Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Choir uniform: to change or not to change

From time to time, over the years, City of Dunedin Choir has changed its uniform. The notable orange (1980), and later on blue (1988), dresses for the ladies stand out in history!

Today we have, for the ladies:

and for the gentlemen:

The men's black dinner suit with white shirt and black bow tie has remained unchanged for the nearly 150 years of the choir's existence!

Now here's the rub: in 2013 the choir celebrates its 150th anniversary and the question is:

Should City of Dunedin Choir get a new uniform for 2013?

We would like anybody and everybody's opinion and/or suggestion, so please leave your comments at the end of this post.

To put you in the fashion picture, here are some of the plusses and minuses that have been mentioned over recent years, regarding the present uniform:
  • The gentlemen are uncomfortably hot under the stage lights in their dinner suits and would much prefer to lose the jackets.
  • In the heat of a performance the bow ties sometimes end up all askew; not a good look. 
  • The bow ties are of a variety of different designs, so on closer inspection are not 'uniform'.
  • Although the ladies' blouses look smart 'en masse' from a distance, many individual members feel the blouses are ugly. Indeed, some are ill-fitting, but surely that can be improved.
  • The official black skirt for the ladies is generally regarded as a hideous, shapeless, frumpy garment; for this reason ladies have been allowed to wear other 'approved' black skirts, with the result that the skirt is no longer 'uniform', especially in design and length.
  • Speaking of length, the official ladies' skirt is an odd length - above the ankles - which contributes to the 'frumpy' look, with all kinds of shoes (some delicate and some blocky and comfortable) peeping out the bottom.
  • Should the ladies wear skirts or trousers?

Choosing a uniform to suit a group of men and women of varied ages, shapes and sizes is never an easy task. We wish to look smart and as uniform as possible.

Should we change any aspect of the current choir uniform? We would like to hear your ideas and suggestions!

Could choir members please indicate their willingness to serve on a uniform subcommittee if the decision is made to change the choir uniform?

31 August 2011 - Here is the result of this survey and the outcome of the committee's discussion of this issue:

Thank you to all the members who submitted their considered thoughts and suggestions regarding the possibility of a new choir uniform for the 2013 anniversary celebrations and beyond.

At our meeting on 31 August the committee noted that the general view of the members was to “tidy up” the uniform, but not to incur considerable costs to either the choir funds or members’ personal pockets while we are working hard to raise funds for the 150th celebrations.

The committee considered at some length the specific suggestions and has appointed a uniform sub-committee consisting of: Judy Tucker, Clare Kennelly and Jan Stevens.

The sub-committee will carefully consider the comments received and then propose the next step towards tidying up the women’s outfit, with special attention to the look of the skirts. The majority of comments regarding the men’s outfit was that the present uniform is the most appropriate for our choir and the committee generally agreed with this view, so the men’s uniform will not be changed.


Leta said...

The following comment received from Judy Tucker, Dress Steward, on 4 June:

In making a decision on this issue, it is important that the Choir consider the costs and benefits of the proposed change. As dress steward, I have a good understanding of the cost so I put this aspect of the debate.

It will be a huge job and very costly. I know that we are trying hard to raise money to be able to do the performances which we want for 2013 and many members may be unable to afford a new uniform as well.

It currently costs us about $80 to make a blouse plus minimum $35 for fabric. Skirts would be similar. The last time we had uniforms made the choir subsidised the cost so members would be able to afford the skirts, and the bond for the blouse does not go near covering the cost to the choir.

A professional designer was employed and the original uniforms were made by a local clothing manufacturer. We would probably be advised to do a similar thing again if there is support for a new uniform.

A sub-committee looked into a change for the men about 8 years ago and after submissions were taken the decision was made for no change to the formal concert dress. Formal music was deemed to need formal dress.

Those women who feel their individual fit is not good could be refitted or have adjustments made. Attitudes to what constitutes a uniform have always puzzled me. I have tried to help accommodate desires for skirts to be more comfortable or more fashionable by allowing other than the standard skirt and most choir members who choose this option fit in quite well.

