Grace Notes: Concert dress dilemma!

Getting the correct attire for a concert can be tricky, especially if you’ve never had to do the ‘all black’ orchestra dress before. From a very young age my county orchestras all instigated very strict concert dress rules, so I think I have a fairly good idea of how to dress appropriately. Here are a list of points that might help you if you have an upcoming gig and are having trouble with finding something to wear. (This is only really applicable to girls as I’ve not had much experience wearing a tux…)


The National Youth Orchestra of Wales in concert. Floor length black is required and we all look very smart!

  • DON’T wear a skirt that’s too short when in an orchestra. Try to keep it below the knee, and if any leg is showing, then wear black tights. It makes the ensemble look messy otherwise.
  • DON’T show any midriff or back if the dress is all black. It looks more like you’re going to a party and again, you won’t blend in with everyone else.
  • If the dress code is ‘long black’ then trousers should be fine (always check as some people get funny about this), just make sure they are smart ones and not jeans or leggings.
  • If ladies can wear coloured dresses then DO make an effort to show yourself off. In this case, (again, so long as it’s floor length) it’s more acceptable to show a discreet bit of flesh (shoulders, back etc) to make yourself look more ‘glam’.
  • DO make an effort. If you feel good in yourself, you’re likely to be more comfortable and so play better.
  • If it’s a quartet or small ensemble gig, then shorter dresses or skirts are acceptable, although (especially in the winter) I’d personally still wear tights! I constantly have pale skin, so at a gig I’d rather people were focussed on the playing, rather than my luminous white legs.
  • Heels or no heels? If you can walk in them, then go for it, your calves will look great! If however, like me, you have trouble walking in flat shoes I’d give it a miss. Tripping up on stage is never good (and yes, this has also happened to me.)!
  • Discreet jewellery is fine, just don’t go too mad! There will be other occasions for your huge sparkly earrings and chunky necklaces. Again, it looks like you’re on a night out, rather than playing a nice Beethoven symphony.
  • SMILE! Although this technically has nothing to do with clothing, you still wear a smile! When you stand up at the end, even if it couldn’t have gone any worse, smile and the audience will go away with a much better impression of you. Nothing is worse than a grumpy orchestra!

At a concert earlier this year.

I hope some of these points have been useful! I’ve found it helps to feel good about what you wear and in the end, it’ll improve yours and the audiences concert experience.