On Clothes


It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a pianist must wear clothes to each and every performance. I have this image of myself playing something amazing in a bright green silk dress that floats around me in a magnificient wave, designer jewellery to match, and very shiny silver pumps. In reality I'm dressed in black stuff, always. Except when I get wild in dark blue... Grr! Whatever the color, the most important aspect of any concert gear is wearability. A pianist is sitting sideways in front of the audience. And whose most flatterig profile is that? Not mine. Also, one has to move in many ways. The ways get more complex in contemporary music, as composers love to spice things up with a bit of healthy excercise.

So what should a pianist pay attention to while shopping? Here's what I've learned:

  1.  Can I breathe? This is somewhat crucial. Some like the support a corset gives, but I love stretchy fabrics that I could essentially do yoga in. (Except I don't, unless you count a cheeky downward facing dog in the fitting room, for proof.)
  2. Can I see my toes? Can you see my crotch? A dress too long can make you press wrong pedals because you just can't see them, and stepping on the hem when getting up can turn the concert into a sitcom. On the other hand, a short dress looks a lot longer when you're standing. Sit, and the hem rides up quite a few inches. If you're good at pressing your thighs together while playing, why the hell not - or if you have an exhibitionist streak you'll have the time of your life. Just put on your fanciest knickers and go for it. 
  3. Dare I bare my arms? Not being exactly Serena Williams, I've been quite shy on the arm front. I like having longer sleeves and flailing my arms safe inside them, rather than taking them out in the open. Sometimes it's so hot onstage that there's no debate, but I suggest you have this conversation in your head anyway. Are you ready to set your arms free?  
  4. Does it wrinkle? You sit, you sweat, you bow, and after the concert you stuff your dress into a bag and get out. How's it looking when you take it out of the bag after a week because you forgot about it, again, and now you need it in an hour and there's no time for ironing? Just saying.  
  5. How's the neckline? A beautiful low plunge? Sure. A concert dress I loved had just one bonus feature: whenever I took a bow in it I had to remember to place a hand on my heart to show the audience my warmest, sincerest gratitude. Instead of my boobs.  
  6. Can you walk in your shoes? Sometimes the pedals are placed so low that pressing them with heels nearly breaks your ankle. Otherwise heels are great. But the most important thing I've learned about shoes is that you have to check if they squeak. Surprisingly many shoes make all sorts of sounds when you press the pedal, creating an interesting soundscape that usually doesn't match your performance. (Hint to composers: use it. Might be funny.)

That's it.

PS. Apologies to men - your festive clothing I know nothing about. Keep rocking the suits.