I will support any committee which has the majority vote of the choir but the amount of work required to change the uniform is far more than one person as dress steward could manage.

However, in my opinion we look good in the current uniform.

Judy Tucker

Rosi Crane said...

Having conducted an exhaustive search via Google Images to see what other choirs look like I conclude that our current uniforms are OK. There are some absolute doosies out there. There seem to be four basic types of choir uniform.
Firstly, American Gospel choirs dressed in voluminous brightly coloured tent-things euphemistically called choir robes – eeeeuck.
Secondly, there are those choirs where they have allowed any style so long as it has long sleeves and is black – so that means there are scoop necks, v-necks, turtle-necks, lacy sleeves, puffed sleeves etc etc – despite the same (very boring) colour the ensemble effect is a mess.
Thirdly, there are also choirs that have scarves to add a bit of colour and glamour, some are terrible, some look quite good – but I notice those are the ones who are posed without music folders – do they memorise everything they are going to sing? How on earth do they manage with keeping scarves in place and turning pages, finding the right score etc etc, and how do you wear the scarf – over one shoulder, tied in a knot, slung round your neck etc etc. Incidentally, I thought our scarves for Zimbe! were an inspired choice, but they suited that piece of music – what scarf would suit Messiah?
And finally there are choirs with white shirts all round with a glitzy or highly coloured waistcoat. These are usually visually distracting as not enough of the full frontal waistcoat shows if left undone. If the waistcoat is buttoned up then it is not flattering to those of us with rather too much middle-aged spread, (speaking you understand, from my own less than sylph-like perspective).
Let’s leave the men out of the equation – it’s easier, the options for them are either some form of coloured blazer, a (usually ghastly) coloured shirt, or their current dinner suit with bow tie.
Our current uniform is OK. They maybe not the thing one would normally be seen dressed in. We are, of course, generally more comfortable in the sort of clothes we wear to rehearsal. But jeans and sloppy jumpers are not performance clothes.
Let me demolish some of the current gripes about our current uniform:
unfashionable—but both blouses and skirts are actually very forgiving of all sizes and body shapes, tall, short, fat, skinny – and everything in between
frumpy—well only up-close
skirt length—the only way you are going to get a truly uniform effect is if you measure distance of the hem from the floor, frankly silly! From a distance you can’t tell they are just generic black gathered skirts.
wrong colours—cream next to the face is far more flattering for the majority of skin types, than is black, or blue, or even orange!
ill-fitting—well perhaps, but actually that too is something of a benefit; when we perform in very cold venues there is room underneath for all the merino-possum wool-mixture vests and thermals you could wish for.
Skirts or trousers—a no-brainer, on cold day concerts we’ve worn trousers (oh sorry pants) with equanimity, and without any comment from audience or reviewer. Should we always were trousers? No I don’t think so.
And to address the non-uniform aspects of our uniform – well frankly that doesn’t matter a hang. We are all individuals, with different hairstyles, hair colour, glasses (or not), smiles (or not), pink faces, red faces, scrubbed faces, shiny faces.
I guess we should really ask ourselves what are we trying to achieve?
We should; all look good, yet no single person standing out by dint of clothing, look like we mean business from the moment we walk on stage.
Above all that the emphasis is on the work we have done to bring a concert to performance pitch. The fact that an incredible piece of art would be unheard at that place at that moment if we hadn’t spent our valuable time getting it down and getting it right, with no self-glorification at all in the mix, just a devotion to the music?
The uniform matters, but there are a lot worse choices that could be made. I say again our current uniform is OK.

Leanne said...

Just thought I'd post a few comments on this issue, even though I'm not actively singing at the moment.

When it comes to a uniform, you're looking for a few things: affordability, workability and comfort, and a uniform look.

The current women's uniform we have, IMO, works well in affordability (we already have it) and a uniform look, but isn't great on workability and comfort.

Re workability and comfort, the flaps on the blouse flip over and annoy / distract choir members and audience, and the skirt can be very cold in winter concerts, which is why sometimes we've been okayed to wear trousers.

