An article came to my attention a few months ago lambasting a concertmaster of an American orchestra who wrote an article advising concert goers what to wear for differing musical events. This may seem patronising and even trivial, but to be honest, I did understand why she wrote the piece. I have had friends new to classical music ask if there is a particular dress code for concerts.
These days where anything goes and jeans can cost hundreds of pounds, the line between smart and casual has become blurred. We even see jeans on the red carpet so it’s no wonder then that some people get confused over what is appropriate in a concert hall.
I always look into the audience before the concert starts and the traditionally “well dressed” are these days by far in the minority. This said, I do understand that many come to concerts straight from work, or just plain prefer to just be comfortable as they sit back and relax listening to music.
It is a different case in concert halls around Europe where concert-going is seen as much more of an event. My husband came to an LSO concert in Madrid and was amused to see he was the only man in the audience not in a suit and tie. The Italians really go to town to the point that I’m often distracted, staring out into a sea of magnificent clothes and jewels. The Germans and Austrians whilst not as flamboyant as the Italians are nevertheless always smartly dressed.
In the last six months I have been to the Royal Opera House twice and in both cases have felt somewhat overdressed and I was not in full-length sequins in case you were wondering! Perhaps the only classical events that UK audiences really get dressed up for are opening nights of operas, gala concerts and festivals such as Glyndebourne. Should there be a correlation between the evening gowns of the stage and what is worn by audience?
This having been said, I do encourage the feeling that the audience shouldn’t be press-ganged into dolling up if they don’t want. From my perspective I’m grateful people are at the concert and after all, I’d rather jean-clad bums on seats than empty seats…
By Maxine Kwok-Adams, first violinist of the London Symphony Orchestra and Musical Orbit fashion correspondent.
18 June 2017