Anne Midgett asks the question (and provides four answers from which to choose):

Should classical music critics comment on a female musician’s attire?
Yes, if it is distracting and inappropriate.
Yes, because pointing out that classical musicians are trendy and dress well can attract younger audiences.
No – the only thing that matters in a music review is the music.
No, because critics don’t typically comment about what men in classical music wear.


I don’t actually care for the question. I would rather ask “Should classical music critics comment on a musician’s attire?”

I’ve seen men who are distracting too. Mostly because they are wearing such ancients tuxes they are filthy and ragged looking. And as much as I would like to deny it, how we look does make a difference.

The performer in question was, of course, a woman. And yes, I found her dress a distraction too. I just kept fearing we were going to get to see more than we paid for. That’s distracting. When some women come out in dresses that are cut so low I’m waiting for a bit of a fallout (if you know what I mean), that’s distracting too. So if I’m a reviewer and something is taking my attention elsewhere in a very obvious way, I think it’s worth a mention.

That being said, it’s a tricky issue!

If a reviewer said, “John Doe came out in a ragged looking set of tails,” no one is going to cry sexism. If the same reviewer writes, “Jane Doe came out in a bright turquoise shorter than short dress that I feared was going to show us more than we want to see at a concert,” I am guessing cries of sexism will result.

I’m not sure how we should deal with that.

In some ways it reminds me of commercials these days, compared to those from some years back. It’s okay to show a stupid man doing stupid things but, generally speaking, no one dares show a woman acting stupid now. “Back in the day” (as kids who haven’t even lived long enough to say that!) say, women were the dumb ones. Unless it was about choosing laundry detergent … and even then there was a dumb one who chose wrong and smart one to get her on track.

Okay … just thinking writing out loud here. I don’t really have a decent answer. I’m just tossing things out. Because I can.

Over ‘n out.


  1. patti with an i

    I think a performer’s choice of clothing is fair game for comments, but if a particular critic is always (or nearly always) silent about what men wear and vocal about what women wear, then I’d question that person’s motivation. Personally, I turn my nose up equally at get-ups such as a female violin soloists’s clodhopper army boots under a crushed velvet slip dress, and a male cello soloists’s crinkled silk tunic and PJ pants (remember those, Patty with a y?).

    Then again, one of the most devastating reviews I’ve ever encountered had this, and only this, to say about a female vocalist: “She wore a lovely blue dress.”

  2. Yep, I DO remember those, patti with an i! Ah the things we see!

    & you’re right … if the reviewer only attacks the women, I would question motivation too. But I have a feeling maybe some are over reacting with Ms. Wang; she DOES draw a ton of attention to herself with those dresses. I kept wondering just how much I was gonna see and praying that the dress didn’t hike up at all.

    BUT … I also remember the things I wore back when my body looked a wee bit different than it looks now. One black dress I had had to be nearly peeled off. Oh dear ….

  3. Like it or not, how we look DOES matter. What we wear reflects what we want people to see in us and how we want to present our image. One does not go to a job interview in jeans and a t-shirt, for example. If a female musician dresses in a distracting way, one could argue that it’s sexism on HER end that she chooses to present herself in that manner. On the other hand, people should feel comfortable to express themselves with out being judged too harshly. It’s a conundrum.

  4. It’s tricky, isn’t it?

    My son has (had?) an interview today where he was told, “DON’T come in a suit! We all wear jeans and you’ll look out of place.” Heh … one never knows!