Also, some women don't feel comfortable or attractive in the skirt. Call it a small issue, but feeling great on stage really makes a difference to how you perform.

My suggestion for the women's uniform is to keep everything, but alter the blouses. They're basically okay and functional, and for a much smaller fee than replacement we could alter the neckline to a simple V or scoop neck, removing the flaps altogether.

This would also enable us to possibly wear themed scarves in winter concerts, if committee wanted us to, or add a winter scarf in an appropriate colour, although I'm not actually a fan of scarves and this is just a suggestion.

Re: the skirt, just make it optional. Women can choose to wear the skirt, or to wear trousers. The truth is, when we're en masse, all that matters is the colour and length. As it is, not all the skirts are he same anyway, so why not allow for trousers on those who want to wear them?

Re: the men. I lot of professional choirs are doing away with the tux look - it's outdated, and in all the professional choirs I've been to see recently, none wear it.

What they *are* wearing is a plain shirt in a one colour. Sometimes they have a neck pin at the top (I dont know what the technical name for these is, but a brooch at the top button), and the shirts are usually buttoned up, but not always. Bowties seem to be disappearing altogether.

In other words, the "I am a waiter" look is OUT.

This would have several benefits: more affordable, more workable and comfortable for the men (they almost ALL hate bowties and a lot hate the jackets), the men wouldn't be sweating under hot lights, and in cold weather they can still wear their thermals underneath.

City Choir could easily and affordably get a large consignment of affordable mens shirts in one colour, thus taking the difference in styles and "tux from 1973" problem out of the equation. And men wouldn't have the drycleaning bills any longer.

If I were going to recommend a colour (hey, you asked for comments and suggestions!) I'd go with black probably.

Black looks horrible on about 80% of men, but no more horrible than pure white, and is easy to dye to keep looking pristine.

Anyway, those suggestions would solve the "I hate those flaps!", "I hate this skirt!", "I hate this bowtie!" and "I can't find / afford a dinner suit (in my size)!" problems that plague City Choir endlessly, at a small percentage of the cost of replacement uniforms.

Oh, and less dry cleaning, which is always good :-)

blackwellsster said...

Like Rosi, I googled choir uniform images and the beefeater uniform took my fancy. But seriously, the current uniform is classic and easily adaptable with colourful scarves, coloured ties and light over-blouses or pashminas. I find the jacket too hot on the town hall stage, but even find it hot without the jacket, so I just wear a coat and jumper til the choir room then strip off all unnecessary items for the auditorium. I thought slacks for the women was a good idea given the number of stairs on and off the stage. Cheers, Scott

Leta said...

Comment received from Gillian Watson, Choir Member, on 5 June:

Dear Committee,

I am sorry to hear that a suggestion has been made to change our uniform yet again. I think the present uniform looks very professional. Perhaps the new choir members could get the same skirt as the rest of us - I have noticed a few different black skirts creeping in.

If we have to change, then only change the blouse top. But my preference is to leave things as they are. Also consider that many of us are now superannuants and do not have a lot of spare money.

Gillian Watson

lollybat said...

In regards to the uniform, it seems clear from other comments that it needs to be kept as simple and as cost-effective for everyone as possible. My suggestion would be for the men to continue to wear the white shirts and black trousers (minus the jacket and bow-tie) and the women to be all in black (their own trousers or skirt and long sleeved top). This could be the informal uniform, and then there could be the additional piece of colour in the form of a tartan or some other colourful tie/scarf/bowtie that could be used for particular events (or be an integral part of the uniform).
Black always looks neat and tidy, and it allows for some personal preference for the women in terms of what fits or is comfortable to wear and the men would still look dressy in white shirt and black dress pants. The additional colour would add flavour and flare when needed.

Leta said...

Comment received from Lyn Dowset (Soprano):

It seems a weird time to change a uniform when we are celebrating the past. There have been some shockers as far as the ladies are concerned - and I assume there is not a move to have the men change their uniform to bright blue suits with pink shirts, white socks and shoes. The present uniform for women is affordable, smart and fits well with the men's white shirt, black everything else. It fits well with the orchestras with whom we sing. It is dateless and is sympathetic to all shapes and sizes. Perhaps someone thinks we should adopt green like the Highlanders. I am all for strong debate but can we have it about something that is worth debating?



