I went to the Metropolitan Opera season opening last night, and didn’t see much glamour, in the audience or on the stage. And since we’ve been talking about clothes here, let me stress something that hit me very strongly. A man in black tie doesn’t look dressy any more, at least not to my eye, and certainly doesn’t look fancy or glamorous. I saw a few men in tuxes, and the effect was blah, no more striking than a man in a business suit.
And why? Because fashion has moved beyond that. Fashion designers — along with plain old non-designer people — have come up with sharper, more interesting, more striking, more contemporary looks than black tie, and that’s now what you want to wear if you want to be festive or glamorous.
Which is yet another reason why formal dress — and even business suits — on classical musicians makes hardly any difference. It all just looks blah. I go back to the Northern Sinfonia, in Newcastle/Gateshead in England, all dressed in spiffy black. That made an impression. The musicians looked as if they were about to do something that mattered, something other people might enjoy. Other people, that is, oriented toward the world as it is now.
What did I wear to the Met? I have a Kenneth Cole outfit, jacket and pants, that I think looks sleek. I wouldn’t wear it with a tie. I normally wear it with a black Kenneth Cole shirt, with subtle stripes, a shirt that’s both dressy and casual, as I think the entire outfit is.
But this time — after an informal conversation at lunch the other day with someone who knows fashion really well — I decided to push things a bit. So I wore the jacket and pants with a black t-shirt, one with a striking white design on it. And it’s a t-shirt celebrating Meredith Monk, one of my favorite artists of any kind, so I was doubly happy to wear it.
I felt a little uneasy — would I look too dressed down? But when I saw how blah the crowd looked (and this was downstairs, in the pricey seats), I felt completely comfortable. The Met opening is supposed to be glamorous, and at least (without making any great claims about my success) I was trying. I wish I’d thought to have someone take a cell phone photo. Then I could show you all how, at least, I tried.
And as for the performance — utterly blah. Don’t get me started!