Tuesday, March 2, 2010

What to Wear on Stage?

Tuesday musings...

After adjudicating all last week - from daytime to evening concerts - it's time to bring up that good old "what to wear/what NOT to wear" discussion again!

May I just say, it isn't just singers who are guilty of the inappropriate stage wear...

So, just my observations, but here they are...

First, performers don't always KNOW what to wear and what constitutes "appropriate" stage wear! Teachers and coaches, we MUST really discuss this as part of the performance. If clothing is distracting to either the audience or the performer, it shouldn't be worn. This has to be discussed thoroughly with a performer in order to create a more professional presentation. Saying a performer is "too young" or "too inexperienced" to know better, is just a poor excuse! If you are up on that stage, you better figure it out!!

First and foremost, what are you trying to DO on stage with the visual? Theatrically, you are creating LINE and TEXTURE. The larger the house/space you are performing in, the stronger that line and texture can be. No matter if you are standing and singing, sitting at or with an instrument - it is LINE AND TEXTURE.

Secondly, what is the occasion and what are you performing? What time of day is it? Where is being held? All these questions can help you decide what is appropriate attire.

Daytime performances, formal length is not required. Formal material is a faux pas. Evening performances, a more formal look is more professional in presentation. Dress for the occasion!!

No matter what, WHAT THE HEMLINE LADIES! I saw waaaay too much leg this week - from singers with too short skirts/dresses (which makes it impossible to be comfortable enough to really ground yourself) and from performers at the piano and with instruments! LINE people, LINE!

We do NOT want to be scared of seeing up your skirt while you are performing when you are on stage and the audience is below you. Inappropriate.

SHOES!!!! I am sick of flats ladies...SICK of them. Yes, they are comfortable and yes they can get you to the venue, but then start learning how to walk and perform in HEELS!!! Kitten heels to a full heel - stacked or stiletto or wedge - whatever you can ground in and goes with your outfit and the occasion. Flats make your legs look like stove pipes. Period. They are not flattering on stage or to your body in ANY way. And PLEASE leave your character shoes in the closet - they are NOT performance shoes.

Let the outfit ENHANCE you - body type and colours - not distract from your performance. Make sure it FITS properly. Guys - spend the money on tailoring to make sure that suit is fitting your frame well - not too big in the shoulders or too long in the arms. Polish those shoes!

Show your personality - and some flair - ABSOLUTELY! But it needs to stay appropriate and not distract from YOU.

Tights or leggings - don't work on stage, especially for evening.

Pantsuit for women? Sure, depending on the fabric for the time of day and the occasion. Often instrumentalists prefer a pantsuit or pallazzos if they are string players or even pianists as it embraces the instrument more easily.

If it makes more noise than you do - leave it at home - fabric, jewellery etc.

NOTHING shorter than mid-knee for ANYBODY. As a singer, you can go tea-length or knee-length for daytime. Those of you who SIT to play, it's gotta be longer cause when you sit down, it shortens!! Nothing like seeing the inside of the pianist's thighs while she uses both pedals when an audience is sitting on that side of the stage! Same for a cellist! And for flutists or players that "lift" that instrument, so do your clothes! Make sure there is "give" and length so you don't feel exposed!

Watch how body-hugging the fabric is and how far it goes!!! Corseting can be lovely but if it doesn't allow you to breath, or walk, it really isn't working for the occasion is it? If you can't stand up properly, or feel as if something is going to spill out, it pulls focus from your performance - for you and the audience. We don't need wardrobe malfunctions!

Discover textures in fabric that reads from stage. It can be in shoes, in the outfit, in your jewellery, in your tie, or a combination of several things.

If you don't know - ASK! There are many who are willing to help you! Don't guess! The professionalism of how you present yourself on stage can make or break your performance. Yes, it is important! It is crucial and shows how aware you are about the COMPLETE performance.

What you wear on stage can make you look more professional, or simply keep you in that amateur status that dismisses you before you open your mouth or lift your bow.

Let your presentation reinforce the work you have spent on the artistry you are going to share. Artistry has many levels of development and how you present yourself is part of it.

You don't have to spend tons of money on this - but you need to be creative and understand the process. Take the time to discover it. Trust me, it will make your overall presentation more polished.


  1. Same goes for pianists. Why? Everyone's hands/builds are different!

  2. Thank you very much! I was struggling to know what to wear when I perform 'Holding Out For a Hero' on stage and this really helped with what not to wear. Thank you!

  3. HEy Thanks for the tips!! :) helped a lot

  4. Thank you for that but ,I think,as a female clarinetist, that we shouldn't be so strict with the shoes!You mentioned that the overall performance should be convenient for the player.Well if i am not with heels i am not going to wear them!!!I don't understand why this must "trigger" bad impression anyway!!??

    1. you need to be comfortable, and we aren't strict with shoes. This is a 6 year old post - and I am writing from a singer's perspective. You are a clarinetist and you wear what is comfortable and appropriate for YOU! There are no defining rules per se - so ENJOY what you wear!

  5. I just got signed have never done any big performances and have to open up soon for a crowd of 2000+ people. I am a singer/songwriter and this has helped immensely