Attire for the Female Guitarist

gownInitially I wasn’t going to write a separate post for girls attire on stage, but after the surprising feedback I got on Facebook for my Stage Etiquette post, I decided that I’m going to go for it. As much as gender has nothing to do with our playing, gender does influence our attire; unless we plan to wear a suit on stage. Comparatively, guys have it a lot easier. All they have to do is wear a nice suit or tux and they are ready to go. Also, someone pointed out, that most of our teachers, colleagues, and mentors are male, so if I don’t write this post, being a female classical guitarist myself, who will?

So girls, this one is for us!

My number one priority for picking my outfit for concerts is comfort and elegance. Whether you choose to wear a suit, pants & shirt, skirt & shirt, or go all out and wear a gown is up to you and your personal style. However, there are certain things you should be mindful of no matter which outfit you choose. If you’re wearing a pantsuit, then you’re pretty much covered. As long as it’s comfortable, you’re set. The trickier part comes with shirts, skirts and gowns… I’ve mentioned this in the Stage Etiquette post, but if you choose to wear a skirt or gown, make sure that the skirt is full-length and wide enough. The position we sit in to play the classical guitar, is already not so lady-like. Wearing a skirt that’s too narrow and rides up when we sit with our leg on the footstool, only accentuates the not so graceful appearance the guitar position has. If you don’t use a foot-stool, then you might have more options  in terms of skirt width. Whenever I shop for a concert dress, I sit in a pretend guitar position and check to see if the skirt has enough material to drop between the legs. The extra fabric looks infinitely better on stage, from all angles, than not enough of it. Fabrics that drape down, instead of stand up, also look more elegant when you’re seated in the guitar position.

Another note on tops and dresses; this might be obvious to most, but make sure that the front of the shirt or dress doesn’t have any rhinestones or other things that can not only rattle and make noise, but also scratch the instrument. No one is going to see the rhinestones anyway, since 90% of the time, you’re gonna be playing with the guitar in front of you.

Shoes! Anyone who’s met me, knows that I love wearing heels. Number one question I get after a concert is, how I play in those heels. There is nothing wrong with playing in high heels, provided you like it and it’s comfortable for you, but you have to pick carefully. Choose heels you can actually walk in. I’ve been to a number of concerts, where a female performer walks on stage and you can tell she’s suffering and barely able to walk. Besides the looming danger of tripping and falling with our precious guitars, there is nothing less attractive than trying to make it to the center of the stage in shoes that we can hardly walk in. Speaking of tripping and falling; make sure the dress is at least half an inch above the ground, so when you walk, you don’t have to worry about tripping over the skirt. Yes, you can always hold it up, but I think not having to worry about is worth a trip to a tailor. When trying on your concert shoes, go ahead and take a bow in them. I had a pair of shoes once that propelled me forward, I barely kept my balance. In heels our center of gravity is already misplaced, so remember that you still need to bow. Also, some stages, especially in multitasking theaters, are built with a slight downwards slant. This is so that the audience can have a better view of the upstage area. If you try to bow on a slanted stage in heels that are too high, you might end up in the pit or in someones lap. So choose carefully!

Jewelry! Again, I love anything shiny and dangly. However, when it comes to choosing jewelry for concerts, choose conservatively. I personally think that bracelets and rings are unprofessional when worn by musicians during a performance, be that a guitarist, pianist, violinist, whoever. Our hands are our tools and it’s distracting for the audience to watch numerous rings flying across the finger-board. Not to mention the fact that they can get in our way of playing or they can add percussive effects not intended by the composer. Earrings that are too long can also get in the way. When choosing your earrings, play something above the 12th fret. If your earrings touch the guitar when you’re looking at your fingers, then they are probably too long. Same goes for necklaces and pendants.

Now on to a little more sensitive subject. I’m going to choose my words carefully here and some of you might think that I’m being a little conservative, but I think that there is such a thing as “too sexy” when it comes to stage presence. Given our instrument, we can’t really show up in a mini skirt, so we try to make up for it up top, with those plunging necklines. Though it might look nice when we are standing up, or holding the guitar, unfortunately, we still have to take a bow after we play. The last thing we want to happen is for the audience to wonder if there is going to be a costume malfunction. Though some might not mind the “mishap,” the overall presentation loses its “classiness.” This doesn’t mean we can’t wear low-cut shirts, just be mindful of how low-cut. I actually think that the right amount of skin on stage is preferable to being all covered up, but there is a fine balance between looking classy and elegant and looking like we’re trying too hard.

The point is, a concert is still a concert. People come to hear us play music and though it is important to feel feminine and look as nice as possible, it is also important that our appearance doesn’t distract from the music we are playing, and that goes for all of us, not just girls.

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2 Responses

  1. Thanks for the female guitarist attire article. I just stumbled on it but found it very useful since I perform in a group with men. BTW, I attended Interlochen last summer with you.

  2. Lisa Hurlong says:

    I bought my first good guitar by playing for a club in Kansas City. I was attending a course by oscar Ghiglia I was broke of course but had a beautiful embroider Guatemalan blouse my mother had put together for me. As all I had was my guitar music and dungarees . I didn t know what to do for the concert. One morning I went to the bathroom and rapped the pillow case around me as I didn t have pajamas either. Gliglia saw me and said there is your skirt. It was a perfect match for my blouse. A friend cynthia cozad got out her sewing machine and put an elastic band on the pillow case for the waist. I bought some white shoes and successfully presented my concert for thr Rotary
    club which was televised and successfully purchased my first concert guitar !

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