How to choose your choir’s uniform

Most choirs try to achieve some sort of uniform look when performing. Choosing the type of uniform takes consideration. What type of choir is it? What type of music do you sing? What is the demographic of the choir? What is cost effective for members purchasing their own uniform?

Ask the choir

It may be worth canvassing opinion among the membership about what they will feel comfortable in. For example, in our Contemporary Choir we wear t-shirts and we originally offered only a standard unisex fit shirt as this was very cost effective. Many years on we still use have this basic design but found some singers didn’t mind spending extra for an alternative style, so we now offer a range of fits. Our t-shirts work well when we do outside performances in the summer and less formal performances in local venues. However, if we do a concert which is more formal, we often prefer evening wear (with some guidance about colour and style).

Consider your performance style

You may want to consider the likely temperature in which you’ll be performing. Are most of your performances indoors under warm stage lights? Or do you often perform outdoors possibly in cooler temperatures? Our t-shirts are black, which looks great but they can be prone to a few complaints by members on a very hot day and on the other end of the scale don’t work for our outdoor Christmas Carol Concert – although nothing except a thick winter coat would!

In general, chamber choirs or symphony choruses are likely to want a more formal look. Our Chamber Choir wears black and the women all have a matching flower brooch, which helps to create an identity.

Why uniform works

Here’s my five top reasons to consider creating a uniform for your choir:-

1.  If you’re running your choir as a business, a uniform with your logo helps to advertise your brand to audiences and potential members. It may also make those potentially booking events remember and think of you if they need a choir.

2.  Wearing something special for an event helps us to get into the mindset that we are going to perform. Choir members are often nervous. Going through the ritual of getting ready can calm the nerves and boost confidence.

3.  It’s great fun to feel that you belong to a group and what better way than to wear a uniform which identifies you with that group. In our Contemporary Choir we offer the option to have your name printed on the back of your t-shirt which has proved very popular and is a great way for everyone to learn each other’s names.

4.  It looks tidy and helps the audience to take you seriously as performers. If you look good on stage, people will automatically form a positive opinion of you and expect a good performance.

5.  As a conductor, a uniform helps you identify your singers. At events where more than one choir is performing, a uniform that stands out sets your group apart from those around it.

Comments on How to choose your choir’s uniform

  1. Avatar Lynne almand says:

    Firstly I would like to add whilst choosing a colour make sure the colours are ready available, no good deciding on turquoise and the colours are not readily available

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      A great tip Lynne, especially when you need lots of them!

  2. Avatar Marilyn says:

    For twenty years our wonderful Unitarian choir did not have a dress code. Our new director wants you us to wear black. I say “fiddle dee dee”.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Hi Marilyn, change can be so tricky, especially when people have done things the same way for so many years! I’m sure your new director is just trying to make their own stamp on things and perhaps create a more uniformed look for the choir. Sorry to hear you’re not happy with their decision. However, I’m sure that what makes your choir wonderful is the music you sing and the bond you have together.

    2. Avatar Eden says:

      Get great tools and resources for your choir with Total Choir Resources. Created by choir leaders Victoria Hopkins and Christine Mulgrew, Total Choir Resources focuses on practical ways to improve all aspects of your choir from your singers enjoyment to your audience s appreciation. Learn how to maximise your effectiveness as a choir leader, whether as a conductor, manager or both.

  3. Avatar Jill James says:

    Our U3A choir had t- shirts made by a choir member’s daughter in four shades of blue with our logo on the front. Last time we sang at a residential home many ladies had summer white trousers at the bottom. We’re considering this as it was a great look and would help smarten us even more. Not sure how our gentlemen feel though…
    Love the idea of stoles for a formal do – have yet to do one!

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks for your message Jill, your uniform sounds very smart and white is lovely for summer. Our choir t-shirts are black which look good but can be very hot in warmer weather.

  4. Avatar Darryl says:

    Great article and some great ideas. I thought I’d share our choir’s ‘uniform’ decisions. Firstly, ties! Guys are in 2 camps. Them that don’t mind them and them that hate them. As Christine said, comfortable singers are happy singers.
    We had a simple solution to our uniform problem. We simply chose colours!
    Our uniform is ‘smart casual’, Black, Cobalt with silver bling.
    This decision by our ‘uniform committee’ releases the choir members from restrictive uniform requirements.
    They can wear ties, or not. They can ‘frock up’, wear pants, what ever. As long as they are predomantly black and Colbalt, the cobalt colour is the only thing that is strictly adheared to. The randomness of this decision has meant that our members are free to wear whatever they feel comfortable in, as long as the colours are correct.
    The choir looks professional and comfortable.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Darryl,

      I think that’s an excellent compromise, particularly when you have disagreements among singers about the uniform. I can imagine this works as everyone feels comfortable but looks co-ordinated in the same colours.

