Concert Dress

July 16, 2019, 10:14 AM · I have been searching everywhere to find a plain, floor length, black dress with sleeves for my symphony concerts. The only place I can find them is rent the runway or some expensive, thousands of dollars store. Others I find are either embellished too much, to mermaid fit, or too low cut. I rather not have to mess with wearing a sweater. I found some websites that claim to have fashion for orchestra but their clothes fit very few concert standards or are just as frumpy as the others. I also rather not buy from a school uniform shop because I dislike the velvet or weird shaped necklines. Where do you guys get yours? I like a dress do that I only have to mess with one article of clothing rather than shirt and pants or skirt.

Replies (13)

July 16, 2019, 10:39 AM · Hi,

Probably odd coming from a man, but having discussed concert dress with my colleagues who are women, most have found that a blouse with long skirt (or pants if allowed) has been the best solution for combining requirement with comfort, unfortunately. If you would like a dress absolutely, I remember some of my colleagues mentioning that they had dresses made, which they found to be more practical in terms of requesting and having what they needed and found comfortable, and actually less expensive than retail, so that may be one option.


Edited: July 16, 2019, 11:00 AM · I agree that your search might be better directed toward patterns rather than finished garments. The advantage of a pattern is that you can choose the fabric and the tailoring can be excellent. The disadvantage is that you have to find someone willing to make you a dress. That can be hard, even if you're willing to pay pretty well.

Likewise, if the only issue with a dress is that it's cut too low in the front, might it be possible to have a tailor attach a faux shell -- essentially just an additional piece of fabric that fills in the neckline? That way you don't need to have the whole dress made from scratch.

What kind of price would you find acceptable? I did a Google search for floor length long sleeve dresses and Nordstrom seems to have quite a few that are under $400. (For comparison, tuxedos generally start at around twice that.)

July 16, 2019, 11:01 AM · A long sleeve shirt under a low cut and sleeveless dress, could work, in my experience.
July 16, 2019, 11:18 AM · I agree with Christian. Most symphonies now allow women to wear pants, and as a result I am far more likely to see the women in pants and a blouse and sometimes a long-sleeved suit jacket as well (for instance, the Baltimore Symphony requires all players to be in jackets).

I also find separating top and bottom leads to a better fit. I tend to buy my shirts one or even two sizes big so there's lots of extra room in the shoulders and sleeves. Eileen Fisher is a good brand for plain black clothing suitable for orchestral playing.

July 16, 2019, 2:26 PM · I was with you right up to your last sentence...if you are ruling out blouse/skirt or blouse/pants options, then yes, you are going to have a hard time finding appropriate dresses. Almost all of my concert clothing is separates. Steinmart often has nice black options (but not dresses), and if you go shopping right after the holidays (Christmas/NYE), you can find some gorgeous black on sale.
July 16, 2019, 3:38 PM · I don’t know what your budget is, but I think maybe trying to find an upcoming young fashion designer/tailor in your area might give you what you need. In my experience they are no more expensive than many brands and you get something custom made AND you can support someones journey too. You can ask at fashion design schools or try and find them via social media!
July 17, 2019, 4:07 AM · Check out feel_harmony_fashion. She might have something that meets your needs. Black concert attire tailor made to fit you


Hopefully this helps.
Disclaimer: I will not receive any compensation if you choose to purchase from her. As a member of Instagram’s classical music community, I hope that we can all support each other and help keep classical music alive.

July 17, 2019, 7:51 AM · In a way I think it's funny for guys to be recommending places for ladies dress clothes but wanted to comment that my wife would agree with Paul's recommendation (under women then clothing then select length long then select color black). My wife became frustrated shopping locally for a concerto dress for my daughter, and ended up finding exactly what they were looking for there, followed by local alterations to get the perfect, custom length and fit.

That said, separates is what I mostly see in the state symphony here.

Edited: July 17, 2019, 11:12 AM · I think floor-length black concert dresses tend to be inspired by Queen Victoria's mourning dresses.

You could also try custom bridesmaid's dresses, where you select the pattern and pick black as the color.

July 17, 2019, 3:07 PM · If you go the bridesmaid route, you might want to steer clear of tulle and taffeta...
July 19, 2019, 10:47 AM · I've had a great experience with dresses from You can special order dresses to length for your height and have them alter necklines and sleeve-length to suit your needs. My favorite concert dress is from there.
Edited: July 27, 2019, 2:23 PM · Re ~ Concert Dress

Having only stumbled onto this most intriguing Subject, I'm heartened Sydney Buckner posted a Discussion on a rather shadowy subject but vitally important, especially for women soloists, in the String Instruments category, Pianists, and special other Instrumentalists! (Think of Sheena E. on Drums/Percussion!!) For Floor length Concert gowns in Black, you may have to go to a Macy's or (again as posted above) Nordstrom's, & although
some merchandise may be beyond your Budget, currently, view a bit above
Budget Gowns to glean idea's to have one made by a Mom/Aunt or relative
who sews well and might like to put her Label in the Gown to brighten up her business or hobby into an 'Appropriate Black Orchestra Gown's for Women @Easy to Handle $$$ Business by Appointment Only' !!!)

