Violinist carefully orchestrates a wardrobe that must perform


Packing for a month-long trip is challenging enough, but imagine if you needed to take along half a dozen evening gowns and a musical instrument. When violinist Mari Matsumoto heads to her native Japan with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra next week, she'll be taking those, plus an assortment of casual and dressy clothes.

To help select what goes in her suitcase, Ms. Matsumoto has turned to her teen-age son Kenneth for fashion advice. Her husband Bruce Moore has his own packing to do since he plays the horn with the BSO.

"Whenever I buy new clothes, I try them on for my son," says Ms. Matsumoto, 44, who lives in Columbia. "When my husband compliments me, I get nervous. He likes really feminine, frilly stuff."

What are you packing?

Long black evening gowns, a couple suits and blouses, and lots of knits because they travel so well. I'll also probably take my new Anne Klein all-weather coat. Then I'll add comfortable clothes: jeans and sweatshirts.

How do you pick concert clothes?

I try to be creative. There is a dress code: It must be black, long-sleeved with a modest neckline and floor length. Sometimes, I've had two dresses put together. I also bought one with spaghetti straps and added a fancy jacket. And one of my favorites is from a bridal shop. It's got a full taffeta skirt with a fitted bodice.

One of the problems is that black gowns often come in sexy styles, so I have to improvise. For pops concerts, we wear a white top and long black pants or skirts. And for daytime concerts, it's a short black dress.

Have you ever worn something that didn't meet the code?

Yes. I was told the back on one dress was too low. It ended about halfway down. Management asked me not to wear it because it sticks out from the other dresses. I said that if I got complaints from the audience I would stop wearing it, and management finally agreed.

How has your ethnic background influenced your style?

I don't feel very Japanese when it comes to dressing. I dress very American, but I do find myself dressing up for rehearsals more than my colleagues. Some people will come in wearing jogging suits. I feel it's my work and I should look decent.

How would you describe your style?

I like to look sophisticated. I try to choose quality clothes. I really like Anne Klein, Liz Claiborne and Ellen Tracy. I don't wear many colors, and I don't like prints. I like red, gray and black in winter and fuchsia for summer. To bring in some color, I'll add a scarf.

How does wearing what amounts to a uniform affect you?

I tend to be more free in my concert clothes. I'm less conservative. I like to push the limits. That's why I get in trouble.

What's been your most embarrassing clothing moment?

We have to go up and down stairs in long dresses carrying instruments. I trip often. I have lots of rips in my hems to prove it.

What outfits do you count on most?

My type of job requires me to either look very formal or very casual. I have a Liz Claiborne dress I found at Macy's. It's black and white, fitted at the waist with a V-neck. I always get compliments when I wear it.

How did you learn to dress the way you do?

It took me a long time, but I finally feel I found my style a few years ago after much experimentation. I tried everything -- miniskirts, poet blouses, clogs. I've gotten to the point where I realize simpler is better for me.

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