Mind the Gap has visited the perennial topic of what orchestral musicians wear for concerts.
Molly Sheridan talks about the tuxedo – I see more concerts performed in tails than tuxes (which she might consider even more extreme) but the spirit of her observations still applies. I think I'm agreeing with her in saying that with 70 to 100-plus musicians, uniformity and even formality are inevitable.
It's a tricky subject and I need to be careful, because I'm not the one sitting on the stage performing (and I'm not a man). But here goes.
In defence of the tail suit, it is one of the few styles of suits that is flattering for nearly all shapes and sizes. I have yet to see a man who doesn't look good in well-cut tails. And it is an especially good look for the conductor who must be viewed from behind. It's purely an æsthetic judgement rather than a practical one, but compared to lounge suits, shirts and pants, or even the tuxedo, a tail suit tends to look fantastic.
Also in defence of tails: precisely because they are at the high end of formal wear, the styling changes relatively little over time (unlike lounge and business suits, which are prey to fashion). Probably the last major change to the tail suit was when Fred Astaire altered the cut of the vest so that it no longer showed below the jacket front (he wanted a longer, cleaner line). And this means that the investment in an expensive piece of tailoring isn't wasted after a couple of seasons. It also avoids the issue of individual musicians appearing to be more "fashion forward" than their stand partners.
Now I know that part of what keeps some people from (or from fully enjoying) orchestral concerts is the perception they form based on the sight of formal wear en masse. It seems there is sometimes an expectation or desire that musicians should look more like ordinary people. (Aside: I find that interesting. After all, what musicians are doing is really quite extraordinary. And why shouldn't classical musicians adopt a "costume" of sorts as other performers do? Say what you will, a concert is an entertainment. End of aside.) If this is the case and clothing really is hurting audience development then that's something orchestras the world over need to address, although I suspect that it's other aspects of concert-going that are far more off-putting, but newbies – and oldies – latch onto dress because it's visible and easy to talk about.
My concern is that attempts to follow or conform to contemporary fashion, or even to pursue the line of a "designer uniform", are likely to distract from the music – you start to notice what the musicians are wearing, and not necessarily for the right reasons.