Leta said...

Comment received from Wendy Coppin (Alto):

The current uniform is appropriate and suits us all. An attractive addition would be a Dunedin Tartan sash over one shoulder and crossing at the hip.

Leta said...

Comment received from Claire Kennelly (Alto):

I have spent a considerable amount of time viewing different choirs and have come to the conclusion that what we have is as smart as we shall get, taking into consideration there are so many different shapes and sizes.

The only problem I see is that the skits have become a real "mix up". I think a slim line skirt just above the ankle possibly in velvet would look stunning. Some of the tops need to be replaced especially the ill fitting and discoloured ones.

Regarding the men's - my suggestion would be black trousers, black shirts with a coloured cummerbund. We have to be aware that laundering the black shirts could be a problem (one wash with a towel would be sufficient to ruin the look).

We have to be mindful of costs to everyone. These 150 celebrations should not be a financial burden to members but it would be the perfect time to "tidy up" our appearance.

I would be happy to avail myself for committee if needed.

jan.stevens said...

I've had some experience with this in the past and one thing is certain, you won't please everyone.

Overall, our uniform looks smart on stage but I do think that with some minor tweaking it could look even better.

I sympathise with the men's wish to get rid of the jackets and think a coloured or black shirt would be preferable to white. Both black and white can be a problem in the wash. What about charcoal? A cummerbund also appeals.

The women's blouses look good en masse but some really don't fit but could easily be altered. The skirts are hideous and I would be in favour of women wearing their own dress trousers or a suitable alternative skirt if they wish. After all, no-one notices that the men's trousers are different.

I would be happy to be on any committee.

Jan Stevens

Leta said...

Comment received from Isla Griffin (Soprano):

Re Women's Uniforms:

I guess most of us have had the feeling 'it's definitely not quite 'ME' when we get into our choir uniform. We all like to look good, and I'm no exception. But how should we go about replacing our present gear and what should we replace it with?

There seems to be no easy answer to this question but I've jotted down a few practical (boring!) points for consideration before we even start thinking about style and colour:

Must be affordable

Should enhance our status as a professional choir

Fabric should be crease resistant and easily laundered

Skirt not so long or tight to make walking up or down steps treacherous

Blouses/tops not so tightly fitting that they don't look good on all figure types, especially when wearers are seated

Not very sexy so far, I admit, but I guess if we're realistic we cease to be ME when we join a choir and become US. We're not soloists.

And strangely, a funny thing happens as soon as we stand and the orchestra starts playing. We seem to forget about our skirts as we concentrate like mad on getting those tricky bits right and on putting our hearts and souls into making the best contribution we can to yet another successful performance.

A new uniform ? Great !!
So who's the generous sponsor ?

Meanwhile, Judy's doing a great job working on accomodating change in skirts and suggesting adjustments in blouses and that's at least something we can turn our minds to while we await the elusive sponsor.

From the audience's perspective, I understand we look pretty good - and we can sing too !

As for the men, I find it hard to be objective re their gear. I have to admit I DO love a man in a dinner suit. Sorry guys !

Leta said...

Comment received from Ron Tindal (Bass):

Already mentioned is the cost of change - perhaps the "dull" men's uniform should be recognized as an expensive and smart outfit - probably now near $500 to produce.

Black and white without embellishments takes little away from performance and is not "broke" and therefore requires "no fixing". Perhaps those desiring a new look could join up with the Gilbert and Sullivan group and change costumes every year !!

Leta said...

Comment received from Glenys Bennet (Soprano):

Just a bit of feedback about the uniform debate! I think generally we look good en masse. Individually perhaps not so, but for the ladies perhaps a little bit of tailoring of the blouses would be permissable?

Some necklines seem to sit well others (including me) are not so good, and the flaps can 'flap' a bit! I wear my own skirt as the choir one felt like a parachute and clung - too much electricity in me.

