For the last two decades, I have been singing classical music and opera all over the world. There is a dress code for female classical singers, combining “modesty” and exhibitionism: dresses must reach the floor (awkward for walking), with no ankles visible; but they can be backless and low-cut, except shoulders should be covered up if singing religious works or in a place of worship. And high heels are de rigueur (awkward for singing as they throw one’s entire posture out of alignment).
Your article (Fashion, fabrics and fishtails – why we need to talk about what female performers wear, 19 April) celebrates individuality in concert wear and invites critics to comment on attire as part of the visual aspect of performance – as long as they are prepared to do it with accurate descriptions and the names of designers.
This ignores the enormous elephant in the concert hall: women are being judged on their appearance as well as on their playing and singing. Male performers wear a uniform of white tie and tail coat, leaving them and their critics free to concentrate on the quality of their performance.
Why can’t women walk on to the platform to make music without also being expected to make a fashion statement? The stage is not a catwalk.
Female performers are as serious about their music as their male counterparts, and deserve to be judged on the substance of what they do rather than on the fripperies of silk and satin that they do it in. My response has been to make an appointment at a tailor to be measured for a tail coat, trousers and made-to-measure shirts, which I shall enjoy wearing with comfortable, flat shoes.
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