No More Wardrobe Malfunctions!

No More Wardrobe Malfunctions!

Alice 1 guitarIf you read your writing out loud in public you need to think of yourself as a performer–even if you’re reading at an open mic with five people. You’re on stage and you need to plan your lines as well as your appearance so you can attract the right energy.  Same goes if you if you’re a musician playing out. What should you wear?


If you’re a casual person and like to wear jeans, you should plan on pairing your Levi’s with a new belt or jacket. If you like to wear sweaters, perhaps you can jazz things up with a red scarf or dangling earrings. In other words, wear your normal street style but kick it up a notch so you still feel like you when you’re up at the mic. On the other hand, some writers take the other route and dress completely differently on performance nights than what you’d see them wear on the street. When I started reading my poetry at different events eight years ago, that’s what I did—I’d wear gloves, ballet skirts bought at a real dance store, and lots of black. Soon it got too hard to top myself and I felt silly, so I decided to adopt a simpler style: sleeveless sheaths, A-lines and/or skater dresses in bright hues. Style is important, but so is comfort.


Now that I’m playing my guitar at readings I have to think about modesty too! So I wear black leggings with my dresses so that you can’t see up my skirt on the stage since I play sitting down. And having a sleeveless top works well when playing guitar because clunky sleeves won’t get in the way—I nix wearing bracelets now for the same reason. I also test out my dresses’ cleavage factor and make sure it’s not too low! That’s what safety pins are for. It’s smart to try out a new outfit BEFORE you wear it on stage and if you can, see how it looks in pictures beforehand. Sometimes a beautiful dress on the hanger can make you look pregnant in a photo.


Just like Taylor Swift in flowy dresses and flats, Willie Nelson in his T-shirt and red bandanna or Rob Thomas in tight jeans and a dark T-shirt (better to hide the sweat stains), I developed my performance style because I couldn’t expend that much energy on what I was wearing anymore I wanted the pre-performance energy to be more productive.  Unless you’re Lady Gaga, you won’t want to work so hard at managing your outfits. Still, I didn’t want to be photographed wearing the same dress at every reading. That’s the fork in the road you have to cross—do you wear one of the same blue shirts every time you’re performing or do you vary it up a bit?


If you wear the same shirt or blouse, you’ll be doing a good job of branding yourself. People will even say, “Hey, you wore that same shirt in your photo!” I chose the latter: I wear different dresses to each reading I do, but play it smart by buying these dresses at Our Friends’ Closet, a boutique consignment shop in North Raleigh. Whatever your style is, be consistent and plan well. You’ll feel more attractive and you’ll attract the audience. You’ll want to find clothes that suit you and your style and that also make people associate the outer you with the inner you.


Comment below–I’d love your feedback on this post! Your Turn: What do you wear when you perform at an open mic or reading? How much or how little do you plan for what you’ll be wearing? Do you have a particular style?

Posted in: Performing

Leave a Comment (7) ↓


  1. Abbie Taylor May 12, 2014

    I usually wear a nice pair of slacks and a nice shirt or blouse. I hate wearing dresses and won’t wear one unless it’s absolutely necessary. I also play the guitar, and it’s funny you should mention doing that at your readings because I’m considering doing the same thing at my events when I promote my next book. Thanks for an interesting post.

    • Alice Osborn May 13, 2014

      Thank you, Abbie, for reading my post and taking the time to comment. Have a blast next time you perform! A:)

  2. Sharon Dawson May 13, 2014

    I ran into this problem wearing a cowl neck shirt at a recent speaking engagement. Looked great in the mirror, but didn’t test out that I’d occasionally bend over my computer. Found out about it from my after session evaluation form – and I was mortified! Now I always layer tank tops underneath and never wear a cowl neck when speaking.

    • Alice Osborn May 14, 2014

      Thank you for sharing, Sharon! It’s tricky to know what’s not going to work unless you test out exactly how you’re going to stand/sit. A:)

  3. Glenda Beall May 31, 2014

    Good post, Alice. Something important to think about.

  4. Angela Epps June 25, 2014

    You always look great at your events, and I immediately dubbed you as a very chic artist. I love that! I expect you to be stylish, and you always are. When I started to read in public, I actually had to journal about who I am and what I need to wear to be comfortable, confident, and authentic. That really helped me to calm down a bit, although my wardrobe hasn’t quite expanded enough to sustain me! I LOVED finding your post to affirm the importance of this aspect of sharing our art publicly! Go Alice! :>)

    • Alice Osborn June 25, 2014

      Awww…thanks so much, Angela! I should also mention that since my daughter mentioned I had too much black in my closet I switched over to her favorite color combinations: orange/purple/pink/blue/green and it’s made a difference in how I show up! A:)


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