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Dress For Performance Success

You may think that dressing for a performance should take a back seat to other considerations. Many musicians concentrate solely on practicing and making sure that their execution is perfect. And while that is naturally a very important aspect, choosing the clothes that you’ll wear during a performance or an audition can be just as vital to your success as making sure you can play your part. Performance attire is more than just wearing the right colored skirt, shirt, or pants. The clothes you wear has an amazing influence on your state of mind and how your audience responds to your work.

Dressing for success is a well-documented behavior. In fact, countless studies have been performed that catalog the influence that your attire has on others—first impressions especially—and how their responses (either favorable or derisive) are directly related to the way you’re dressed. Yet, for musicians, dressing properly is more than looking successful. The clothes you wear contribute to your attitude and have the ability to make performing easier or more difficult. If you want to dress for performance success, you need to follow some basic guidelines.

These suggestions work well for a variety of professions, but are particularly tailored to musicians who conduct stage performances and auditions. Even if there are no exact outlines for performance attire, these tips will help you choose functional, impressive clothing that supports your goals.

What Your Performance Attire Says About You

The clothes you wear during a performance or an audition tell other people about who you are, how important the performance is to you, and how you feel about your talent. Sloppiness conveys the impression that you couldn’t care less about making a good impression. Other things also indicate that you either don’t care about what other people think, or that you think you’re too important to take your time dressing for a performance. Both of which will insult the very people who you want to make a favorable impression on.

  • Follow Dress Code Guidelines—Many professional auditions and chamber music associations issue guidelines for performance attire. In that case, you should make every effort to conform to the rules because it shows that you respect the association and the people in charge.
  • Neatness Pays—Shirts tucked in, all of your clothes clean and wrinkle-free and stain-free, and properly groomed hair all indicate that you are taking the performance seriously.
  • Dress Up Rather than Down—You will always make a better impression by choosing performance attire that looks the part. Even if you are able to wear casual clothes, by choosing dressier items, you tell others that your appearance is important. And, this type of attitude has been proven to help you be successful.

How Your Performance Attire Influences Your Ability

Dressing for a performance does more than just influence the impressions other people have about you, it actually pays a very key role in your own confidence and self-empowerment. Studies have shown that the way you dress impacts how you feel and your ability to perform. In August of 2015 the Social Psychological and Personality Science reported a study that asked testers to change into formal or casual clothing before taking cognitive tests. The study found that subjects, who wore the formal attire, experienced an increase in abstract thinking. This is an important aspect for creativity, something that musicians need for their performances. The experiments suggested that the improved performance was associated with feelings of power.

When you dress for a performance with meticulous care, it translates to your attitude. But the performance attire you choose also has an impact on how well you’ll be able to perform. The following tips can help you dress for success as a musician.

  • Wear comfortable clothes: Restrictive, uncomfortable clothing can distract you so much it can damage your performance. Choose clothing that is comfortable yet looks professional.
  • Eschew new items: Your performance isn’t the time to try out that new pair of shoes, or take a test run on a new pair of slacks, or that gorgeous new gown. Wear clothes that you know are comfortable, look nice, and won’t distract you during your performance.
  • Avoid loose, or flowing attire: Large collars, wide lapels, and billowing sleeves can get in the way of your playing your instrument. Don't wear these type of items when dressing for a performance. Experienced musicians practice in new clothes they want to wear for a performance beforehand. You should do that too — that way you can be sure that they don't get in your way while you're playing.

Dressing for a performance requires you to thoughtfully consider your appearance and the clothes you wear. By taking an interest in your performance attire, you can build the confidence and impressions you need to be a success.

Violins on the wall