Ladies - Is your hemline appropriate for the venue?

October 28, 2014 at 02:16 PM · I was wondering how to approach this subject, and maybe someone has some advice for me. I participated in a mixed instrument recital this weekend. One of the young ladies who played was perhaps a Junior or Senior in high school. Her dress was lovely. It fit her well, was flattering, and was the right style for the venue and time of day; but I had a bit of an issue with it.

If we had been performing on the same level on which the audience was seated, it would have been perfect. However, the dais was five or six steps up from the floor which meant that the hemline on the adorable dress, which was about six inches above the knee, was a bit too short.

Granted, her modesty was never in danger, but I felt uncomfortable for her. Maybe that's just me being old. It's not the young lady's fault that Junior dresses are designed to be so short. But shouldn't somebody have warned her that one should consider a slightly longer hemline when performing on a stage?

The teacher was an older male, so I didn't want to broach the subject with him. It's likely that discussing hemlines isn't really on his radar. She did not have family or friends present, and I didn't know her personally.

Whose responsibility is it to suggest an appropriate hem length? Should somebody have prepared her for notion that one should consider the view from the audience? She's a seasoned player, so this is information that I would think she should have had by now.

Replies (47)

October 28, 2014 at 02:42 PM · I always wear pink French knickers so that the boys and girls in the audience can appreciate the sexiness of the music. And my hemline is about 11 inches above the knee.

October 28, 2014 at 03:36 PM · This is one of those touchy areas where many of us fear to comment because we may be labelled 'judgemental' - and of course there's such a wide avenue of personal taste involved.

But yes...young people might just not think of hemlines and sight-lines...

There's a reason why women generally wear long dresses to perform in...

Dare I take this opportunity to also mention issues with slacks that are too short? Pant hems that ride up while the performer is seated? That show off short socks (vs. the higher dress socks) and an expanse of white (often very) hairy leg? LOL...

October 28, 2014 at 03:57 PM ·

October 28, 2014 at 04:37 PM · Classical music is sometimes described as a mirror of society it is created in. If we, for the sake of argument, expand this to the field of live performance, it is no surprise that some performers simply follow and reflect on stage what is done and expected from them outside the concert halls.

We can also perceive this is just one of many cases of female "objectification", which itself has many causes (and effects).

One of them is the trend in recording industry to use all possible attributes of a player in order to sell the product. Take any CD cover recently produced, when an artist is a female, and you will see than in 9 out of 10 cases, a special attention is given to produce photos which will, for a lack of a better term, show and highlight the visual appeal of her.

Then, there are role models, such as Yuja Wang, whose dress choices on stage brought a lots of attention.

Personally, I do not care how someone looks on stage, as long as they perform and interpret the music well.

What is interesting in your post is that there is no word about her music performance - perhaps that was an (un)intended consequence of her provocative dress?

October 28, 2014 at 04:45 PM · I shouldn't really be indulging in this thread, but it occurs to me that young women in western countries generally dress in a way that shows off their bodies in various ways. They seem to care not that we see their underwear and bxxbs, and, as a very old but still appreciative male, who are we to complain? It's part of modern life, get used to it.

And yes, I was also stuck like Rocky that no mention was made of the performance and the music. Beautiful women are always a distraction for us poor weak males. (That's probably why they do it!) But I still try and focus on the music and the performance, often very successfully. And it doesn't matter how beautiful and sexy they are, if they are not good players then I'm not impressed.

This is a realy silly thread!

October 28, 2014 at 05:01 PM · I didn't mention the performance because that wasn't the focus of my question. As I said, she was a seasoned performer.

On another note, one shouldn't tease about objectifying minors. What if she or her parents chose to read this? I'm ashamed of you gentlemen.

October 28, 2014 at 05:20 PM · It's not really a silly thread...because as a species we are very quick to form opinions based on visuals.

We also have a bewildering set of dress codes, uniforms, costumes, etc. in place that identify us to others. While the minutiae of current fashion might not be important and purely a matter of personal taste...the overall impression we present to society at large is extremely important - it tells an entire story of who we are and what we represent.

