Time To Play Dress Up

Among the enduring topics within the field sure to garner more than a few opinions, one with the longest legs is dress codes. Holly Mulcahy tackled the topic as it relates to audience dress codes in an article at Neo Classical from 12/29/2014 that generated some intriguing feedback.

Adaptistration Guy 120Perhaps unsurprisingly, there’s an undeniable degree of trepidation among newbie patrons over what to wear, consequently, they don’t seem to mind basic guidelines. Interestingly enough, I went back through all of the Take A Friend To The Orchestra contributions and discovered that quite a few of the contributors focus on dress codes and their impact on ticket buyers (here, here, here, here, here, and here).

In a number of instances, they were part of a larger point about patron trepidation but this is where having some guidance can be useful and in similar fashion, this is where Mulcahy’s article comes into play.

Worth noting is in one of the comments where Mulcahy mentions that the impetus for the article is the result of being asked so often by potential ticket buyers what they should wear and although she tends to err of the side of caution by first mentioning whatever makes the patron feel comfortable it is always followed up by offering better defined guidelines because many have a tendency to want to fit in whenever visiting somewhere new (emphasis added below).

Certainly, the goal here is to make everyone feel welcome and comfortable and to that end, I get asked all the time by new and regular ticket buyers what is acceptable to wear. More to the point, if ticket buyers are asking, we need to have answers so while I tell people to come in whatever they are comfortable in…some people still want to know what everyone else is wearing, and that is their choice.

Mulcahy’s sartorial suggestions are terrific and I’m curious to know which other patron dress codes you’ve encountered that caught your attention (regardless the reason). If available, consider including a reference URL if it exists at the organization’s website.

About Drew McManus

"I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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5 thoughts on “Time To Play Dress Up”

  1. Hi, Drew,

    A friend and I were recently talking about newbie concert attendees in terms of audience building, and she asked me to do a blog post on attending classical concerts for newbies. I ended up writing 3 blog posts at Anatomy of Perceval. What to wear is ALWAYS a consideration. I tend to tell people that I wear nice clothes because the musicians and conductor are getting dressed up to perform and I want to show my respect for them. My blog posts:

    Attending a classical music concert part 1: https://ccyager.wordpress.com/2014/12/20/attending-a-classical-music-concert-part-1/
    Attending a classical music concert part 2: https://ccyager.wordpress.com/2014/12/27/attending-a-classical-music-concert-part-2/
    Listening to classical music: https://ccyager.wordpress.com/2015/01/03/listening-to-classical-music/

    Building audience is an ongoing challenge for all orchestras I think. Many focus more on kids and 20-somethings, but my friend and i have been talking about older adults (30+) who may have had some exposure as kids but are still wary of the concert experience. Any ideas, suggestions, etc. are welcome!


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