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What to wear for lessons, recitals, and everything in between.

—by Carla Fabris

What to wear? It’s one of my absolute favorite questions of the day and I truly look forward to browsing through my kaleidoscopic closet to see what I feel like putting together out of my staple pieces and a few (okay, many) wild cards. But when you’re a freelance harpist, the question can take on a whole new meaning. Whether I’m playing a standard wedding or a more unusual event that absolutely needed a harpist’s touch, I am sometimes at a loss and often in a rut about performance wear. I have a passion for fashion and outrageous accessories, but I have to stop myself because there are so many factors involved. Will this be something that I can move my arms in? What shoes will match, and will I be able to pedal in them? What is appropriate for what type of performance situation? What is appropriate generally and in an overall sense for the modern harpist? If you’ve found yourself asking any of these questions, read on for a few tips that will make your trips to the closet (or mall) a lot less daunting!

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About Author

Carla Fabris is a freelance harpist, wardrobe stylist, and writer. She received a dual degree in harp performance and English literature from the University of Michigan, studying with Lynne Aspnes and Joan Holland. She also received her master’s degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she studied with Doug Rioth. Fabris currently resides in Tucson, Ariz., where she is the harp faculty member of the Symphony Women’s Association, a non-profit organization for children in need. She is also a personal stylist and a dresser for photo shoots and runway shows.


  1. Gretchen Cover on

    Recently for a performance, I wore a black top with a gold metallic pleated long skirt. It shimmered as I walked on and off stage. Because I also played with the orchestra on other pieces, the black top helped me fit in with the other musicians. I see a lot of younger or thin harpists wearing mini-dress/tunics with black leggings and fun black shoes. That is a good look for casual gigs or an afternoon recital.

    A great go-to is black palazzo pants. Palazzo pants bridge the gap between a cumbersome skirt and the tightness of pants. They are always appropriate for any performance setting. Also inexpensive to buy. Your top can make the fashion statement.

    Make an honest assessment your upper arms before you go sleeveless or strapless. Make sure when you try on an outfit that you sit on a chair and see what you REALLY look like when you seated at the harp and are playing. The top/dress that looks fabulous while standing could make you look like a basketball with arms and legs while seated.

    If you are asked to perform at a church, ask the music director about attire. Some churches frown on sleeveless, others have musicians wear all black or certain color combinations. If you are subbing somewhere, ask the harpist who regularly plays for suggestions of what is appropriate.

  2. linda harp on

    this is really beautiful. No matter what a person, specially a girl should look good for the best. Not for anyone, but for own self. And when you look good you feel special to your self. And it is a source for being confident too.

  3. Vanessa Putnam on

    I especially enjoyed your final comment about the “pilgrim outfit”. I myself have my “waiter suit” which I wear for orchestra that is a black button down and black slacks that remind me of a hostess. I will definetly keep this article in mind to avoid the feeling!

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