And then...take all that, in addition to performing...

If a person performs in public...they are open to being seen. If they are open to being seen, then what they wear is subject to comment.

The majority of people are also fashion that adds another layer of complexity and perhaps we place more emphasis on transient minutiae than we should.

So...we want to have it both ways...clothes do matter...but clothes shouldn't matter...and in this instance the suggestion is that only the music should matter.

That's what CDs (or some other form of recorded music) are for. You can listen and not be distracted by visuals...

But if you are seen...then how you present yourself does matter.

October 28, 2014 at 05:33 PM · Thank you, N.A. Mohr. I believe that how you present yourself is part of your performance; and that presentation should enhance, not detract from the ultimate goal of presenting music to move your audience.

Part of the art of performance is determining the appropriate attire for the venue, and the music one is playing. One wouldn't generally play in a rock concert in a ball gown, or wear a visibly stained shirt to an audition. If your clothing makes you or your audience uncomfortable, ultimately your performance will not have the desired effect.

So who is responsible for teaching the young people what will work for their performance? We used to call that "home training". But if a parent isn't musically inclined, teaching a child how to present an image on stage might not be foremost on their mind.

October 28, 2014 at 05:36 PM · Krista, I think your original question was--whose responsibility is it to suggest appropriate concert dress? At the community center where I work, the music school with which we partner always includes dress guidelines for recitals (for both boys and girls) in the recital letter that goes out to the families. In addition, the private teachers and the center staff all try to help reinforce these guidelines, it is an ongoing process.

October 28, 2014 at 05:43 PM · I suppose...if no one else has broached the topic...feel free to bring it up in a very general way that includes everyone in the group and doesn't single any one person out...

For example:

"We need to discuss what we are going to wear at our performance! Are we wearing all black or colours? Ladies! Remember your hem lines need to be long enough that nothing shows while you are seated! Men! Wear dress socks!"

...and go from there.

For our community orchestra we remind everyone about our concert dress at our dress rehearsal - or in the case of my quartet, we discuss it ahead of time at some point...

I've eased up for recitals. I used to dress more formally...but most of the other kids wear I do too. Gotta fit in you know! :D

October 28, 2014 at 07:19 PM ·

October 28, 2014 at 08:02 PM · Oh help. All the provocative and insightful topics on and this is the one with all the interest? I think a general topic on attire or the sexualisation of performers would be interesting - but one on hemlines? Really??

Why not start another on the appropriate colour of lipstick? How about 'is loose hair really acceptable'? Stockings or bear legs (Charles included)?

And, yes, here I am adding to the responses. Sigh. I thought these topics were pre-screened? If so and this was deemed if interest what does it say of the future of

Sigh again - to stay on topic - if the playing is great its OK to have a hemline anywhere between the floor beneath the podium and woman - or man's for that matter - waist. Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn.

October 28, 2014 at 08:38 PM · I find it interesting. Are we now questioning the validity of violin/performance related interests?

New topic: Who determines what topics are of interest?

IMO, there is no need to comment on topics that are not of interest.

October 28, 2014 at 08:40 PM · ...and I'm enjoying the image of bear legs too...


Now that never would have happened if we hadn't started with hemlines...

October 28, 2014 at 08:52 PM · I've been thinking about this recently b/c I filled in as a professional 'ringer' in a community orchestra where the ass't prin. 2nd vln came dressed in a short, tight, one-shoulder dress--appropriate for a cocktail party, but not for any kind of concert. Not my role to say anything, but I felt for her, since, unless someone does speak to her, she could end up in a very embarrassing position some day.

October 28, 2014 at 09:03 PM · Perhaps male performers are a little behind the times, and could also benefit by drawing attention to their sekkshule regions by wearing short kilts, or by stuffing socks down their their pants? (-;

October 28, 2014 at 09:25 PM · Should one wear knickers where the seam might show through? Or maybe no knickers at all??

I once went to a performance where the ladies hemline was to the floor so she was thankfully suitably discrete - but her dress was black, stretchy silk and figure hugging - and she rather obviously had nothing on underneath.