A thought about the men - if they were only in shirt sleeves, it would look very informal against the soloists. Having sat in the audience a couple of times lately, I thought the look is very good overall - hopefully some minor tweaks as suggested by others on the blog would do to made some happier - don't change for change's sake.

Leta said...

Comment received from Ann Knight (Soprano):

Please do not change the uniforms. The one we have works well as a group uniform and looks good in the venues. Those women who throw their blouses in the washing machine will continue do so so regardless. I have had my blouse since the beginning and as I hand wash it and hang up to dry after each concert it still looks like new.

The irregularity of the skirts does not matter as this is not noticeable from a distance as long as the legs and shoes are also black. I appreciate that some do not think the blouse suites them, but so what - they are not there as individuals but as members of a team. The cost would be huge and I for one do not see why I should pay for yet another uniform when the present one is just fine. Also who would be able to come up with something different that will keep everyone happy. A brave person to try. If I remember correctly, it was either last year or the year before, that the Committee put the suggestion of change to the choir members and it met with complete apathy. Surely that should have indicated that most members were not interested.

My only thought about possible change would be for the men, as it gets very hot under the lights on the stage and they must get very uncomfortable in dinner jackets - but it is for them to come up with an alternative suggestion if they are not happy.

Leta said...

Comment received from Jim Sprague (Tenor):

It is my opinion that our present uniform is one of the best among the bigger choirs in New Zealand. Our penguin-like shades are to be commended as they are.

Judy Tucker has a very good point when she says "those women who feel their individual fit is not good could be refitted or have adjustments made".

Gents' apparel -
Uniformity in bow ties would be a great start. A new one for each of our members and every bow tie exactly the same. Perhaps at a carefully selected future performance our males could appear on stage minus their jackets, but all in a pure white long-sleeved shirt. Dare I suggest our next "Last Night of the Proms"?

Whatever the decisions that stretch ahead, I feel that our beloved choir can smarten themselves up with their current dress wear.

Leta said...

Comment received from Rosslyn Greig (Alto):

Keep as is - but upgrade some of the blouses which seem to be of inferior quality and finish.

Leta said...

Comments received from Natalie Baylis (Soprano), choir member for nearly 40 years:

I am in favour of a new uniform for men and women. The attire for both is outdated. The men’s ‘uniform’ hasn’t changed in 35 years – probably longer. The women’s uniform will, by 2013, be nearly 20 years old.

We are promoting ourselves as the City of Dunedin Choir and we are used for civic occasions. The choir needs to reflect a 21st century image and promote itself as a progressive, vibrant, high quality choir that presents high quality music.

Find out what other quality choirs in New Zealand and overseas wear. The age range (nor the size range) doesn’t matter. Smart dress is for all ages, shapes and sizes.

Financing the project can be addressed once it is decided what the uniform will consist of. It shouldn’t be a reason not to go ahead.

I would be happy to wear trousers or a skirt. Trousers for women are accepted as formal dress these days. There is always the trouser/skirt (skants) option that I have seen female conductors and musical directors wear. They seem to suit most figures, and look good.

Some choir I know of purchase the trousers ready made from certain clothing outlets that cater for a wide size range.

I like the ‘separates’ uniform style we currently have and definitely black on the bottom with cream, white or grey with a sheen, top which is hip length, long sleeved, no collar and not necessarily front buttoning. Skirt or trousers should have a pocket as at present.

Men black trousers, white or silver grey shirt, no bow tie, just the normal dress tie in a suitable colour.

The audience sees us before they hear us. Image is important. What we look like under stage lights is important. (Probably not practical for me to be on sub committee but willing to give some input if required. I do have connections with men’s and women’s choirs who update their uniforms every 6-8 years.)

Leta said...

Comment received from Bren Moore (Bass):

The men's uniform has remained virtually the same for almost 150 years except for the massive change that occured sometime after 2011 when we changed to "black ties". I feel the time has come for a change may I suggest the following :

1. All the following suggestions have one thing in common: black trousers with black socks and shoes.

2. A black or coloured shirt (to match or complement the ladies) with either a conventional collar or a round neck (similar to a shirt without a winged collar).