In my 5 plus decades of concert artist soloist violin performance & in both Television & Film, I've learned the utter necessity of Matching the Music I perform to the Colour/s I perceive of given Composer's & their various compositional works ~

First Off: Sleeves! I strongly advise wearing a concert blouse or Gown With Sleeves & especially so for Television & Film. A Violinist's Arms are busy working-going everywhere necessary to dispatch the notes in as seamless a fashion as possible. Therefore, as a brilliant Pupeteer, the audience only sees The Puppet, Not the Strings navigating all movements! I feel likewise re the elegant sleeves which can appear graceful when clothed to the wrist or just inches above ~ The Colour chosen to perform, say, a Mozart Violin Concerto, in my perspective, must be of an iced blue rococo colour or deep Aqua. The fabric depends on the Time of Year, but a basic Mozart Violin Concerto/Violin-Piano Sonata Gown reigns supreme in elegance & musical simplicity vis a vie Mozartian Style of the Period in Mozart's Earthly Life. Wearing Red, obvious Greens, Purples, Pinks, Fushia's, or Black (despite its simplicity), casts an atmosphere of unsuitable for inherent Gaiety/Happy youthful naïveté & utter Beauty unadorned in Mozart works for Violinists, all String Cousin's & Pianists ~ The Colour of iced blue is usually associated with light see-through fabric's including a simple Lace without swirls. I truly believe Mozart's Music represents a Purity of Heart, Soul & Truth ... That
said, Ladies, read my suggestions this far!!

This Subject is all encompassing, but for the sake of Time, I suggest the Key Signature of any work be a strong clue regarding the colour of one's Concert Soloist Performing Gowns. The Key's of D, A, G, & E, Major cast Happy and Happy implies (to me) bright colours but still somewhat muted to not interfere with The Music being performed for audience Ears & some eyes, yet easy on the eyes, in other words, Not Neon Blinking Fashion!!! (That, Lady Colleagues, is reserved for 'Circus Strings & Player's' exhibiting much more than The Music!) In Aram Khachaturian's Violin Concerto, I LA debuted in a 'two-toned' satin gown of Purple/lite aqua, which conveyed the colorful aspects of Khachaturian's Armenian joie di vie temperament (even a Red if one can classical-it-up) which gave a lift to the eyes yet didn't dare detract from The Ears of the Audience, which, btw, included The World's
Greatest Violinist & 'Cellist 'side-kick', Gregor Piatigorsky, In The Audience, by Gosh!!!! (If one had had even an inkling of Heifetz & Piatigorsky being in the audience, one would Never have walked out On Stage!! Am I Kidding!? No Way!!! As is said: 'Ignorance is Bliss'!!!!!) Later on, accepted into the
First Jascha Heifetz Violin Int'l Master Class at USC's Institute for Special Music Studies, I heard JH had complimented my concert gown attire and 'Plus performance' of the exotic Khachaturian w/the brilliant USC Concert Orchestra of Greats to become World renowned Artists/Conductor's, which included Michael Tilson Thomas (Oboe), 'Cellist's Joanna de Keyser and Beverly Lauridsen, Ronni Romm (Founder/Trumpet Canadian Brass), & the List goes on & on, plus the Great Met Opera Conductor, Walter Ducloux, Sir Georg Solti's WWII survivor friend from Nazi's in Switzerland!!) It was as a Rocket Launch to the Moon!!

Thank You, God, & Dad, for granting me such an opportunity & such Great Teaching of The Right Violin Concerto, on that Joyful Los Angeles Night!!!!!

Time to leave off, please take seriously to heart the need to mirror all Music you are presenting in your Concert Gown Choices, for Mix 'n Match On the Concert Stage doesn't Cut It, Gals!!! And, even if svelt, do Not try to draw too much attention to the Body at the Expense of The Music which Is Ever Number One! (*If very young, a Strapless Black for Solo Bach, i.e., Anne-Sophie Mutter, can be deeply respectful or for this 250th Beethoven Year if Music is offered in memory of Ludvig van Beethoven, & in a Church or fine European Capital setting i.e, Paris, Berlin or London, a Gown w/sleeves is the better option ~ )

Happily Submitted on July 27, 2019, by ~

Elisabeth Matesky (Concert Performing/Recording/TV/Film Artist/ Artist Teacher of Violin) *

*Ref. ~

*Bio ~ bio.cfm?member=Milstein

Edited: July 27, 2019, 2:25 PM · *** To Paul Deck ~

Dear Paul ...

I wanted to compliment you on your adroit sense of Concert Dress for Orchestral player's, both for Men and Women!!! It was very helpful and very considerate regarding Costs for clothing on short Budget's & a few places mentioned to look, find, select what was/is most appropriate for Each individual!!! You are, obviously, a very well trained Husband by an obviously loving Spouse!!

My Reply delves into the Arena of Women's Concert Artist Soloist Gowns ~ This is So Critical and in These "Anything Goes" Times ... I feel it important to do as Mr. Milstein always used to say: "If it looks Good it IS GOOD"!!!!!
That was stated in context of violin bowing/left hand technique but also is applicable to one's personal appearance On Stage ~

Sending Best Musical Greetings ~

Elisabeth Matesky / Chicago

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