Conducting Attire

Brief article from BeyondTheNotes.com, a music education supplier in Fort Collins, CO (USA). Their notes are a good introduction to "braces", the differences between "tux", "sport coat", and "morning coat," a suggested length for a female conductors' dress, and a few other things you may run into along your way.

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Guidelines for Conducting Attire


Are you ready for the first fall concert? The band is clean, but is your tux?

Here are some helpful hints for conducting attire. The best writers sometimes ignore the rules of grammar, but they are encouraged to do so only when certain of doing it well.  The sartorial conductor may be well-advised to follow similar advice for conducting apparel. You can ignore the rules, but only when certain you are doing it well.

What Should I Wear (male)?
The conductor's concert apparel depends on the attire required of the performer:

Performer--concert black
Conductor--tuxedo.

Performer--black pants, white shirt
Conductor--tux or dark suit (not a sportcoat)

Performer--band uniform
Conductor--tuxedo or dark suit (not a sportcoat)

Performer--dress clothes
Conductor--dark suit (rarely a sportcoat)

When Should I Wear Tails?

Tails are generally considered the most formal and are worn after 6:00 PM. They are worn with a white tie, white vest (usually pique cotton), and white shirt.

Do not confuse tails with a "morning coat," which tapers from the waist at the front to the knees at the back. Morning coats should not be worn after dark.

Always make sure your coat is well-tailored. Be especially sensitive to wearing a coat that has become too tight over the years and restricts your motion.

What Should I Wear for a Morning or Afternoon Concert?
A notch-lapel or peak-lapel jacket with one or two buttons will always be in style. Combine the jacket with black pants, white shirt, vest, and black bow tie for a classic look.

A regular tux jacket is also appropriate for an evening concert.

Should I Button the Coat While Conducting?
If you button the coat in front, the motion of the jacket back will be less distracting. However, if the coat fits too snugly, the vents will open in the back. In this case, leave it unbuttoned.

What are Braces?
"Braces" are suspenders (British derivation) and should be worn with your tuxedo or suit when conducting. Belts are not appropriate with a tux. Braces will keep your pants at the correct height, allow for the appropriate break in the crease, and avoids pants that are too tight. They also provide a degree of security. Wear black satin suspenders with your black tie and white suspenders with your white tie and white vest.

What Does GQ (Gentleman's Quarterly) Say About Tuxedos (from December 2007)?
GQ outlined 7 guidelines in their December 2007 issue:
  1. Buy a tux that will not go out of style. Notch-lapel or peak-lapel with one or two buttons are recommended. Avoid anything overly slim or flared, and avoid three-button tux jackets.
  2. Peak lapels are classic. Notch lapels have become the industry standard. Shawl collars are making a comeback. (Not necessarily in conducting, however. ed.)
  3. With a black tie, wear a conventional collared shirt. With a white tie, wear a wing collar.
  4. Don't wear a cummerbund.
  5. Lose the patent leather shoes. Skip those shiny tux shoes and stick with well-polished black lace-ups instead. Invest in high quality thin black socks, and wear them only with your tux.
  6. You can get away with wearing a black suit instead of a tuxedo at formal events. But it's got to be the right black suit. Don't wear a bow tie and add French cuffs.
  7. Formalize your outerwear. Wear a topcoat as striking as the tux.

What About Women Conductors?
(Special thanks to Susan Creasap and Cynthia Hawkins for their suggestions.)
  • Concert attire should be professional in appearance.
  • Elegant, classic lines remain in style.
  • Black is always appropriate. If not black, then solid colors are preferred.
  • Wear a mid-calf, full length, or ankle length one-piece dress. If not a dress, then a jacket, slacks, & blouse.
  • Your top should have long sleeves and your concert attire loose fitting. Wear modest jewelry.
  • Check your appearance from the back.
  • Secure all your straps.
  • A moderate heel looks nice, though this is a personal choice.
  • Don't forget to break-in shoes prior to the performance.
  • Secure hair so that it does not swing and keep bangs out of eyes.