3. A cummerbund in either black or other dark colour or using the Dunedin tartan (This would look striking if the ladies could incorporate the tartan as part of their uniform).

These suggestions are made to try and modernise our uniform from a vestige of empire to something that is more commonplace. The cost is also a major factor with the suggested men's uniform priced at under $80 as opposed to the current one which if bought new would cost closer to $800 unless we are destined to wear secondhand clothes for the next 150 years. A further reason for the change is comfort, the current uniform is very very hot under the lights and on at least one occassion has caused a member to become very distressed.

The final reason is very personal.....................I hate wearing a suit which is nothing more than a tatty impression of a voiceless penguin.

Leta said...

Comment received from Jeanette McQuillan (Soprano):

I like the current colour scheme for the women but feel that the blouses could be altered to make them look smarter. Maybe get rid of the flappy collars which don't sit neatly or else stick with the cream and have a completely new style. Some of the blouses are looking quite scruffy now and if new ones could be bought/made without being too expensive I would be in favour of this. I like the idea of a scarf of Dunedin tartan being used for special occasions to brighten the black/cream overall look. They could be pinned to one shoulder?? It would depend on the style of the neckline. We are after all the City of Dunedin Choir and the tartan would emphasize this. The current blouses are great to wash and don't crush, so a similar material would be really good. I think we should keep the black skirts and trousers. Once we are on stage no one can see the different styles and most people have skirts or trousers that would be perfectly acceptable. I don't think it is essential that we all wear the same skirt, especially if we are trying to keep costs down.

I would like to see the men abandon the dinner jackets and bow ties. They've argued against these for years and have been ignored. The jackets must be terrible to wear under the stage lights. So hot. Black dinner shirts with Dunedin Tartan cummerbunds would look smart. (I just can't get away from the idea of having some tartan in the uniform since we are a "Scottish" city.)

I suspect there will be a lot of heated debate about this before any decision is reached. But I definitely agree with those who think it would be good to have a new, smarter look for the 150th celebrations.

Leta said...

Comment received from Rosalind Horsman (Soprano):

Rosie and the others are right, the current uniform is fine; cream next to the face suits everyone, the blouses are forgiving of all shapes and sizes, and I don't think the variety of skirts matters as they all look the same from the audience. The current uniform is formal enough for an evening concert but also looks good e.g. when singing in the octagon during the day, or at civic functions such as the Janet Frame memorial service some years back - something to bear in mind, as we don't only sing at night. I like the idea of a Dunedin tartan scarf incorporated somehow but not sure how it would sit on the current blouse without looking like an afterthought - worth looking into though, would add some colour and local identity.

When we sang with the Invercargill choir a few years ago many people commented on their smart uniform. If the consensus turns out to be in favour of a new uniform perhaps that would be one to look at.

AlanGirvan said...

We already do sing in shirt sleeves for Prom Concerts. Too hot in Dinner Jackets? The new air conditioning in the Town Hall should solve that problem. The Town Hall is warm in February, when we are in shirt sleeves anyway. And we need extra layers when we sing in the Cathedral.

We already have the flexibility to wear more colourful outfits, if we are singing something like Carmina Burana.

Leta said...

Comment received from Jeanene O'Keefe (Soprano):

I like the uniform that we currently have, these are the reasons why.
1. I find the blouse and skirt easy to launder. This is an important factor, as most of us have busy lives. We do not want to spend more time than necessary taking care of our uniforms.
2. Cream blouses and black skirts keep our choir looking professional, and help promote ourselves well when we perform. We are in the public eye at this time.
3. I feel comfortable when I wear the uniform, I feel confident singing when I wear the uniform.
4. We have versatility with our black skirts, or trousers in 'Proms' concerts, when we wear coloured shirts, and blouses.
I think the men look good in their black and white as well. Whether they always wear their dinner jacket is another matter?

Christine, Chris and Tyler said...

