Concert Attire–Suitable for Whom?

I’ve had the pleasure of singing in the chorus of Verdi’s Requiem with two different orchestras this spring. Both of them have had performance dress codes. The first one was nothing more specific than “all black, from ankles to wrists,” across the board for men and women, given as a verbal statement by the choir director during rehearsal.

When I asked this director if my cap-sleeved choir gown from old college choir days would be acceptable (does it literally need to go to my wrists, or is that an expression?), he explained that, in his words, “As a boy teacher, I have very limited capacity to answer this question–in fact, I had to google ‘cap sleeve’. You’re probably fine, especially if you’d have to scramble for another option. The idea is that if everyone is in all black, there aren’t one pair of arms or legs to draw attention. My guess is that some of the college students won’t be entirely strict on this, so I think it wouldn’t be just you.”


As it turned out, plenty of the college singers and others among us had widely varying sleeve lengths, including some just like mine, so it wasn’t anything to be concerned about–and I very much appreciated the director’s attitude to the whole affair. 🙂


Now, contrast that with the written instructions received from the director of the second chorus I’m singing with. This is word-for-word:


Men’s Guidelines: White long sleeve tux shirt, black tux pants, black tux jacket, black tie, black socks, black polished shoes.

NOT ACCEPTABLE: Plain white shirt, brown socks, brown shoes. No perfume or heavy hairspray or deodorant scents.

Women’s Guidelines: Please wear black concert attire made of dressy fabrics such as chiffon, velvet, or rayon. Wear a dress or skirt floor length or mid-calf. Dress pants are ok (polazzos). Black suits ok. Sleeve length should be three-quarter length or long sleeve. Please wear loose fitting outfits that are flowing and drape freely. Make sure outfit is black. Keep it formal! Keep it modest! Undergarments should be black if there is a chance of showing. Wear black shoes and black stockings. Peep toe is ok.

The following things are NOT ACCEPTABLE: Garments made of heavy cotton, denim, corduroy, twill, leather, or chino. Low cut gowns or tight fitting slacks. Anything that is “see-through” in nature. Purple, brown, or dark blue outfits. Heavy black belts with big buckles, jewelry made of twine, rope, or beads, extra large earrings. Sandals or clogs. Tan or beige stockings. Sleeveless or shortsleeved tops, tank tops, spaghetti straps, bare midriffs, bare shoulders, skirts above the knee. Plunging necklines. Long slits in the skirts front or sides. Long dangling earrings or excessively shiny rhinestones in either earrings or necklaces. Perfume or heavy hairspray or deodorant scents.


…You might suppose, given the level of detail this director supplies with regard to the women, that perhaps there are many youthful, body-image-confident college-aged women populating our numbers.

In fact, no such thing could hardly be further from the truth. I’d be extremely surprised if he actually believes any of the grandmas among this obviously very conservative group of ladies (judging from conversational snippets in between singing) have any inclination whatsoever to wear midriffs and spaghetti straps to the concert.

I do, however, have a bit of wardrobe advice for the author of this handout, as he seems to be in need of it:

misogyny is showing

At least this fellow didn’t think to google “cap sleeve”… well, not that it would have mattered, really. It’s been an extraordinarily tiring last few weeks, and I have already given all the bothers–including any that might have gone toward finding a second performance outfit that checks ALL the copious boxes.

But even if I had any bothers left to give, I probably wouldn’t, anyway, on principle.

I’d much rather stand on mine than his. 🙂

Keep it gritty, lovelies!



An Antidote for Gun Violence: Choral Singing

There are lots of good thoughts circulating lately about loneliness in our society–particularly among our children, and particularly in our boys. Many of us are noticing that lonely boys with arrested emotional development are often the perpetrators of violent acts that splatter across our news feeds every week. So, what’s the next step?

Find some ways to effectively, practically combat that loneliness.

Here’s my first suggestion: support the arts.

children's choir clip art


Arts are ALL ABOUT emotional development and expression. Teach a kid art, and you give him a tool to communicate deep truth about himself that doesn’t require words. For kids who have not been provided with the verbal toolkit to “feel and deal,” as the Yerkoviches would say, and are too old to respect the suggestion that developing a toolkit would be a good idea–art is a safe outlet. It could be the escape hatch they desperately need to channel their emotions into something constructive and away from harm.

Secondly, collaborative arts, like choral singing, could actually provide a long-term fix to the loneliness epidemic. Read this excerpt from an article detailing the benefits of singing in a choir:

“People who sing in a group report far higher well-being than those who sing solo,” [Pink] notes. It’s about synchronizing with others.

What can explain this? According to Pink, it’s due to the sense of belonging that synchronizing with others brings.

He cites the work of Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary, social psychologists who came up with the “belongingness hypothesis” in 1995, and claimed that the “need to belong is a fundamental human motivation… and that much of what human beings do is done in the service of belongingness.”

That last paragraph should give us a real lightbulb moment. If a kid doesn’t feel like he belongs, how can we expect him not to lash out? When that disassociation is severe enough, the results are going to be drastic, as we are shown time and time again. Another excerpt:

Emily Esfahani Smith, a psychology instructor at the University of Pennsylvania, furthered this point in a TED Talk last year, as CNBC Make It reported. “Meaning comes from belonging to and serving something beyond yourself and from developing the best within you,” she said.

She recommends forming “relationships where you’re valued for who you are intrinsically and where you value others as well.”

If a child is unable to form such relationships naturally, putting him in a context of non-verbal collaboration that focuses on creating something beautiful could provide an intense sense of worth, value, and belonging like little else. To physically experience his effort contributing to something he and others admire–which is MUCH easier when you’re in a collaborative environment–could be the incipient difference in self-perception and sense of community that an otherwise killer desperately needs.

To actually get the people who need it involved in the arts requires real effort, and at least a little money–but maybe not as much as you might think. Here are some of my ideas on what we could try:

  1. Provide transportation to arts programs
  2. Supply scholarships for private lessons
  3. Teach art/dance/music/etc. at community centers
  4. Sign ourselves or our kids up for lessons to support local arts teachers
  5. Befriend underprivileged adults and invite them to free or low-cost arts programs with us (reach the parents, reach the kids!)
  6. Host an art/music/dance day at our church, activity club, or out of our own homes
  7. Get the word out about free artistic programs and productions

What are yours?

And what are your experiences with the arts providing a sense of belonging and self-worth? Leave a comment and discuss!