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ACCOUTREMENTS, APPAREL AND ATTIRE - Part 3: Solo

Posted on April 22, 2012 at 11:35 PM

Congratulations! You’re playing a solo recital or soloing with the orchestra! You get to showcase your musical skills and people are going to come watch YOU perform!


That’s right, kids. Watch. They are not just going to listen to you. They’re also going to watch you. So, in addition to your performance beginning with your first step onstage and being mindful of how to bow, you also need to be aware of what you’re wearing.


Many of my opinions on solo attire are similar to orchestra and small ensemble attire: if there’s a dress code, abide by it; consider the image you want to project; and consider the performance space.


So, what’s different?


You’re by yourself or standing in front of a crowd, so you will be the focus. If you wear a completely solid color (such as the boring all-black), you will blend in and you won’t be paid any attention. Definitely dress in a color. That goes for you, too, guys. So many male orchestra soloists opt for black pants and a black dress shirt. Really? That’s the best you could come up with? When you’re soloing in front of an orchestra, they’re probably wearing mostly black, so if you opt for black as well, your body with blend in. So, choose a color. A nice one and one that doesn’t blend in. I don’t care if your favorite color is black and that’s all you wear. Choose a friggin’ color.


But Hilary, your trio, The Fourth Wall, wears all black!


Yes, we frequently do. But you’ll notice, that I wear a knee-length dress and the boys wear short-sleeved shirts. The little bit of exposed skin adds a touch of color. We also try to never wear all-black when performing on a black stage or in a black box theater. We’re also working on the whole costuming thing for our next show (May, 10th at the White Rabbit Cabaret in Indianapolis). None of us particularly like the whole all-black thing, so that will soon go out the window.


Comfort. You must wear something that you will be comfortable in. If you’re wearing something that prevents you from playing your instrument/singing well, then you did not choose wisely. You must be able to breathe and move easily no matter what you play. If you can’t perform easily, then what’s the point of these nice people coming to see you? You must also be able to BOW comfortably in it, too. Ladies, if “the girls” are in danger of falling out of the dress with a proper bow, buy a different dress. No one wants to see your wardrobe malfunction and distracting the audience from your performance is stupid.


Well-fitting is a must! I’m all for comfort (believe me on that one!), but baggy, shapeless clothing makes you look apathetic and unkempt. Now, I didn’t say “wear tight clothing”, right? Nope! I said “well-fitting”. In an effort to wear well-fitting garments, make sure you don’t get “tight” and “fitted” mixed up in your mind. If you’re not sure of the difference, take a gander over to Poorly Dressed. They’ll help you learn the difference. Actually, they’ll just show what’s not a good idea.


Dress for the occasion. If you’re performing in front of an orchestra, you should dress very nicely. Suit, formal gown… you get the picture. If you’re doing a solo show in a club such as Le Poisson Rouge, a formal gown might be a tad much.


Skirt length. Unless you’re performing in a club-like atmosphere and standing, for the love of all that is holy, your skirt shouldn’t be any shorter than your knee. Bassoonists in mini-skirts are icky and distracting. Why do high school and college age students think this is sexy? More importantly, why do they feel the need to be sexy while performing? Make your music sexy! You, the performer, can be sexy and still be covered up!


Ok, here’s a controversial opinion on attire: I think women should always wear a little bit of a heel when performing in a small ensemble or solo. Yeah. I went there. I learned this from my teacher, Leone Buyse, who is fairly tall and still always wears a little bit of a heel when performing.


Heels are dumb. Why should women wear them?


The smallest bit of a heel makes you walk slightly different. Perhaps you might consider this sexist, but a flat shoe makes a women walk like a little girl while a heel makes them walk like a woman. It’s different and the heel portrays a much stronger air of confidence. It doesn’t need to be a tall heel (6 inch heels are never a good idea, much less for a performance). Just enough to change the walk.


Once you’ve decided what shoes you’ll be wearing, practice/rehearse in them. That goes for the guys, too. If you’re used to practicing barefoot, it’s going to feel really weird performing in dress shoes. I know many percussionists who practice in their performance shoes so they can know what it feels like to press the timpani or vibraphone pedal, because it’s different than their Birkenstocks. For the last couple weeks leading up to the performance, wear the shoes and get used to them.


Overall appearance. Shower. Shave. Make your hair look nice. Trim your facial hair. This shouldn’t be all that difficult to do, and yet some folks just don’t put forth the effort. And that’s just silly.


So many of my attire opinions are obvious, aren’t they? How many times have you heard your teacher comment on your appearance? Did you ignore them? Don’t do that! Well, ignore them if they’re telling you to wear 6 inch platforms with a mini skirt and bra-top. You’re not Lady Gaga. You can’t get away with it.




Stay tuned for next week’s entry, EXAMPLES OF APPROPRIATE ATTIRE, where I will show you what I mean.

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1 Comment

Reply Brett Abigana
11:38 AM on April 23, 2012 
And if I may add one more comment to my composing brethren:

We already have a reputation for living in either: (a) a cave (b) our parents' basement (c) a box beneath an I-80 overpass (d) a state of denial about our own hygiene or (e) a bigger cave. Please try not to confirm those stereotypes. If you're taking credit for your greatest work to date and look like something belched from a 1970s blind date gone horribly wrong, the audience may remember your look and not your music. After all, the talk shows the day after the Oscars don't talk about the quality of the films, do they?