I have a terrible time figuring out what clothes to play in. Jackets are always too tight in the shoulder, and I rarely see anything soft-structured. Layered shirts are not always successful. Ideally the jacket would be like an overshirt, but without buttons, and weighted to hang down when sitting. Shirts crumple too much. Conductors have found various different types of jackets which I don’t find in stores. An open neck is also vastly preferable to be able to breathe. I have seen young men performing in just shirts with the tails hanging out. This is not attractive. The tails are not often tailored for display. Jersey is an ideal material as it gives with movement. I sometimes have found a jersey shirt with a straight tail, but the one I have is worn out. A weave with colored lycra is nice, that was a good shirt I once had. Vertical stripe patterns look good, of course, with a harp. Any ideas?
I prefer a vest over a turtleneck, or for an open throat a collarless shirt in a knit fabric. Shirts can be found in a relaxed V neck style in many soft fabrics.
Hooks and eyes can be used as closings on a vest, and can be concealed in the seams of the opening down the front so that they don’t touch the harp.
A vest can always be tailored to a flattering and comfortable length, and if slit at the side seams can be comfortable seated as well as standing.
I believe both men and women look better in plain, dignified concert attire when playing formal concert music, but if the situation presents itself, a little bling is fun for less formal settings.
My performance garment of choice is a traditional Nepalese tunic. It’s made of plain, heavy black cotton with a slightly brushed nap to it. It has a plain band collar and buttons almost invisibly down the side. The sleeves are loose, and have no buttons to click against the body of the harp. It also has a small concealed pocket that’s just the right size for a tuning key. That and black trousers and I’m all set.
When I got a tuxedo, I got a shawl collar jacket (looks better unbuttoned), and had the whole thing tailored to accommodate the requirements of playing.
Once I got caught playing Mahler 4 in a jacket that was too tight across the back for me to reach the lowest strings in that last movement solo. Never again!
When I play in a suite I have two that I had custom done. A standard dark grey suite and a tux. While they were being fitted I moved in the way I would when I played and made sure they tailored them to accommodate the movement. My shirts are tailored Thai silk. Very comfortable, very nice looking, and they don’t bunch up.
Since I don’t play in a classical setting however, I often don’t need to wear a suite, and generally I am more concerned about shoes than anything else.
Really, a suit is too small through the shoulder if you can’t lift your arms comfortably to play. Go up a size and then have it tailored in to fit. When I performed harp publicly I had no problems in a suit/tux and I regularly perform on flute. Flute has a MUCH more awkward position for the left arm and I still have no issues of tightness or binding. It’s all in the fit of the jacket.
My favorite thing to perform in during dressy/casual gigs is khaki dress pants, red turtleneck and a brown blazer. Its dressy but comfy, casual but sleek. This look however I don’t think works for people without a narrow/thin profile. I once saw something similar involving an orange turtleneck but they came out looking like a giant pumpkin.
In the end, clothing is all about proportion and fit. If you’re really skinny, avoid baggy clothing and large apparel. It just makes you look skeletal and shrimpy. If you’re bigger, don’t go too tight, or wear things that are too small (like skinny ties and small wrist watches). It just increases the perception of body size. If you’re small, wear tailored, tapered clothing. If you’re bigger, wear clothing that floats out from the body.
Actually… just go watch What Not to Wear. Great advice on that show regardless of gender. Haha!
Here’s where I get the jackets, though I go there in person:
I misremembered; they’re Tibetan, not Nepalese. At least I knew it had to do with the Himalayas! Anyway, the jackets run true to American shirt sizes: small, medium, large. Thy fit me well, though I’m tall and thin…..
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