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.
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 5 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: body-hugging dresses or tops that are “normal” clothes. Just like Bono wears his trademark black leather jacket over a black T-shirt, Simon Cowell his V-neck tee and Scotty McCreery loves wearing his red plaid button down, 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. 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 shirt 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. Yes, most of these dresses are black and white, but I do sometimes throw in purple, pink or even red.
Whatever your style is, be consistent and plan well. You’ll feel more attractive and you’ll attract the audience. Unless you’re Lady Gaga, you won’t want to work so hard at managing your outfits. 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!
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?