Opinion: It’s time to find a respectful way to discuss fashion choices by female classical musicians

Posted on: April 20, 2022

“Last November, pianist and scholar Dr. Samantha Ege gave a recital of works by Florence Price, Margaret Bonds, and Vítězslava Kaprálová at Milton Court Concert Hall,” writes Leah Broad in Tuesday’s (4/19) Guardian (U.K.). “Ege was praised for her ‘finely honed performances born of deep study and analysis.’ What none mentioned, though, was Ege’s outfit … what she described to me as ‘a muted red fishtail dress, influenced by west African styles.’ … For Ege, as for many other soloists, her outfits are … ‘even more of an opportunity to express myself,’ she says…. Discussing clothing is something of a taboo in classical music…. ‘Most musicians don’t feel like they can talk about it,’ says Jocelyn Lightfoot, managing director of the London Chamber Orchestra…. As much ink has been spilt over [pianist Yuja] Wang’s hemlines as her playing…. The problem isn’t that critics are talking about Wang’s clothes. It’s … viewing everything she wears through a sexualized lens…. The inability to talk about Wang’s clothing in a sensitive and respectful way reveals damaging and longstanding assumptions around women and their dress…. Nineteenth-century ideas about what classical music is, who it is by, for and about have all been upended. So, too, must ideas about how it looks.”