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ChoralNet: Concert dress for female singers and conductors

Thanks to all who replied to my "unaskable" question. Here are the
replies. Men, who are spared all this nonsense, may hit "delete"
now. :-)

This is always a problem, isn't it. I wear any long
dress that I have that is not too flashy. I leave my
flashy attire for voice recitals. Often times, I wear a
short velvet jacket over the top of a dress to make it a
little more formal. I like a conservative look, since
the choir is the show in my opinion, not me. (When I
sing, a totally different story! :)

I conduct at a women's college, so women's choral attire
is a big deal here.
I decided to go with each woman being able to choose
her own long black
dress. It must have sleeves of some sort, even capped
sleeves are fine, and it must be tastefully cut. No
slits up to here, or down to there. Closed toed black
shoes and black hose. They may wear any jewelry that
they want! I want them to feel wonderful about how they
look, and a uniform dress can never accomplish that due
to body type differences. I think we all perform better
when we feel like we look great. This is a rather
orchestral approach ot attire, rather than the tradition
of uniforms started in the church for choirs, and the
military for bands. The women are also afforded the
opportunity to get other wear out of the dress, and to
choose how much they are able to afford. Since we are
not wearing the same dress, I decided that jewelry can
be unique as well. The women really like this idea.

I do not always wear black, it gives me a little
flexibility. I have never heard anything but
compliments on our attire choices.
My femail choristers wear long black dresses.

I wear long black.....sometimes it is two piece with a
long skirt and a formal kind of jacket or top. My most
recent purchace for concert wear is a tailored but
formal suit with a skirt that is slightly below
calf-length. I was advised, and I think it is good
advice...... to never wear anything short-sleeved.
(People are used to seeing conductors with black all the
way down the arm.)

Hope this is helpful.

Nancy Cobb, Conductor
University Chorale
Oklahoma Baptist University

Doreen Rao ALWAYS wears an evening gown of some sort
(unless it is a "lobby concert", and even then,
sometimes. . . .) I have seen her in everything from
plain & simple black to sequined silver and even purple.
Lori Dolloff also always wears evening wear, but she
tends to consistently wear black.

The women in the MacMillan Singers (Doreen's primary
group) wear evening wear themselves. In the Symphony
Chorus/Concert Choir (Dolloff's group), the women wear
all black (black tops, long black skirts or pants) but
are not "uniformed."
-- Debbie Bradley
Our chorale women wear a long, a-line black skirt (from
a formalwear catalog) with a sheer black organza
overblose which ends well below the hips and has a
beateau neckline. We accessorize this with a wide
variety of accessories, most notable a jeweled and
beaded triangular collar which can drape forward or
back. Another option is a red corsage and white pearls.
This outfit works well on every figure (and we have the
gamut!!!!) and looks very elegant. Our men wear black
tuxes with accessories coordinated to the women.

Our conductor happens to be a very beautiful woman, who
wears long dresses, usually black, with some kind of
sparkle accent to match what we are wearing.
For less formal occasions, she wears a wonderful black
blazer, appliqued
with the treble clef and a long black skirt. Often, as
a chorale, we wear period or ethnic costumes also, and
she always dresses to coordinate with us.
I know that some conductors do not feel that they
should dress at all
glamorously, but we find that the audience really enjoys
the glamour, especially since the conductor is seen so
much from the back, and our conductor is VERY aware of
the back line of her outfits!
I have made (sewn) a concert dress that one could make
in any size and in any fabric:

Took a Mu-Mu pattern....long, flowing and very
adaptable.....I styled mine with a deep V neckline in
the front and a slight scallop in the back....deep
enough to allow any coolness I can get, but high enoough
to be professional ....I made my sleeves long and
flowing for when I am a vocal soloist and face the
audience, and have velcro strips on the sleeves to make
them tight when I one wants floppy sleeves
to conduct in....they get in the way and look terrible
to the audience....

I opened slits in the side seams under the arms and have
a self-fabric 1 1/2 " long tie that fits under the bust
and ties as tightly as I can get it to, inside the
dress....thus it flows down the back ehich is the
audience side...they simply see a graceful movement of a
conductor...not an ill-fitting garment that shows
feminine "butt" etc

That is made out of a heavier black synthetic
velvet......travels wonderfully..never wrinkles and is
heavy enough to consistantly fall to the floor thus
creating a very smooth image

I also have a spaghetti straped black empire straight
evening dress in crepe made form an old Geoffrey Beene
pattern that is cut with a bias top and give under the
bust so the skirt portion of the dress is not straight
and there for "hangs" from under the bust, higher than
the waist and moves gracefully...I wear a trim black
suit jacket straight cut and long enough to cover the
"bottom"...looks like a tuxedo from the audience, yet is
feminine......Dress I made, jacket I had....think it was
a Koret of California....both are dry clean only

Cheers and Best Wishes
Judith Otten
I conduct a women's choir at the high school level. The
girls in the choir wear long formal black dresses, with
pearls. I tend to wear tux-type clothing -- dressy
black pants and a women's tux-looking jacket, black or
white, with dressy white or black blouse. I have chosen
this attire largely because it is more comfortable for
me, since I am frequently bending and fixing microphone
cords or keyboard connections at concerts -- also
running up and down stairs for things. (We also have
different outfits for our jazz choir performances.) But

Fran Landis
I dither over dress.

