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ChoralNet: Female conductor attire

THANK YOU for all your comments. In less than 12 hours I've had some 60+ responses, and several requests for a compilation. Rather than chain all those emails together, I'm just going to summarize.

1. Wear something comfortable and flattering.
2. Black is best, dark jewel tones second. Sequins/glitter distract from the music... many listers said they have come away from concerts only remembering what the conductor wore.
3. SLEEVES, no matter how much time you spend at the gym.
4. Pants or skirt? The list seemed equally divided, it depends on your own personal style and what you are comfortable in. Regardless, it should be long and if a skirt, make sure the hem is even. It may look crooked on the hanger, but when you put it on is when it really matters.
5. Tux? Some commented that "female tuxes" looked classy, others hate the idea of a woman "in drag." Most, however, loved the professional look of a black suit with feminine touches to make it less androgenous (ie, no lapels, nice blouse instead of a tux shirt).
6. Heels. Most everyone said sturdy, and low-heeled. One lister hates the sound of a woman's heels walking across the stage. (My acting coach from my opera training said the same thing in auditions.) Personally, I prefer a heel because I am "vertically challenged" and if I'm sharing a podium with a taller male, I won't have the second step to make me "high enough" where I can keep my gesture low and still be seen by the singers over the piano. My co-conductor this coming year is about 6'2; I am 5'3" if I stand up really straight.
7. Cover the derriere/rear/caboose.
8. Make sure it looks good from the back. (Interestingly, no one talked about decolletage and what your choir might think or what happens when you turn around to accept applause for your choir.)
9. "Some interesting detail" on the back, but "not sequins or glitter or a pattern" was suggested a few times.
10. In talking about jackets... "not drag queenish and flowing - in other words, if Bea Arthur would wear it... DON'T!"
11. Minimal jewelry. (As a singer, I was always told put all your jewelry on and look in the mirror. If it seems right, take one piece off.)
12. Hair up/away from face. Make sure it looks good in back too. (I wear my hair very short these days, so I don't have too much to think about there.)
13. Most everyone agreed to not wear what your ladies are wearing, but do use their dress as a starting point of sorts. Be similar in cut and color if you opt for a skirt/dress.
14. Two pieces seemed much more popular than a dress; dresses run the risk of pulling and yanking as you conduct.
15. Always "test run" your outfit -- does the jacket allow you to conduct normally? Do you have to pull your top/dress down all the time? How warm/cool is it?

Again, thanks for your input!

Suzanne M. Hatcher
DMA Candidate & Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Miami
Director of Music, Christ Congregational United Church of Christ, Miami


on September 22, 2004 10:00pm
I need a new idea. Each time we perform a concert we wear our "usual" black pants/skirts and white shirt with ties matching scarves or corsages. I would love to dress in a more festive color, but feel I run the risk of having 20 different shades of red or blue or purple or whatever the case may be. Is there any way to get around constantly wearing black and white??

on April 2, 2007 10:00pm
One of the best looking productions I ever participated in had us all in black, white and shades of grey. We all chose our own outfits, so the styles were varied. The leading lady wore all white, the leading man a black suit with an open-collar white shirt. There were all degrees of gray in between. A dress rehearsal should be held early to be sure that there are no "off color" greys in the group, but you'll love the effect.