Orchestral concert clothes

Edited: February 26, 2019, 4:29 AM · I've been sarcastic before about André Previn making the LSO wear mustard polo-necks in the 70s.

In that decade our community orchestra wore black and white (tail-less) for gigs (I always enjoyed it), except for the bassoonist who wore a brown suit and yellow shirt with a yellow and brown frill (in typical 1970 style). I could wear my school uniform which was black and white, or maybe I had a spare black jacket without a badge on it.
With hindsight I'd have asked my parents for shirts with bigger collars, but I guess I wore whatever I hadn't outgrown enough to make my lips go blue.
About 3 years ago I happened to bump into the conductor and for some reason mentioned the brown and yellow - I had always assumed the conductor had agreed to it. But he said "No, I never said he could wear it, he just did it of his own accord. I always hated it." My 40 year misapprehension made me laugh.

Replies (19)

February 26, 2019, 7:46 AM · For at least 20 years I wore the tux I had bought (for $50 at a tux rental store during a business trip to San Francisco) for our younger daughter's wedding in 1981 for every performance I played. Then, thankfully, things eased up and our conductors only gave the direction "Wear black!" and I've been wearing a long-sleeve black guayabera shirt for public performance ever since.

Still have the lovely violin-decorated cuff links and button-links I had made to order for the button-less tux shirt in Toledo, Spain (another business trip) and no reason to wear them any longer.

But it is progress, in my opinion, nevertheless.

Edited: February 26, 2019, 8:47 AM · I'm also Vince Calegon btw. I'll copy here what I wrote in response to that video.

In 1986 London had a thing called the "sex maniac's ball". I think it was a kind of soft-core pretend orgy for charity. They had a string quartet (I know one of them). The women in the quartet weren't told they had to play topless until the night. They refused. However, I think naked orchestras are common nowadays. I just Googled it. May be mainly a sexist thing!?

February 26, 2019, 8:43 AM · One orchestra I play in - a university orchestra - performs in tailcoat for our "real" concerts. For various university ceremonies we are asked to dress more informally. I really hate playing in tailcoat; the bow tie gets in the way and I have problems adapting to the shoulder pads. For chamber music concerts I most often play in a black shirt with no jacket and no tie.
February 26, 2019, 10:14 AM · I've never been asked to play in a tailcoat. Most of the orchestras I've played in have asked men to wear a black suit and black bow tie. Out of eleven orchestras (including orchestras I've subbed in), there have been only two exceptions: one community orchestra had men wear a black suit with a straight necktie, and one community orchestra had men wear a black dress shirt with no tie and no jacket.
February 26, 2019, 11:32 AM · There may be a regional component to this. Most groups in Boston still use some variant of black tie (dinner jacket, bow tie). The BSO is the obvious exception-- they use tails for the evenings and black suits with long ties in the afternoons. And some of the younger co-op groups go for all-black.

I'm now spending some time in the UK, where all-black is quite standard, even among pros. I just had a good black shirt shred, so I am using a long-sleeve black polo with v-neck sweater until the replacement arrives-- linen, just in time for summer!

Ironically, for a tiny bit of ripieno work for Messiah this weekend, I will be asked to go back to black tie for the first time over here. No idea why. It is a student conductor, who may want to put a bit more gloss on the group. Or perhaps the sponsoring board insisted on it.

Edited: February 26, 2019, 2:36 PM · Even "white top and black bottom" is hard for some. FOR GOD'S SAKE, IVORY IS NOT WHITE.
February 26, 2019, 3:36 PM · Gives a new meaning to "being in your tails", I guess, Gordon. I agree that tails look pretty silly. Maybe stuff like that, Billy Porter's tuxedo-gown and lawyers wearing capes should be left to people that can really rock those looks, rather than forcing the rest of the population to just mess it up.

However, I had to stop watching that Two Set video; I found the clip-on bowtie to be very triggering for obvious personal reasons.