Rosalind mentioned an Invercargill choir's uniform - I'm wondering if she was referring to A Capella Singers? If so here is a link to our website photo gallery which will give you an idea of what they are like (look at the Christmas with Mozart concert).

This is a discussion for your choir members so I will not comment any further, but if anyone wants more information, I am happy to answer any questions regarding cost, comfort etc.

Kind regards
Christine McLeod (Assistant Conductor, A Capella Singers)

Leta said...

Thank you for the offer Christine. Yes, the red and black does look very striking!

Leta said...

The following comment received from Rosalind Horsman in response to Christine's comment:

No I didn't mean the A Capella singers but the Invercargill City Choir (not sure if that is the name they use) who sang with us a few years back. Colour scheme was black and a peachy/apricot colour, don't remember exactly but it looked good.

Anonymous said...

I think that the current uniform of black and white / cream looks professional for formal concerts and also provides some flexibility for less formal occassions with shirt sleeves and coloured tops. Sorry men, I know the black suit looks a bit old-fashioned and is undoubtedly hot, but coloured shirts can date very quickly and look very 'tacky', remember the 'electric blue' the women used to wear.
I agree with the suggestion about introducing the tarten somehow. In addition some of the women's blouses could be improved. Personally I would like to get rid of the 'flaps' but I suspect the cost would not be worth it.
In this year of fund raising for our 150th celebrations let's not get sidetracked by having to raise lots more money for an expensive change of uniform. A uniform sponser would be great but I fear somewhat unlikely.
Julia Lawson

Leta said...

Comment received from Stella Cullington (Soprano):

I remember the days when we had to wear the orange dress. For women I like black dress trousers. The cream top is a good colour but the collar is not ideal. I like the idea of a tartan sash to reflect the Scottish connection here. I always feel sorry for the men to have to wear a jacket but it is their choice. A tartan bow-tie would complement the tartan of the ladies or perhaps a tartan cummerband.

Elisabeth N said...

In my opinion, although smart, our choir uniform makes us look staid and outdated. Our appearance is part of the entertainment. Rather than a monochrome block I do not consider a little colour or variety in our presentation would detract from the works we perform.
When we joined Christchurch to sing Elgar I was impressed by their women's uniform. They all wore their own black tops (of an agreed neck line and sleeve length)over which they wore wide scarves (like a priest's stole). They were clipped together somehow in front so that they all hung uniformly and basically covered the fronts of the blouses.They had used paua colours, we could use tartan which could be picked up in the men's dress.
My problem with our current blouses is not only the style, getting the flaps to lie flat, but also the fabric. Being totally unabsorbent, it is unforgiving and uncomfortable to anyone whose thermostat is not working as well as it used to especially in the heat underneath the lights.
Elisabeth Nicholson - soprano

JB said...

I find the current women's uniform easy to manage, crush proof when travelling and easy to launder. The reveres are a problem and I have to safety pin mine in place. The skirts are thin which is great in warm envronment and you can wear petticoats under in cold.

I would like the addition of a coloured scarf and coloured bow ties for the men as I think the whole ensemble looks gloomy

I DO NOT favour tartan. We are Kiwi for heaven's sake and tartan is so sombre.

Leta said...

Comment received from Joy Smith (President of City of Dunedin Choir and former Alto):

As a member of the audience now, I must say that the choir looks splendid in the current dress. Any imperfections of fit on individuals is certainly not obvious from the front, it’s the overall impact that matters.

As the dress steward in charge of the change to the cream blouses, I know only too well what a real hassle that was! You certainly cannot please all of the large number of females! We were pleased with the results though – i.e. the dress subcommittee at the time.

One thing that bothers me now are the black skirts and their length(s). In the Town Hall it’s not noticed, but in other venues the variable lengths of the front row skits is amazing and I wonder if black trousers (full leg) would not be more appropriate. Any member complaining about the fit of the blouse could have it adjusted I’m sure.

