When marching band season is over, it may be time to consider refreshing your ensemble’s concert black. After all, the first thing judges see at band festival is your students' appearance.
It may sound cliché but looks really do matter in the performing arts. So how do you get your band to look modern and timeless? It isn’t quite as easy as it seems.
Here are some do’s and don’ts when it comes to concert band apparel.
Ties of the school colors are things of the past. The dual striped statements make your band look outdated. Mixing two more colors on top of the black and white will look way too busy. To keep your band looking elegant and timeless, don’t add too many colors.
While mixing two or three colors with your concert black is distracting, choosing one small splash of color can really bring the look alive. It doesn’t necessarily have to be one of your school colors. Sometimes, it shouldn’t be. If your school colors are yellow or dark purple, you may find your group looking like striped bumblebees, or completely contrast-less. Burgundy or scarlet red accents always look beautiful with black. There are several ways to add one bit of color, such as student-chosen jewelry, cummerbunds or cufflinks.
Full-length dresses and suits are traditional, and there are many great ways to do them. You can try a plain suit, notched lapel jackets and tuxedo pants, or a traditional tux.
If suits and tuxedos aren’t in the budget, try black button-down shirts and dress pants instead. To make this look appear to be an ensemble uniform, make sure all the button-downs are the same style and brand.
For female-identifying students, consider the following combinations:
Blouses and dresses can get pretty complicated, with sashes and sparkles, straps and peplums. Less is often more when it comes to finding something that is universally flattering on women. Dresses with square/sharp geometric necklines are classic and are a great way to add shape to an outfit.
Having students feel confident in what they are wearing is important. You may have students in your class who do not feel comfortable with the gender they were assigned at birth. Or, non-binary students may prefer one option over the other. Don’t be afraid to offer suits and dresses as the two choices for everyone. Just make sure to do an online form so students can choose their option before you place the order.
Concert black without much specification is fine for middle school and non-audition high school bands. But if you plan to take your ensembles to festivals for ratings, make sure that you have a proper concert uniform and clearly lay down the ground rules. And, even if it’s not in the budget to buy uniforms, be sure to create a document of what students can and can’t wear from head to toe (see below).
Even if you have a standard uniform, many things can go wrong. Consider the following:
It’s easy to see how something that seems so basic can go very wrong. One time, I was at a symphony concert and I couldn’t listen to the music because I was far too distracted by one particular cello player’s purple socks. Don’t be the band director who has a kid with purple socks in her ensemble!
As for socks and stockings, choose black because it makes everything easier (and, it looks good).
Shoes are something that also can go very wrong, especially for the ladies. Flats and heels are both fine, but consider setting a limit on the height of the heels. You don’t want one instrumentalist who shows up in 6-inch bedazzled platforms! As for the guys, any black, leather dress shoes will do.
Last but not least, consider what accessories will be allowed. While it might be easiest to say no to all jewelry, you do want to allow your students some option for personal expression. Consider putting limits on the accessories, such as dainty, neutral jewelry like gold, silver and clear crystal earrings, necklaces and bracelets. Otherwise, you might end up with a student wearing a big yellow beaded statement necklace on top of your carefully planned concert black.
Make sure to spell out what is and is not allowed in a form, put it up on Schoology and send it home to parents!
Not all fabrics are made equally. Low-quality polyester tends to pill after 10 or 12 washes. Some common fabric types you will find on uniform sites include satin, crepe and stretch velvet.
Satin looks great, but keep your flutists and percussionists in mind. They will need extra give in the shoulders. In the case of concert bands, skip the all-satin uniforms. Crepe and polyester allow for more motion, but they can appear thin and cheesy if you don’t choose the right blend. Instead, go for a mix of poly and cotton, or a heavy crepe fabric.
You can often get a set of uniforms for your entire ensemble between $30 and $60 dollars per student if your order is large enough. Group prices are a great way to save some money in your budget! Some places even offer group prices for rental uniforms.
If you work at a school that has a tight budget or possibly no budget at all, consider a large fundraiser specifically for uniforms. Another possibility is to ask students to bring their own uniforms but give very strict guidelines. For example, all students must wear black dress shoes, flats or kitten heels, black socks, black pants and a black shirt with three-quarter sleeves or longer.
While concert black may seem much simpler than marching band uniforms, there are a surprising number of factors to consider. It may take some trial and error, but your concert band will be looking sharp in no time!