First female conductor outfit to be made by fashion and music students


A sketch of the female conductor’s jacket designed by Christelle Tucker.

Rachel Karas

We all know the age old stereotype that women can’t find anything to wear, but for Sarah Kois this is a very real problem.

As a master’s of music student with a concentration in wind band conducting, Kois must attend many concerts both as a musician and a conductor.

For musicians, a director or conductor will clarify what the attire is as stated by the Connolly Music Company website. When it comes to conductors, men have a standard suit but female conductors do not have a standard look, which Kois realized while preparing for her first concert as a conductor.

“What do you want me to wear?” Kois asked her professor during her last lesson before the concert. “There isn’t really one thing I have been told that is right or wrong.”

This discussion lead her professor, Jesse Leyva, the director of bands at the School of Music, to suggest she revamp a project one of the prior female conducting students started, which was creating a female conductors outfit.

With the help of Janine Tiffe, an associate professor of musicology and ethnomusicology at the School of Music, Kois met Christelle Tucker, a junior fashion design major.

“I am primarily the facilitator,” Tiffe said. “Knowing about Flash Grants, I realized that could be a really good opportunity for everyone because there would actually be financial support for the making of the attire.”

“For the Flash Grant part, I just paired them up, helped with proofreading and making sure everything looked how it needed to look for the grant portion,” she said.

After applying for a Flash Grant, awarded to students under the College of the Arts, Kois and Tucker were notified in December 2018 that they were awarded one and have been working on developing the outfit since.

“I wanted to get an idea of how she (Kois) felt on the matter (designs), having gone through it and having to wear different things and not really having anything set and what she would like to see as a female conductor herself,” Tucker said.

The two have worked together but have also expanded and reached out to other professors and directors for suggestions and help with the project.

“We’re going to meet with the director of the costume shop at the School of Theatre and Dance to see what different fabrics they use for their costumes so we can get some ideas of different types of materials to make the jacket out of,” Kois said.

With suggestions and concepts to work with, Tucker is working on finalizing the design to present it at the Undergraduate Research Symposium April 9. The finalized outfit is set to be presented at the Communiversity Band concert that Kois will help conduct April 30.

When the project is finished, Kois hopes that it will not cut off further development with the idea but instead offer a solution for female conductors.   

“The purpose of this project isn’t to put female conductors into a box and only give them one thing, because we think it’s really great that we can celebrate femininity in many different fashions,” Kois said. “It’s to give an option if you aren’t sure what will look professional, what would be comfortable and what you can move in, here is an option we developed at Kent State.”  

Rachel Karas covers graduate education and research. Contact her at [email protected]