However, the men are a different matter! I know they have complained for years about the heat in the Town Hall when they are in their full suits – quite justifiable I might add. My choice would be plain black long-sleeved shirts with cream bow ties to match the ladies – and a cream cummerbund also to keep the shirt tidy where it meets the trousers!

Best of luck with this arduous task.

Leta said...

Firstly, as Committee Member I would like to thank all the contributors for their comments.

Secondly, as Alto in the Choir, here are my own thoughts:

Now is not the time for a complete and costly change. We must not divert energy and funds away from our immediate fundraising goal - the 150th celebrations.

The current uniform is smart and flexible and suits the music that we (mostly) perform. We can certainly tidy up by paying attention to the details.

Men - dinner suits are good. Perhaps the choir can invest in a batch of bow ties that all have the same design? The Town Hall is getting new air-conditioning so overheating on that stage should no longer be a problem. Commercial coloured shirts come in different dye lots over time so potentially can look anything but 'uniform'.

Women - The blouses need tweaking; adjustment for ill-fitting ones, and perhaps we could lose the collar and have an extra button-hole and button added to the front (so I don't always have to pin mine together!). This small change could be made to existing blouses and phased in over time, so that all are done by 2013.

Tartan - no thanks. The Dunedin tartan is not very exciting; tartan fabric is very costly. Scarves and sashes are fiddly things and if not cemented in place, can easily look untidy in a group.

Cummerbunds - a waste of time and money. The men are usually hidden behind the women so cummerbunds won't have a striking effect. Can you imagine a portly gentleman in a cummerbund? It's just something else that can be either uncomfortable or untidy.

Leta said...

Comment received from Polly Mason (soprano):

I am all for not using money unnecessarily. I certainly find daily living nore financially challenging than in other times, and assume this must be the case for many in the choir.

I suggest we women refresh and update what we have by getting together to make blouses fit and sit better. This isn't easy as individuals, but probably easy enough in small groups in private homes which still have the erstwhile almost ubiquitous sewing machine. We've already made use of any reasonable black bottom half on various occasions.

There are fewer men, so changes to their choir uniform would possibly cost less: same cream as our tops open-necked tailored shirt and maybe a black waistcoat? with black trousers? Personally I think all our men look great in their dinner suits, but understand the suit jackets are too hot for comfort.

Gotta be comfortable to sing well.

Leta said...

Comment received from Maggie Peake (Soprano):

I have no expertise on fashion/design, but as my contribution to our 'new look', can I suggest that both the men and women wear something tartan - maybe a tie, sash, scarf, even a waistcoat!?

The women's black skirts or trousers look good, our cream blouses are 'ok' too, but maybe could we just change the present neckline/collar to look a bit more stylish?

Another suggestion could be to ask one of our our up-and-coming students from the fashion design school to 'have a look at us' and come up with some ideas - could be a project, and certainly would be a challenge for any student!!

Leta said...

Comment received from Christine Ogilvy (Alto):

I'm quite a new member of the choir so haven't experienced the previous versions.

From my point of view, the uniform is OK, the blouse reasonably pleasant and smart. With the black trouser or black skirt option, everyone can find is acceptable to them.

I think the status quo is the way to go. To spend substantial funds on an update therefore is needless expense. In the future we can always add a scarf.


Leta said...

Comment received from Jenny Roxborogh (Alto):

I think we need some change - perhaps of design rather than colour. The skirts are rather strange and a more fitted long skirt in a heavier material would be warmer and more flattering. The current blouse neckline is quite hard to manage on many figures and most people have to resort to safety pins to avoid it flapping around. An over blouse is good and cream button up style seems suitable. My husband thought the blouse design looks tired and old fashioned. He thought dinner suits were still good for the men, but noticed the huge range of styles. Maybe a plain dark suit with narrow lapels could be more uniform and more useful.

If we're changing, maybe we need a different kind of blouse to make it worthwhile: maybe some other pale shade or perhaps something dark and dramatic which could lead to a coloured bow tie or tie for the men.

We need to bear in mind what choirs of similar kinds to ours wear, both in NZ and overseas as we don't want to get out of step with what is considered appropriate for a choir that sings traditional repertoire.