Community college and community choir:

I bought a used tux jacket and had it altered. Had found
a pair of female tux pants in a used clothing store.
Would prefer to wear this outfit, but am not yet
satisfied with the alteration (jacket) because it's too
male-straight. Will wear it both with tux and frilly
white blouses.

Meanwhile, I have a black tea-length velvet dress
(winter) and a black short-sleeved cotton one (summer),
both of which suit my body. No bracelets, watches or
flashy rings or earrings.

For casual concerts in nippy weather, a green velvet
SW-Native-American-inspired simple dirndl skirt and

Choir wears black bottoms and hosiery, white tops. The
artist wife of one singer abhors this in our
black-painted performing art center. Says they look dead
and laid out. Suggests male and female style vests
(black). I don't get bothered about subtle off-white
(not cream, though) blouses/shirts on men or women, nor
whether women wear pants or skirts. Or even skirt
lengths, as long as legs sport black hose or socks. Will
accept navy or brown shoes, so they don't have to buy
new ones.
I think it best to delegate talking about dress to a
choir singer, not oneself. Dis-involves director from
clothing arguments. -- Lani Johnson Nysara Studios
Warrenton OR lanjohns(a)
********Susan...I usually wear the following forms:
tailored black suit just below the knee, dressier black
suit just below the knee, mid-calf or long black skirt
and top or black dress. I wear this whether the choir
is in liturgical robes or concert dress (tuxes and
either black dresses or black skirts and white blouses),
except for a chapel service, at which time I wear a
choir robe. the only color I ever add is with a blouse,
and it is always solid color. I wear a color under the
suit jacket that just shows in front or a white or solid
color blouse with a long black skirt. For Christmas
concerts, which are at night in our chapel, I wear
satiny long sleeve shirts with mid-calf or long black
skirts. The blouses are either gold, royal blue, red,
or deep purple. Hope this helps! Sharon
Dr. Sharon Davis Gratto
Associate Professor
Music Education & Choral Music
Mezzo Soprano
Department of Music
Gettysburg College
Gettysburg, PA - 17325-1486
FAX 717-337-6099

I work with a community choir and wear a full-length
black "pant-gown." I guess that's the best way to
describe it. It has long nylon sleeves with velvet cuffs
and bodice. The rest is black taffetta. I like it
because it's cool, does justice to my backside and I
don't have to worry about anything becoming untucked.
The black color is formal and makes it easy for my
singers to follow me. My singers wear black
gowns/dresses and tuxes/suits. I found the dress in a
regular department store. I haven't seen anything quite
like it in any of the catalogues that are out. Hope this
is helpful.


*********I wear a long, straight, black velvet skirt with a black
shirt that is fairly fitted and has velvet trim. (I am
a graduate student and conduct regularly). I have
received comments that it looks very "classy" on stage.

In our auditioned concert choir, the women wear long
black dresses. The bodice has a scoop neck, is made of
stretch velvet, and has short sleeves. The dresses have
a straight waist. The skirt is very puffy and is made
of multiple layers of a shiny chiffon material. The
dresses are machine washable (a big plus) and dry
quickly. Our director wears the same dress as the
choir, but has the long-sleeved version. (Men are in

The non-auditioned chorus at our university wears very
different attire. The women are asked to wear a black
skirt (at least knee-length) or dress slacks and a long
sleeved white blouse of their choosing. (Men are in
white dress shirts, ties and black slacks)

Tammi L. Gahl
Washington State University
Master's Candidate
Susan Marrier
Lecturer in Music (choral, organ, conducting)
Lakehead University
Thunder Bay, Ontario Canada

on August 30, 2002 10:00pm
One thing that I have been noticing with female singers in choir is when there is a preordiained dress code, the singers are more apt to disliking the attire. What I have always done with my female (and male singers) Is every year, ask them what they would like to wear. It goes through a voting session, and then approval by me. Usually we pick something nice, like a skirt and a colored blouse. Sometimes it's gets pretty, well, funky, from silk, to tasteful animal print shirts. :) I think that variety, and subtle individuality is key do success with attire. Something that is professional, yet screams. "I have style, and I know it!" I haven't had it fail on me yet!

Raegan Taylor
Chosen Generation Ministries
High School and Collegate Choirs
on December 28, 2002 10:00pm
For my women's ensemble concerts, we pick a color appropriate for the program. (NOT basic black). Then the women pick whatever they are comfortable/feel good in, in the RANGE of that color. We end up with a shaded, colorful, co-ordinated look where each woman and body type is pleased with their individuality. I dress using the same guidelines. (Black is acceptable for part of the color chosen: example: For Christmas this year, we chose red...anything from bright red to shades of pink, wines, some purples was fair game, and when in doubt, black skirt or pants could be used to finish off outfit. Most of the women never have to buy anything new unless they want to.
on June 16, 2003 10:00pm
You might want to check out They have a Select-a-Set feature that allows you to choose form several tops and several bottom-palazzo pants, long skirt, med skirt. There are several nice colors as well. I let my ladies choose the style they like. The fabric is the same and there are usually many of the same styles on stage. It's a nice effect.

Riverview High School