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V.com weekend vote: How comfortable is your concertwear?

The Weekend Vote

Written by
Published: July 10, 2015 at 9:39 PM [UTC]

I've long heard complaints from my male colleagues about the uncomfortable nature of wearing a tuxedo while playing the violin. Judging from the enormous response to Kevin Yu's invention of a tux shirt inspired by the comfort of athletic shirts, this seems to be a common problem!

Tux, full view
Photo by Sil Azvedo Photography
Men are often required to wear tuxes, though not always. By contrast, as a female who usually simply has to wear all black, I find that there is usually a range of options that allows me to choose clothing that is both formal and comfortable. Sure, I can wear something uncomfortable if I choose, but I can also wear something that looks nice but feels like pajamas.

Also, many playing situations allow for completely different kinds of clothing. A soloist can choose his or her own kind of dress, such as Anne-Sophie Mutter's sleeveless gowns. A pop musician might be attired in jeans and leather!

So I thought I'd see where the general level of comfort or discomfort is for men vs. women. And once you answer the appropriate poll, describe what your concertwear is, especially if it's a little out of the ordinary.

Please vote in both polls so that you can see the results of both:

MEN:

WOMEN:

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From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 10, 2015 at 9:59 PM
Sorry for the typo in the female poll, should be "somewhat uncomfortable" not "somewhat ncomfortable."
From Paul Deck
Posted on July 11, 2015 at 3:31 PM
While the comfort of a tuxedo can be greatly improved with proper tailoring, generally the tailor takes measurements and applies chalk marks while the gentleman is standing with his arms at his side. The tuxedo garment is not designed for the athletic aspects of violin playing. For me, just the amount of fabric that I'm expected to have in my shoulder and neck area is too much and it interferes with my playing. I don't want to play the violin with a jacket on, or even with a collared shirt or any kind of tie. It always looks stupid when a violinist is wearing a bow tie, and then the tie is scrunched to one side while he is playing. Kudos to Joshua Bell and the others who have dispensed with this foolishness and paved the way, hopefully, for eroding the public expectation that male musicians need to wear "monkey suits." Ideally a super-comfortable but still elegant single-piece garment lacking any sort of collar can be devised that will be entirely sufficient on its own without any sort of jacket. I have watched orchestras where the men are wearing tuxes, and orchestras where the men are wearing basically tee shirts, and there was no difference in my enjoyment on the basis of what they were wearing. Already the uniformity is wrecked by the women wearing basically whatever the hell they want to wear. If you go to black (or white) (perhaps long-sleeved) tee shirts then you can make the women wear them too. Just need some kind of relatively wrinkle-resistant fabric.
From 96.91.213.186
Posted on July 11, 2015 at 3:56 PM
(I'm female.) I actually realized that I identify as Masculine of center as a product of realizing that I'd rather wear (traditionally) men's dress clothes for concerts. I was performing at a fundraising event early one morning and I looked around at my fellow musicians and asked, 'Why do I feel like I have to wear a paper-thin, hyperfeminine while standing up in front of a bunch of people on a cold day at 7 am when these guys get to wear clothes that sufficiently cover their bodies?" Well, it turns out that men's concert dress is not just more physically but more socially comfortable for me.
From Paul Deck
Posted on July 11, 2015 at 8:41 PM
The comment that was posted above does not surprise me. I'm glad you do what works for you even though it might not meet someone else's expectations. I've overheard men say that women have an easier time dressing for concerts because women can wear whatever they want (within reason). But therein lies a significant problem: choosing. Men just wear the same thing every time and nobody cares or comments on it, unless it's badly ill-fitting or the lapels are 6" wide. Women's clothing is under constant scrutiny, and I don't think that's fair.

Something similar happened a long time ago called "casual Friday". According to a version of the story that I read somewhere long ago, the casual-Friday concept was invented by the Levi Strauss company as a way to ensure a market for their (then new) Dockers brand of casual wear. It was actually very problematic for gentlemen who were accustomed to just wearing suits every day to work, because now they needed a second entire wardrobe so that they wouldn't wear the same outfit every Friday. Just wearing something from their weekend clothes was not okay, because weekend clothes were often jeans or shorts or golf togs. But, at least men got a glimpse of what women have to deal with every day because they do not benefit from the uniformity of the classic two-piece navy or gray suit and other conveniences like belts, braces, and shoes with laces (slip-on shoes worn with a suit or tux are actually considered undesirable).

From Jim Hastings
Posted on July 13, 2015 at 2:55 PM
This subject has long interested me. When I was 20 and doing some small-chamber playing with four other players during a heat wave, we went the Josh Bell route -- no jackets or ties. I've done it that way ever since. So I voted VERY COMFORTABLE.

Haven't done orchestra since 21, although for more reasons than just the typical symphony player concertwear -- e.g., long evening hours and high decibels levels; but I guess that's for another discussion. Having to wear a jacket and tie made me feel too hot and confined -- not as much freedom of movement. Without the jacket and tie, I've always had better traction and felt closer, more secure contact with the instrument.

The tux shirt looks like a great idea, judging from the photo -- haven't tried one yet.

From Mark Roberts
Posted on July 13, 2015 at 2:56 PM
a tie makes it difficult to play, violin is farther away from the body....
From Laurie Niles
Posted on July 13, 2015 at 3:40 PM
From the poll results, I'm definitely seeing that comfort is an issue for the guys!
From Eric Tsai
Posted on July 14, 2015 at 2:12 AM
For me, the problem is mostly not in the tuxedo shirt so much as in the jacket. I like the looks of wearing a jacket and tie when I am performing as a soloist with piano or orchestra, but often it can get in the way of free motion of my right arm and shoulder. I am hoping that one day somebody will invent a more comfortable tuxedo jacket as well!
From John Rokos
Posted on July 14, 2015 at 1:48 PM
The Bow Tie is the real problem for me - I try to tuck the right wing of it under my collar, otherwise it's an unbearable nuisance. Fortunately of late, dress has been all black and no tie required.
From Paul Deck
Posted on July 14, 2015 at 2:41 PM
It would probably be much more attractive if pipefitters and bricklayers would wear tuxedos to work too, but they don't because it's not practical.

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