  5. Avatar Sue says:

    For both laidies and men, black on the bottom, white top with red scarves with gold music notes for the ladies and red bow ties for the men. They are proud to wear it as a uniform.

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks Sue,

      Sounds very smart indeed and having a uniform that the choir enjoys wearing is so important.

  6. Avatar Patrice says:

    I am all for decorum and uniformity. However, I am also for “comfort”. For the last few summers and just before summer hits, we often wear robes and the church is not cool enough for that in most cases. We are now collectively working to change that so that we can sing and not be overheated while doing so. This will help us be more glorious in our singing in my humble opinion. You can still be “in uniform” by wearing pastels or black. People in charge of this should really be considerate! Thanks for the photo. We do get to wear black every now and then. Sometimes we will adorn a black dress with a flowery imitative corsage. The flowers are not generally real so that helps for those who have allergies. :) Peace, Patrice

    1. Christine Mulgrew Christine Mulgrew says:

      Thanks for your comments Patrice. It’s always a fine balance when singing between looking smart and feeling comfortable. Athough my experience isn’t in church choirs, I know exactly what you mean. I always try and think of how my singers wil feel when performing in different indoor or outdoor environments. Comfortable singers are happy singers! I wish you all the best with your choir.

  7. Avatar Christie S. says:

    Hi I have been looking all over for flower brooches as large as the ones picture. Where did you find them? My church choir is preparing for Anniversary concert and this is the look we’re going for!

    Thanks!

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Christie. The flowers were handmade by members of my choir. I think if you search on YouTube, you can find tutorial videos.

  8. Avatar Cheryl Blanton says:

    Hello, thank you for your advice in advance. I am a choir director in Georgia for a older group of individuals. The traditional attire is always black and white or all black. Our robes are all black with a white overlay, and they hold heat. How can I get my choir to try something new. Perhaps a colored scarf/blouse for women and tie/shirt for the men. Hi just feel like we need a more uniformed look. Please help. Thank you, Cheryl

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Cheryl. I would say that, as a starting point, ask your choir what they want to wear. You won’t be able to please everyone, but there’s not much point in trying to persuade them to change the uniform if none of the want to. Or perhaps you could suggest a change for a single performance and see how that goes. Christine’s choir usually wears uniform t-shirts, but occasionally, they perform in evening dress.

  9. Avatar Liliana Afonso says:

    Hello. First of all, thank you for this helpful article and tips. I’m a fashion designer in Portugal, and the music conservatory of my town asked me for help to refine and standardize the uniform of their kid’s choir. But I have a doubt that you may help me: they all wear black and they want to keep it, why? they’re kids (10-17 years old) and I think that’s a heavy image for themselves. how can I convince them to change their mind, giving a plausible justification in the music area? where I can find more information about kid’s choir? and the uniforms?

    Best regards.
    Liliana Afonso

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Liliana. That’s a great question and one I haven’t spent much time thinking about. My choir wears black and the ladies wear a purple flower. They all seem to like it, but perhaps that’s because they wear whatever style they like (within reason!). I think this question warrants proper discussion, so I’m going to include it in our podcast this week, which will go out on Thursday (14.00 GMT). I hope you’ll listen in.

  10. Avatar Gabriel says:

    Thank you for the wonderful insights. I handle a church choir in Accra, Ghana and we have a combination of married folks and young guys and gals, as a result balancing uniform choices is a challenge.
    So I try to get locally made or traditional shirts or dresses as uniform and the young ones often protest. So we are balancing local and contemporary attires as uniforms and it seems to be okay.
    The question I want to ask is ‘Is the idea of choir robes contemporary or not’ as some of the youth feel it is ‘old-school’?

    Stay blessed.
    Gabby

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Gabby. Thanks so much for commenting. I’m the wrong person to ask about choir robes as the last time I sang in a church choir was as a child (when we were glad of the robes – it was freezing!). Perhaps another reader can help us out.

  11. Avatar Valerie says:

    Thank you once again for the marvellous, thought provoking articles. I have a choir of senior citizens and we wear black tops and trousers, with turquoise stoles. The gentlemen were black shirt and trousers. But we ladies are trying to get them to wear turquoise bow ties and well. I wear a turquoise dress with a black stole.

    Best wishes.
    Valerie

    1. Avatar Victoria Hopkins says:

      Hi Valerie. Thanks for commenting. I think guys look great in black shirts. I’m pretty sure the men in my choir would resist wearing coloured bow-ties! I think you’re going to have an uphill battle there.

    2. Avatar Iain says:

      If you want the men to have some turquoise, do consider either a turquoise shirt, or plain tie. Bow ties always seem to me to look out of place with a normal shirt and no jacket.

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