Solving the What-to-Wear Dilemma

SBO Staff • ChoralJuly 2009Survey • July 28, 2009

Oh no! The concert starts in two hours and I don’t know what to wear!” Fortunately, the vast majority of choir students aren’t faced with this predicament, as most choral directors require that their students wear mandated performance attire, whether that be robes, tuxes and dresses, or even simply matching t-shirts. Taking the guesswork out of the kids’ hands has a number of side-benefits, not the least of which is that the more professional an ensemble looks, the more seriously it will be taken, and it is a rare group of students that will coordinate effectively and appropriately when left to their own devices.

However, the logistics of this critical element of presentation can be a headache for even the most experienced teachers. When deciding what a group should wear, educators have to consider comfort, a wide range of sizes and body types, cost of cleaning, maintenance and repairs, and, of course, the overall cost of the initial purchase. Turning to our faithful readers, this recent CD survey was designed to shed some light on the latest trends in the field of choral attire.

Who makes the actual purchase of new robes/uniforms?

Who makes the actual purchase of new robes/uniforms?

How often do you update performance apparel for your choirs?

How often do you update performance apparel for your choirs?

“We had fundraisers for a couple of years when we originally purchased our uniforms. Those are now getting shabby and need replacement. We are planning to have the students buy the shirts from us, and we will lend out our old shirts for students who cannot afford to purchase a new one.”

Fonda Green
Northeast Middle School
Bristol, Conn.

What is your preferred apparel for performances?

What is your preferred apparel for performances?

“I’d love to have semi-formal clothing for the middle school students, but can’t afford it.”

Wilma Messenger
Briarcliff Middle School
Briarcliff Manor, N.Y.

“My large choir wears robes, my feeder choirs wear school bought dresses (girl’s choir) and the men’s choir wears pants, shirt, and tie they have purchased. My small chamber/jazz choir wears tuxes purchased by the school or dresses bought by the individual student.”

Susann Bauche
Farmington High School
Farmington, Mo.

“One of the best things I ever did was invest in choral robes for my school choir. Although the singers sometimes complain about wearing the robes, they look great when they all get on stage and it makes a wonderful first impression to the audience.”

Charles Bateman
Susquenita High School
Duncannon, Pa.

“Choir robes should be used in churches. I do not think they are appropriate for public school choirs.”

Suzanne Dickinger
Conestoga High School
Berwyn, Pa.

What’s the most important quality that you look for in choral performance apparel?

What's the most important quality that you look for in choral performance apparel?

“It is better to go with a quality apparel then to save a few dollars to go with something cheaper. It will last longer if one goes with quality.”

Linda Marks-Morgan
Louisville Male High School
Louisville, Ky.

“Don’t buy the cheapest outfit because you won’t get very much wear out of them before you have to purchase new ones. The best quality will last the longest, and this will save money in the long run.”

Cindi Pehowski
Bay View Middle School
Green Bay, Wis.

Are there any pitfalls you would advise educators who are purchasing choral apparel to watch out for?

“Be careful to consider the overall look when the choir is standing in a group. Sometimes an attractive outfit looks good on an individual, but not so good in a group. The opposite is also true: a dress that is not individually flattering may look great in a group. Be careful about letting the students choose a costume. They tend to think mainly about how the item looks on themselves and not the overall look of the group. Remember that teenagers come in all sizes and shapes. They must look as uniform as possible and still be comfortable for optimum performance.”

David Hall
Nazareth Academy High School
Philadelphia, Pa.

“Make sure the apparel is good for the long haul and something that your performers will feel like a million bucks in!”

Paul Geer
The Family Foundation School, Inc.
Hancock, N.Y.

“Be careful if you purchase dresses for the girls in your choirs. Not every dress style is flattering to every girl’s body type. I would rather have a little less uniformity but more confident singers because they are not thinking and fussing about how they look.”

Betsy Bergeron
Greens Farms Academy
Greens Farms, Conn.

“If you plan on using the apparel for more than one year, make sure that you purchase it from a company that you can order more from.”

Kristipher Tolman
Torrington High School
Torrington, Wyo.

Where do you make your apparel purchases?

Where do you make your apparel purchases?

Additional thoughts on performance-wear?

“Remember that the performance is reflective how the students sing, look, and behave while mingling with the audience before and after the show. All aspects of performance training should be a constant when students are ‘on display.'”

Allen Bailey
Mortimer Jordan High School
Morris, Ala.

“Do not go for the ‘hottest new styles.’ They will be out of style for your students within two years, and they will be begging to wear something else! Your administrators will appreciate selecting uniforms that create a good image for your school, and one that shows you are a good steward of their money.”

Dawn Kranz
Norway High School
Norway, Mich.

“Whatever the apparel is, it should not detract from the choral performance. A choir needs to be heard and the apparel needs to support that.”

Ken Hodgson
The University of Minnesota, Morris
Morris, Minn.

“I think it’s important for a group to look uniform. It helps to emphasize that chorus is about ‘us,’ not about ‘me.’ Nobody should stand out.”

Carolyn Dwyer
Holy Innocents’ Episcopal School
Atlanta, Ga.

“Try to find something that is machine washable, particularly for dresses. Also, if your choir moves/processes a lot, avoid fabrics that are noisy!”

Justin Chase
University High School
Orlando, Fla.

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