Expressing yourself is part of developing a public persona, and this includes the clothes, accessories, colors, and costumes you select before taking the stage. In our post about developing a public speaking voice, we quoted Toastmasters International stating, “Your voice and your face are your public relations agents,” and we’d add that your fashion choices are part of that PR package as well.
Just as product and service vendors develop logos as part of their branding strategies, you should consider fashion choices part of your brand development.
The freedom of onstage dress as a professional musician
Before your professional music career, you largely adhered to strict concert dress codes. Sometimes, depending on a conductor’s preferences, you may still have to. In your independent concert and recital life, however, the fashion world is your oyster. Not only that, your commitment to exploring the fashion, costume, and flair that reflects your persona allows you to stand out from the competitive musician pack.
Think of musicians such as Lindsey Stirling, who carved her niche by expressing her musical tastes, emotions, and preferences – regardless of what mainstream critics and staunch classicalists had to say. You can also look to musicians such as Amadéus Leopold (a musician who uses fashion, style, and accents to become a physical work of art as well as a musical one), or Black Violin, who use street-smart style to symbolize their roots and deepest life influences.
The goal is not to emulate another performer, but rather to dig deep into who you are, who your alter ego may be, colors that flatter you and styles that help push the edges of your “normal” – perhaps even into something memorable and surreal.
Ideas for stepping-up your onstage fashion
If you’re typically a conservative dresser, that’s fine too – maybe you’ll find your niche celebrating fashion choices from another era – the way contemporary hipsters have revitalized vintage fashion trends. Ultimately, your signature style offers another way to communicate and engage your audience.
1. Enlist the help of a fashion-forward friend
If you already love the world of flash, color, and fashion – move on to the next step. If, however, you struggle with this – find a fashion-forward family member or friend to help out. Their objective opinions will highlight some of your personality traits – or musical influences – in a different light and help you convey those via fashion and style choices you’d never make on your own.
2. Keep movement (and backdrop) in mind
Looks are important when developing an onstage persona, but so is comfort and movability. Whatever you wear, it must be something that allows you to play your instrument well, observing healthy posture and bowing motions, and should allow for flexibility. This is especially true if you’re someone with bigger body expression by nature, and if you have considered incorporating dance or wild gesturing into the mix.
You’ll also want to consider the backdrop of the stage and lighting – choosing apparel that stands out and looks great in front of the relevant backdrop.
3. Think costume rather than clothes
Part of kicking it up a notch is to think of your style choices as costumes rather than just performance clothes. Your wardrobe choices, hairstyle, makeup, colors, accessories – all serve as the equivalent of an exclamation mark to the persona you’re working to project in public.
4. Express the music as well as yourself
In some cases, your wardrobe or costumes may reflect the music you’re playing, rather than your personal expression. Take 2Cellos, for example. They often make fashion choices inspired by what they’re playing, rather than who they are.
When they filmed their video for a rendition of Thunderstruck, they wore antique period dress to enhance the performance – illustrating their use of the Baroque and classically-associated instruments to play a contemporary rock song. In their video Eye of the Tiger, from the first Rocky film, 2Cellos wore clothes that mimicked the onscreen fashion of Rocky character.
Let go, have fun, and enjoy the process of finding just the right fashion and style options to express yourself onstage.
Above photo of 2Cellos from their Video "Thunderstruck."