If 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?