Being a woman in a man’s world has always been tricky. Even today, according to some recent research, 95% of professional double bassists are male as are the majority of brass and percussion players. As someone remarked ‘Our society does not want women to be loud ’. One might add ‘nor big’.
As a soloist upon one of those ‘unfeminine’ instruments, what to wear is a significant question and one which I approached with relish. Given that the miniskirt arrived with a vengeance just as I was emerging onto the concert platform, I could have come in for some pretty severe criticism for the length of leg displayed on either side of the bass. But in those 60s heady days of women’s lib and flower power, all that happened was I got noticed by the press.
The previous decade had been characterised by huge skirts supported by rustling paper-nylon petticoats, tiny waists, .tight fitting tops and a little scarf tied around the neck. With my big frame, this combination did not suit me and when legs became fashionable, I breathed a sigh of relief. Trousers arrived in a big way. I can still hardly believe that in all of my childhood, I never wore trousers of any kind. (Tweed skirt, a liberty bodice, a little blouse and cardigan, bare legs and white woollen socks did not stop me from being the ultimate tomboy.)
Evening wear for performance demands its own discipline. Never wear strapless to play bass or cello or, distractingly from some angles, it can appear that you are in the nude. Never wear a wraparound because at an inappropriate moment it can unwrap itself and leave you significantly over exposed. Always make sure any bottles of shampoo, perfume and the like are securely fastened lest they leak in your bag onto your frock and you arrive with half your dress much darker than the rest. (Solution…wet the whole dress and go for the clingy wet look)
As my career progressed, I made up for the lack of trousers in my childhood and found smart comfort in any and every style possible. That was until I discovered ‘vintage’.
For sheer uncluttered style, comfort, reliability and uniqueness, nothing can beat a 1920s simple black georgette evening frock, with beautifully proportioned square neckline, exquisite stitching emphasising shapely contours, elbow length sleeves and finishing off with a magnificently surprising fish tail skirt so that every movement is echoed in sweep and swirl. This I paid £12 for in an Edinburgh vintage wear shop during one of my Fringe Festival stints. It became my Slap and Tickle de rigeur. With a scarlet rose pinned to my right shoulder I was queen of all I surveyed- anything and everything was possible….
It still fits me and when I wear it, I feel like a million dollars. You are indeed what you wear.