I never saw such a rapt audience (male and female)e - thought I have no idea if anyone noticed her playing (which was superb gypsy music)

October 29, 2014 at 12:15 AM · Nigel Kennedy is famous for getting away with a concert platform dress code that isn't in any book of social etiquette that I can think of. And his violin playing isn't half bad either!

October 29, 2014 at 01:52 AM · I figure that as long as none of her tattoos were showing it was probably okay. Maybe she's just growing fast and the dress was just fine last year.

October 29, 2014 at 02:53 AM · Hemlines are so 20th-century. What about leggings as pants?

But you asked, "Whose responsibility?" Well, if the person in question is a minor, then her attire is entirely the responsibility of her parents or legal guardian. If, as you say, they were not present, then I think you already know where the problem likely resides.

You've got to be careful though. Forcing a teenager to dress modestly could cause learning disabilities later on.

October 29, 2014 at 07:46 AM · "On another note, one shouldn't tease about objectifying minors. What if she or her parents chose to read this? I'm ashamed of you gentlemen."

Well, you brought the silly subject up!! So the shame is on you!

The best solution would be to make all performers male and female wear long black smocks which go right to the ground. That will stop all this tittle-tattle.

As Elise says, can we talk about music? And the fiddle?

I like David's comment though about male performers! Brilliant!

October 29, 2014 at 04:56 PM · I read a remark by Suzuki about not playing Mozart in jeans.

And I confess Vanessa Mae's legs distract me from her fairly ordinary playing...

I'm sorry Krysta, but we chaps are sensitive to the visual side..

October 29, 2014 at 05:28 PM · I think you're all skirting the issue here. This may be just my kneejerk reaction, and perhaps I don't have a leg to stand on, revealing my opinion here. Hem and haw all you like, but the beauty of music is more than skin deep. And just what do you all think the violin is shaped like?'s right, it's shaped like an hourglass (and that's because music is all about 'time'). So let's have no more fiddling around up there on the stage. After all, it's difficult enough to play the violin without pole dancing at the same time.



October 29, 2014 at 05:48 PM · Adrian and Sander - brilliantly put!

October 29, 2014 at 05:54 PM · I can't remember how a masterclass guest from a long time ago addressed a question from a female student but was something fairly offensive like "As long as your peers and audience members do not feel like they're your newfound Gynecologist then nobody will care that much." yeah...he went there. He was like 60 or 70 years old, so... >.<

Oddly, it's about all I care about. Anybody can dress how they want appropriately long as one doesn't feel like they're in that dr. office or hooters and the likes. =P

Haven't come across too too many inappropriately dressed ladies or gents. I'd say the worse offender was the guy, who decided he wanted to dress like a model in a skin tight tux...his fly was open. That didn't end well.

October 29, 2014 at 06:06 PM · Heifetz had high standards and lived in a time when one didn't readily discuss such things. So he used his female assistants to lay down the law on hemlines and other issues relevant to young women.

October 29, 2014 at 06:29 PM · Hemline length correlates with the economy:

I wonder if its also an indicator of classical music interest? If so maybe the shorter they are the more concertos there will be.

Hoist the mainsail....

October 29, 2014 at 06:38 PM · The conductor of one of the local symphonies I play with was out for cancer treatments most of last year but he came to all the concerts. When he returned to the podium he laid down the law about dress attire. He said that as an audience member he saw way to much of what he didn't want to see and reminded women why dresses of a certain length are necessary. He also came down on guys wearing white socks with their tuxes.

On another note, I invited a woman to one of those concerts and she said that one of the flute players dress was not only short but that she was wearing no underwear. From her vantage point - with the stage higher than floor seats - apparently she could see everything because the woman sat like a guy.

These things are worth correcting or else people will be coming to hear classical music for the wrong reason.

October 29, 2014 at 07:49 PM · Bev, put like that you have made a very good point. Let's keep the music as the main focus.

October 29, 2014 at 08:07 PM ·

October 30, 2014 at 03:35 AM · Wow ... Sharon Stone in the flute section. Awesome.