February 26, 2019, 3:57 PM · The men in my orchestra wear white tie and tails for evening classical concerts, white dinner jackets and black (or red at Christmas) bow ties for pops concerts, and dark suits with long ties for matinees.

The word "white" when modifying "dinner jacket" may have several meanings depending on the age of said dinner jacket.

Edited: February 26, 2019, 7:26 PM · A lot of the top orchestras wear white tie and tails for night time concerts and as Mary Ellen noted some groups wear white tuxedo jackets for summertime/pops concerts. Traditionally in the US, it’s been a big faux pas to wear a tux in the daytime - same with wearing a lot of white between Labor Day and Memorial Day.
Edited: February 26, 2019, 8:12 PM · We wore tails for the first 25 years of my career in the KWS but our last conductor changed the dress code to all black for our Signature Series.Daytime shows are dark suit with light solid coloured shirt with a modest tie.Pop shows are tuxedo.Baroque shows can be all black or tails.
Its difficult keeping track of what to wear as it is sometimes left up to the conductor's discretion.The fines are getting more hefty for dress code infractions too.Wrong shirt? .....$20.00 deducted from your pay.
The ever changing dress code is a bone of contention with the men since women just wear black ...that's the only stipulation.I remember concerts where Im dressed in my $2300.00 Ermenigildo Zegna tailored tails and some women are wearing black polyester pants with a worn out black/grey sweater from Winners.Quite a contrast.
Edited: February 26, 2019, 8:54 PM · Interesting that no one talks about women clothes, why only men? My community orchestra encourages skirts and black shirt for women, although most pretty much wear what they feel like as long as it is black. Men, black sports or tux jacket, white shirt and black tie, no cumberbone. I never seen women wearing a jacket other than female conductors.
February 26, 2019, 8:54 PM · Probably because the OP appears to reference only men.

Black for the women is the standard for classical concerts, though I agree that the level of elegance doesn't always match up with tails--not everyone interprets the dress code the same way.

When the men are wearing white dinner jackets, the women are wearing white blouses with long black skirts or slacks. I think the women seem to have a more unified concept of "white" than the men do at these concerts, though.

February 26, 2019, 11:01 PM · I agree, the white dinner jacket seem to be inconsistent in tone, white being actually quite variable. Some are bordering on light tan and look rather odd.
Edited: February 27, 2019, 12:57 AM · I don't think any orchestra I've played in has ever said anything more than "all black" or "concert black" for women, with not more specificity than the implicit understanding that it means conservative attire. Most have tended to be much more specific with men's clothing, which tends to look more uniform (at least when black).

The only context where any of my orchestras has been specific with women's attire has been for its free family concerts, which are much more casual. For those, the dress code has been identical for men and women: orchestra logo polo (solid black for subs or new members who do not have one), black slacks, black shoes (and socks if being worn).

February 27, 2019, 1:04 AM · White shirt, black pants and jacket, bowtie. Black shoes if you're on the outside. Doesn't have to be a tux, just has to look like one at 10 meters.

At our most recent AGM the prospect of moving to just 'black' was offered up and met with extreme resistance.

February 27, 2019, 2:20 PM · One thing I know: I was the reason my youth orchestra back in the day had to officially change their rules so that you weren't allowed back on stage after intermission without all black on.

Before that, people would sometimes leave their jackets on their seats and then put them back on when returning to the stage.

But, I had forgotten to put mine back on and I played a concert in front of 3500 people being the only one wearing white and then had to try and get my jacket on during a long rest.

I think the audience enjoyed it.

February 28, 2019, 7:21 PM · "Doesn't have to be a tux, just has to look like one at 10 meters. "

Unless you're on TV.

February 28, 2019, 10:25 PM · Unless you're on TV. We aren't, however!
March 1, 2019, 10:30 AM · Erik Williams - Sounds like something I would do, if I had to wear a tux (thank goodness I don't)...


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