Saturday, 18 February 2012

Can you wear a nice dress and breathe too?

One thing that always causes me some angst in relation to performing is clothing. Singing nude is not an option although I'm willing to bet there are some opera directors out there that would love to figure out a way to get some of their stars to do it  - probably with Katherine Jenkins in mind. (Please don't write furious messages telling me off for calling her an opera singer, I know she is not but the people out there who try to think up new ways of making money don't care about the distinctions much less the quality of her singing).  So when the choice is mine, how do I make that choice? 

Firstly, and rather importantly, I have to be able to breathe. Not just ordinary every-day breathing but deep, lung-filling, get-me-through-the-long phrase breathing. Now that I am learning to relax and breathe fully and without restraint, this means that anything too tight round my midsection is out. 

Next, there is the problem of legs. If the dress is too short the audience is distracted, too long and you risk doing a face-plant as you regally ascend the few steps to the stage/platform.  I also have another leg problem - they shake. Invariably about half-way through the aria/art song/lied I'll feel them start to tremble. Doesn't matter if I'm feeling completely relaxed and calm, away they go like there's a seismic tremor occurring directly beneath me. So a reasonable length of dress is a useful disguise.

So how about 'the girls'? Anything too low cut and the audience will be fixated on your cleavage, waiting in a combination of anxiety and interest to see if you will have a 'wardrobe malfunction' as you take in the enormous lungful of air required to see you through the third coloratura bit of the Mozart 'Alleluia'.

What about shoes then? Too high and you risk falling off them, too low and you can look a bit mumsy. Earrings? Too dangly and/or sparkly and they distract the audience. Bracelets? They might jingle in the the wrong key. At least with my short hair I can't go too wrong. (As an aside, I yearn for long hair that I could curl, put up, put down - I think it gives you more options).

So the other day I bought a dress. It doesn't look like this:

But it does look like this:

I may not look even a quarter as glamorous as KJ but I bet my audience will concentrate on my singing and not my appearance. What do you reckon?


  1. Lovely, Bella! But will it allow you full breath? One thing about singing in the nude--you don't worry about taking deep breaths, I imagine!

    Dressing with taste allows your listeners to hear the music and appreciate your art rather than, as you suggested, allow their concentration to center elsewhere. I'm sure we all have stories. I attended a program of "Lessons and Carols" at the chapel of a very good college near here not too long ago. A soloist wore a dress that was one-shouldered, low cut and bright red. For all her effort, I remember nothing about her singing, only that I was afraid the dress wasn't going to stay in place. It really took away from the context of the music as well. I wish the concert mistress/conductor would have given them all some pointers on what to wear!

    Well, you'll knock 'em dead in that dress anyway! : )

  2. Thanks Poppy! Yes I can breathe quite comfortably in this - it's not as restrictive as it looks. It's a shame when performers don't think about the appropriateness of their outfit to the situation.