“Kate, I need your help. I am going in for a ‘hot soccer mom’ who lives in Brooklyn and is secretly in charge of an underground gambling ring. Oh, I also have to belt a G. What the heck do I wear?”
Sometimes getting dressed in the morning can be hard enough —- let alone getting dressed for an audition like that. I understand this more than most. In my life I have been an actor, an anthropologist who studied personal adornment and its effects on societal influence, a casting assistant/associate and a style blogger. All of these things have added up to me spending a lot of time thinking about how what we wear truly influences the way that we are perceived and remembered. I see it everyday, in every audition, and at every industry event. Clothing IS important and speaks volumes about how we perceive ourselves and how we want others to see us.
So I have put together a list of some of my essential DO’s and DON’TS of styling yourself for auditions.
THERE ARE NO RULES
- For everything I will tell you below, there are ten other people who will tell you differently. This is the ultimate truth about our industry — Rules are made to be broken and constantly rewritten. It is often those who do not follow the standards that stand out the most. However, there is a fine line between “being original” and being self-sabotaging. Remember when breaking the rules, break them with respect.
DO YOUR RESEARCH
- It is important to do your research and understand who is going to be in the room with you. Is it someone that you already have a working relationship with? Is it a casting director who specializes in discovering new faces for television? Is it a casting director who tends to appreciate the golden age of Broadway? Is it a choreographer who embraces clean lines or one who throws technique out the window? All of these things can inform the way that you walk into the room AND what you should be wearing when you do. Be a smart actor and accommodate the people who are taking the time to give you a shot.
- The thing that impresses me the most in an audition room is when someone walks in knowing exactly who they are and honors their truths. You can tell instantly. It is very rare, but when I see it I am instantly hooked. This is clearly not something you can buy at a store. I have found that people who take the time to establish a sense of style that represents who they are have a much stronger tendency to feel comfortable in their own skin — which is the first step towards honoring your truths in the audition room. This is far more important than any heel height or suit cut.
- That means if you know that you are never comfortable in high heels — don’t wear them. If you think a dress makes you look lumpy — don’t leave your house in it. If your suit makes you feel like a phony — wear jeans. Do not sacrifice what your gut tells you because you think that it will make you look more “the part.”
SHOWCASE IS OVER
- Men please stop wearing black vests, colorful button up shirts and black dress pants. Women please stop wearing jewel tone dresses and nude heels. SHOWCASE IS OVER. Find something that really represents who you are and what you bring to the world of storytelling. I cannot stand when I know someone has created an “audition uniform” that they wear to every open call. It feels lazy to me — and actors must never be lazy. Take the time to break free from your university training and be interesting beyond the jewel tones.
ASK FOR HELP
- Take an on-camera class if you have never done film or TV. Ask the teacher for feedback on what he/she thinks looks best on you. Set up a camera in your house and try different makeup, hair, and colors. Take dance classes and look around at what other people are wearing. Ask them where they buy their clothes. Go try things on. Don’t be afraid to experiment until you find a look that is uniquely you. Other people see you differently so take the time to ask them what they think!
FILL THE TOTE
- Make sure that you have everything that you could possibly need with you at the start of the day. Find a large comfortable tote bag and make it your new best friend. I know it is terrible to have to lug a large bag around — just think of it as a great warm up! Have another outfit option in your bag that could provide a different look if needed. Bring your makeup bag and have anything that you might need to fix stray or unruly hairs. If there is the possibility of staying to dance, make sure you have your shoes and all of your possible dance attire. Think of everything so that you will never have to feel unprepared.
DON’T BE AFRAID OF PATTERNS
- Somewhere along the line people were told that solid colors were the only thing they could wear to auditions. How boring! People are convinced that patterns or playing with color mixing might make them stand out in a bad way. When in fact, I have started many conversations with actors in the audition room because the colorful pattern on their dress intrigued me. The only time that patterns are a “no-no” are on film. When going in for commercial or television auditions subtle is always better.
IMPLY – DON’T TRY
- It is important to imply the world of the play rather than trying too hard to emulate it. Casting directors can always tell when someone is trying to be a character rather than organically living in the text and the world of the play. I would much rather see an actor who shows me that they can play a 18th century courtesan by their demeanor than one who shows up in a dress with a built in corset. However, if you know that that dress will help you achieve a stronger audition then please wear it! I always say, “Don’t wear the cop badge — just make me believe you have it in your pocket.”
There are so many things outside of your control at an audition — the bus is late, the child actor before you is super annoying, the accompanists slaughters your music, the casting director is hangry. However, there are two things that you CAN control: Preparedness and how you present yourself. Show up to share yourself, be interesting, and break the rules with respect!