Much discussion yesterday about Ben Goldacre’s ‘Bad Science’ column in the Guardian. This time he was reporting a piece of good science, a paper by Noola Griffiths which shows that young women violinists are judged more musical and more technically proficient if they are wearing formal concert clothes. You can read his description of this elegant experiment here.
Of course no woman musician would be surprised to hear that the audience prefers them in formal concert clothes. Over the years, as society at large has adopted a wide variety of ‘going out’ clothes, musicians both male and female have experimented with dressing differently for concerts. But there’s great resistance to us changing our traditional concert wear. Lots of women musicians have experienced the audience’s vexation if they dress in a way that audiences find disappointing or inappropriate. Indeed, comments about one’s concert clothes are a regular part of after-concert conversation.
What I hadn’t quite realised is how much one’s style of dress influences how the audience assesses one’s talent. I knew they didn’t want us to appear on stage in jeans or a clubbing dress, but I didn’t know they would actually judge us to be less musical and less technically proficient if we did. Alas, can it really be that simple?