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Appropriate audition outfit ?
You cannot climb the ladder of success dressed in the costume of failure – Zig Zigler
I’ve often wondered why actors/dancers go through so much (time and money) to prepare for an audition only to show up in ripped tights, shoes they can’t walk in, or something so bland they blend right into the marley floor. I’m a firm believer that how we show up to an audition is just as important as how we prepare for an audition. How we present ourselves is, like it or not, a huge part of the business of show. The FIRST thing that happens in an audition room is they look at you. Before any hellos are said, they’ve already, knowingly or not, begun judging us.
While nothing I say here will guarantee you get the job, it WILL get you noticed and respected as an actor who’s paying attention to what they’re doing. I can’t tell you how often directors have told me “Thank you for knowing how to dress for an audition.” I take it as a huge compliment and, as an added bonus, it gives me confidence in the audition room. I’ve compiled a list of DOs to make sure you look as polished as you sound at your next audition.
DO be inspired by the time period of the show you’re auditioning for.
The trick is to look period without looking costume-y (Thanks Project Runway!) If it’s a general audition, look for a theme in the season or focus on the show or shows you are most likely going to be considered for. Wearing a plain black dress to an audition for, say, Hairspray, is going to make you look like you don’t know the show you’re asking them to hire you for. Casting people can envision what you’d look like in a full costume so you simply want to spark it in their mind with hints of an era.
“What did she think she was coming in for?”
DO edit down.
As I said before, be inspired by the era, song, or scene, not become the costume designer for the show. BELIEVE me. I’ve made this mistake. I took it a little too far one time and put one too many elements into an audition outfit and everyone thought I was crazy. Learn from my mistake.
“What about Dina DiCostanzo?” “Nah. She tried way too hard.
DO avoid trends.
Classic is best, especially when you’re not sure. One director I know couldn’t stand when girls would wear those platform high heels that were popular a few years ago because they could barely walk in them.
“How’d she sound?” “I don’t know, I was so worried she was going to fall over in those 5 inch heels.”
On that note…
DO make sure you can walk.
And breath. And move. The more comfortable you are, the more confident your audition will be. You don’t want to be worrying about being able to stand in those 5 inch heels, your boob popping out of an ill fitting dress, too short shorts riding up your bum, or not being able to get a big enough breath for your money note because your waist band is too tight. You want to make sure that when you walk out of the room they are talking about your song or scene, not your awkward outfit.
“Well THAT was an unfortunate wardrobe malfunction.”
Opportunity is missed by most people because it’s dressed in overalls and looks like work – Thomas Edison
DO pick a color that pops.
This especially applies at a dance call. You don’t want to get lost in a sea of black (unless you’re auditioning for Chicago in which case, use texture or an accent color in your hair to stand out). I would even go so far to say that if you’re auditioning to be a Shark in WSS, wear purples, reds or beautiful patterns and if you’re more right for a Jet girl, blue, yellow, or stripes. If you are dancing next to someone of comparable talent, the eye will be more drawn to the person with something in their hair or a nice bright top or even lip color! And if nothing else, you will be easily recollected in the casting meetings.
“Which girl was that?” “The one with the turquoise top.” “Ah, yes…she WAS good!”
DO remember this section on tights.
Don’t wear ratty old, ripped up tights. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen this, and not just at the American Idiot call. It’s trashy, ladies. Bring extra tights. Every time. Also, don’t wear black tights with tan character shoes. It cuts the leg off and draws the eye to your feet instead of your face where it belongs. Also, it is of my humble opinion that tights are meant to be worn underneath leotards for auditions. Leave that contemporary look for class and rehearsal. (A Chorus Line is a mayyybe exception) Finally…wear tights. Bare legs are a VERY specific look that applies to few projects in theatre and even if no tights would be worn in any particular show the LOOK of tights for an audition is clean, crisp, and polished.
“She wasn’t wearing tights.” “I know.”
DO plan ahead.
Get your audition outfit together the day before you go in. Notice I said ‘day’ instead of ‘night’. If you wait until just before you go to bed to rifle through your closet you risk being too tired to think straight and wasting time being indecisive and losing sleep! Plus, getting it all ready during the day gives you time to find anything that’s missing or clean anything in the hamper.
“Where are my tan fishnets!?!”
DO be like the Boy Scouts.
Always be prepared. Much like our audition book is filled with all sorts of songs, styles, tempos, high note, low note…our audition bag should be filled similarly. Always bring flats AND characters to a dance call (no matter what the call says-many tap choreographers prefer to teach combos in non-taps), a change of clothes if you think you’ll be dancing first and too uncomfortable or sweaty to sing in the same outfit, whatever makeup you may want to use for touch ups, a few bobby pins, hairspray, hair tie. You never know what kind of environment you’ll be dealing with. Sticky floor, slick floor, no AC, someone steps on your toe, etc…
Choreographer: “I’d prefer flats for this combination…” You: “…sh*t…”
Finally, DO what feels best for you.
These are guidelines from my years of experience but truly, how YOU feel is ultimately what matters most. Go forth with confidence and break a tights-wearing leg!
Dina DiCostanzo is a Chicago based actress and choreographer who loves swing dancing, fashion, and learning Italian.
Need help picking an audition outfit? Have another wardrobe suggestion? Email us or leave a comment below!