high-cut or too tight or too loose or too bright of a color or too dull of a color or too much fabric or too little fabric or backless. Female musicians who are rockers or hip-hoppers or sing pop ballads usually are careful about what they wear but have a bit more leeway than their Classical Sisters. Many decide to do what they like and are either embraced or criticized; their male counterparts need not worry.
Rock Stars who are non-binary probably have an easier time than non-binary Classical Musicians. Classical Musicians of all genders must dress so as to not distract from the music. There is a standard “concert black” which many not needing to wear a tuxedo or tails embrace, as do I, but it’s a bit more complicated.
Like many folks during the Pandemic, I’ve been clearing out my closet. One day it struck me how many items of black clothing I own: tops, bottoms (pants and skirts and palazzo pants) for summer, winter, spring and fall. Some things are only to sing in and some things only to conduct in and some things I could do either. I have heavy velvets and light chiffons and a couple of tops, depending on the weather, I wear with black jeans when I stage-manage. I have things to be worn when we perform outside and it’s hot and others I can wear outside if it’s chilly. I have black dresses I can conduct in as well as a long brocade tunic, worn with flowy pants, which is one of my favorite things to wear for fall concerts. I have a good number of white tops and a dress with a white top and black bottom in the event that color combo is called for. I also have a woman’s tuxedo jacket, which is very uncomfortable to conduct in, but looks great; I save that for headshots! I didn’t mention shoes, both flats and slight heels, which I am careful to choose for the concert, time of year and comfort level. I NEED all these options. In order to look appropriate, I need to reflect the time of year, and my own comfort, when I choose what I should wear.
As a woman conductor, I have many options to choose from in the Black section of my closet but there are times I wish I didn’t need to have so many. I wish we all could just get on with the music.
Until next week, be well and safe!
I have been taking my Choral Ethics Blogs to my chamber choir’s Facebook page but am not able to this morning. See you next week!