October 30, 2014 at 08:28 AM · To be fair to the OP she did write "LADIES, is your hemline etc."

So we blokes should really not be poking our noses in here at all, as this is a girlie thing. Sorry if I seemed flippant!

October 30, 2014 at 08:35 AM · It may be a girly thing, but it's the blokes who get all hot and bothered!

October 30, 2014 at 09:02 AM · maybe we're going about this all wrong? what if all the women dressed as if they were rock stars - what effect would that have on classical music popularity? Why must classical musicians look prim? Perhaps they could dress appropriate to the music effect, not the music age?

Actually, if you look at some soloists that's already the case....

October 30, 2014 at 12:01 PM · As it is, don't we try to minimize the influence of appearance on things like auditions by putting the soloist behind a curtain?

October 30, 2014 at 12:09 PM · Yes, it is a slippery slope - imagine an orchestra made of the most handsome/beautiful and sexy classical musicians available!


I don't think the topic would be on hemlines any more (which was weirdly Victorian anyway...)

October 30, 2014 at 03:22 PM · While I have fun seeing everyone else have fun...

Getting back to the OP...let's not confuse fashion with appropriate dress/'costume' for any given occasion/event (...trying to cover all options gets tedious...not to mention hard to - my apologies...)

Unknowingly revealing one's private parts, in some form, especially if you are young and just not thinking of such things - is a valid concern and not acceptable at most public venues (we'll leave nudist colonies and their rules out of this discussion).

I don't understand why it would be trivial to discuss it...because it obviously happens often enough to warrant comment...

Children learn by seeing and by doing...but sometimes they also need to be told what might not be obvious to tell them!

October 30, 2014 at 03:23 PM · BTW...if I walk out of the ladies room trailing toilet paper...or if I have lipstick all over my teeth...or broccoli stuck somewhere...

Do let me know...

November 8, 2014 at 04:01 AM · >I think you're all skirting the issue here. This may be just my kneejerk reaction, and perhaps I don't have a leg to stand on, revealing my opinion here. Hem and haw all you like, but the beauty of music is more than skin deep.

Oh, Sandy, how I do love you and your responses. Still hilarious/insightful, after all these years (of my reading them). : )

Blame the issue all on Yuja Wang. She's made short, short skirts very "in." There it is. Ain't nothing gonna change that. Fortunately, her music-making is very noteworthy, as well. When it gets scary is when the music is lousy and only the attire is noteworthy.

November 8, 2014 at 09:11 AM · Good point, Terez. That little red dress earned her a whole page on the LA Times.

But listen to her Rach...

November 10, 2014 at 12:51 AM · Dimitri - I LOVED her Rach. Saw it in 2012 with the SFS and was dazzled.

November 10, 2014 at 03:51 AM · Hotness as hedge? If your playing career falters, you can fall back on your looks. Anna Kournikova comes to mind.

November 11, 2014 at 01:42 AM · I didn't know she played the violin?

November 11, 2014 at 02:51 AM ·

Like they say, "less is more."

July 4, 2015 at 05:15 PM · Why shouldn't she, Malcolm - Heifetz played tennis!

July 4, 2015 at 11:47 PM · As the mother of a teenage performer; I suggest that someone privately mention the audience's point of view.

To be honest, considering what the dress looks like from below wasn't on my radar, until now. If I was sitting in the audience and saw more than was intended I could and would say something; but I'm often not there.

It is very hard to find concert appropriate clothes for girls who need to shop in the Juniors Department; especially if they are very small. As a matter of fact I haven't seen any dresses in the Junior Department that are knee length. They're all about fingertip length. That was long enough to wear to school back in the old days of mini-skirt patrol. They look nice on slender young things...but! that's probably too short for a view from below.

I'll pass on the message: wear a full length dress if you're going to be UP on stage.

I guess that means I'm going to need to ship another formal dress as requested for summer camp.

July 5, 2015 at 02:36 AM · Summer camps could request that performers wear khaki shorts and the "camp tee shirt". You'd be doing everyone a huge favor.

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