I'm an avid symphony patron, and I also watch different symphony orchestra recordings online. I've noticed that sometimes an orchestra will be in white tie, sometimes in black tie and other times simply in a business formal style with matching ties. I've noticed this in person with the same symphony orchestra and recorded performances of other world symphony orchestras.

For the concerts I've attended in person, I can't identify anything special about the occasion to warrant the more formal dress (white tie or black tie).

This leads me to wonder if it's related to the piece they are playing.

  • What and when (month/holiday) did you see the concerts with the white tie?
    – anonymous
    Nov 18, 2015 at 18:05
  • For most Toronto Symphony Orchestra performances, the orchestra wears all black (not black tie). On one occasion, for a Beethoven, Bach and Brahms concert they were wearing matching suites and ties (business formal) this was in September. For a Mahler performance in November, they were wearing white tie. Nov 18, 2015 at 18:22
  • I don't think you understand what black-tie means. Look it up here: dictionary.reference.com/browse/black-tie?s=t This requires semi-formal dress with the orchestra wearing all black.
    – anonymous
    Dec 3, 2015 at 17:13
  • I do know what black tie means, and my question isn't about black tie. I'm wondering if the piece the symphony is playing drives how they dress. Dec 3, 2015 at 18:07
  • I wasn't commenting on your question but on your comment.
    – anonymous
    Dec 4, 2015 at 15:31

2 Answers 2


I am in a symphony and full orchestra. We only dress according to the music if it's a holiday and will wear costumes or hats for the fun of the audience. Our orchestras always stick to black tie because we don't stick out as much and we look more formal and professional.

Some Orchestras prefer to switch it up. I believe that they're reasoning may be the season, closest holiday, or just want to be different if doing a white tie.

If it isn't a widely known or formal concert the performers will usually stick to more every day clothing but stick to a color or design so they appear like they tried to be unified. All professional orchestras that I have been to/in have all been in black tie.


White tie and tails (long black evening dresses for women) are standard classical orchestra wear for concerts in the evening only. For daytime concerts the standard is a black suit with a tie (often the orchestra rules will require silver/grey ties) and black dresses/pants for women.
For some special occasions or for outdoor concerts there might be exceptions. An orchestra might do summer proms concerts in white tuxedos (black tie). For a New Year's Eve concert the women might wear colored dresses.

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