On one of my singer's groups on FaceBook, there is a debate raging over --- get this --- whether or not it's kosher to go bare-legged on stage. There is the "Tacky-Tacky-Tacky!" contingent, and there is the "Uh, this ain't the 1950s" contingent (of which I am a stauch supporter).
As ridiculous as this all sounds, let me provide a little background for the non-opera folks among my readership. A great deal of attention is given to how we present ourselves professionally at auditions, which after all are job interviews; and a big part of the job is to attend patron parties and sometimes small in-house recitals, looking spiffy. In shorthand: appearances count. However, there is a LOT of silliness out there about what opera singers should and shouldn't wear to an audition or for a concert. No open-toed shoes! No pants unless you're a lyric mezzo who sings trouser roles! No purple in an Italian opera house! Pantyhose at all times! No bare shoulders! No prom dresses (well, that one I agree with, and some of the others as well)!
I understand the frenzy, being a singer who sits on the judging side of the table as well. It's appalling what some people think is appropriate to wear outside the house, let alone to a professional event like an audition; but the bottom line is, you need to look AND FEEL put together, professional, and sassy. That means different things to different people, of course. And some of those people need a gay friend and a closer relationship with Spanx, just sayin'. But the absolute bottom line is that if you don't look and feel good for yourself, you won't project the image you want, anyway.
That goes for everybody, not just performers.
I've been shopping for a cocktail dress and a couple of dressier outfits to wear to the aforementioned patron dinners and events with my own opera troupe (where I'm the mama and have to stand up in front of the audience and give spiels). It's been really frustrating. I can't find ANYTHING I like right now, and that's not because there aren't pretty clothes out there, but because I don't like the number on the tag right now. And, well, yes, because formal wear for any other than the tiny tends to err on the side of extreme frump.
I was getting so frustrated that I finally had to force myself to ignore the size and try it on anyway. Then I felt stuck in limbo, because everything seemed too baggy. I bought a couple of things --- casual items, not what I was shopping for --- and went home discouraged.
Time to go back and shop my own closet, where I was happy to find that one of my old cocktail dresses still looks fine, and by getting creative with what was already in the closet --- and paying careful attention to proportions --- I was able to come up with a couple of other outfits that will work. In fact, I wore one to the second performance of Spotlight's weekend concerts, and I haven't gotten so many compliments in a long time! It was a sassy black skirt from Chico's, in a nice flowy material with a flounce in the front; paired with a slinky black top with cutout shoulders and a great belt. It looked like a dress, put together, and I realized that it could easily be dressed up or down. It'd be a great day outfit worn with a jeans jacket and boots and a big chunky necklace; for the afternoon concert look, I paired it with pumps and a jet necklace.
It was the belt that made all the difference, though. It accentuated my small waist, and I swear it took 10 pounds off right then and there. A belt. Which I'd given up wearing years ago because they made me feel fat. Suddenly, I'm belting everything, and it amazes me how much better I look when the clothing I'm wearing skims my body. I was never big on belting cardigans but suddenly, they went from Mr. Rogers to casual chic. Anything that adds a lot of style and makes you feel snazzier without having DONE much of anything is a winner in my book.
This probably shouldn't come as news to anybody, but hiding in your clothes doesn't work. It makes you look and feel frumpy and that takes a mental toll. So does wearing nothing but sloppy (some people call them "comfy") clothes all the time and never doing your hair or makeup. Fixing yourself up a bit just makes you FEEL good.
One of the best things you can do for yourself and your look is to make sure your clothes FIT. For ladies, that means investing in a good bra and checking it on a regular basis. And BTW, for most of us, good bras aren't pretty. (Sorry, men who like that sort of thing). A good bra gets the girls where they're supposed to be so they look good under clothing. Go to a no-nonsense, old-fashioned lingerie store like the Town Shoppe in New York. Get a fitting from someone who knows what she's doing. (Hint: she may very well have a measuring tape around her neck). They will hook you up, no pun intended. While you're there, bite the bullet and pick up some shapewear.
Make sure your dresses and pants hems and sleeves hit you at the right place (aka, for most people, NOT at the fattest part of your leg/arm/what have you). Do the same for shirts --- you don't want the hem hitting you at the widest part of your hips. Just above or just below is usually better. Spend some time looking in a full length mirror --- three way if you can manage it --- and playing with different outfits to see what really looks good on you and what doesn't.
That's what I've been doing this week, as I pack for Boise. A fun added dimension to the challenge is fitting everything I need into ONE suitcase, to avoid having to pay extra. I've been trying every outfit on, tweaking it with accessories, making sure each item goes with two other things. And suddenly I feel a lot better about my wardrobe, and how I'll be able to present myself in stylish and yet comfortable clothing. Makes all the difference in the world.
But I won't be wearing pantyhose. Not even in Boise.