What (Not) To Wear

Edited 7.15.2019: It was brought to our attention recently that this post and the sentiments therein were found both hurtful and harmful to members of our community. As the tone and content of this post have not aged well in the decade since the original publish date (and possibly had the same effect even then), we have revised it in light of this feedback.

Wolf Trap Opera is committed to supporting the whole artist, and wants each artist to feel secure and accepted. When we are bringing our whole selves to the rehearsal room and stage, we can create truly transcendent art.

TL:DR look professional, feel awesome, sing your best!

Today’s opera blog episode, in which KPW and Rahree channel Clinton Kelly and Stacy London. (Yeah, I had to ask who they were, too.)

Before we get to the fashion advice…


Tomorrow (Friday October 2) at midnight is the application deadline for an audition in LA, Chicago, Cincinnati or Houston. Please don’t overwhelm the internet server at 11:59pm.

If you do apply and you have any doubt about whether or not your payment went through, send us an email before you hit “submit” multiple times. We’ll write back and let you know if everything’s OK. We don’t want to have to process reimbursements for multiple payments. (Some folks believe that paying once is more than enough; paying twice is certainly not a good idea.)

Just like Tuesday’s post about headshots, today’s entry is highly unscientific. But it comes out of discussions with colleagues, conventional wisdom about audition attire, and from observing over 6,ooo singers in the audition room over the last 15 years.

(Demographic description of contributors: Rahree is a hip 30-something with fabulous taste in clothes. KPW is, uh, well, older than that, and tends to retreat into nondescript black things.)

General Guidelines

Be professional. Wear something that is the singer equivalent of what a 9-5 person would wear to a job interview. Or think about it as Sitzprobe clothes. Within the industry, there’s a fairly widespread custom of wearing something polished for a Sitz rehearsal. That’s the general category of clothing we’re aiming for.

No formal wear. Leave the tuxes and the full-length evening gowns in their dry-cleaning bags. Same with sequins and other über-glitzy options.

Color. Solid, vibrant colors are always welcome. Busy prints add a level of visual white noise that is somehow distracting. Few people make strong statements in washed-out pastels. And, although black is an always defensible choice, it’s rarely memorable.

Confidence. Feel like a million bucks in your audition clothes. Don’t wear something that someone else prescribes if you feel you’re apologizing for your appearance in any way. You and your friends/teacher/circle should agree that you look terrific – there is an intersection, and you can find it.

Comfort. Be able to move. Nothing should constrict your freedom of movement, for both vocal/technical reasons, and for general ease and fluidity of motion.

Familiarity. Don’t wear your new stuff for the first time in front of an important panel. Get to know it, so it isn’t another variable on a stressful day.

Guys Only

You get to go first because you’re easier.

Tie. Probably, but if you can look fabulously turned out with an open collar and jacket, we can be convinced. If you wear a tie, bold colors can work wonders. No cravats, please.

Jacket. Probably, but if you can look irresistible in a crisp shirt and tie, we won’t complain.

Neither? You really shouldn’t abandon both jacket and tie. Let’s just say it’s risky.

Hair. Out of your eyes. Usually more of a problem for the ladies, but if you sport some serious locks, make sure they’re not obscuring your face.

Accent. Bold tie. Fun socks. An amazing suit. Colorful pocket square if you can bring it off. Helps us remember you.

OK, Ladies…

Shoes. Be sure you can walk easily in them and support your singing. We don’t really care about open vs. closed toes, but I guess some people do. And character shoes almost never come off well.

Pants are fine. Mezzos or sopranos. They should look classy, and they should fit you well.

Length. Above the knee is dicey, but not impossible. Just be sure you’re not going to be singing on a stage well above the panel. (If you’re not sure, don’t chance it.)

Hair. Not in your face. Doesn’t have to be “pulled back,” it just has to not be the mane [sic:)] event.

Accessories. Be careful about shawls and scarves and other things that are not stabilized or otherwise affixed to your person. An accessory that sets you apart is a marvelous thing… an unusual cut to a dress, a vibrant touch of color, an interesting piece (pin, necklace) that doesn’t overwhelm. It helps us remember you visually, and it adds energy and detail to your presence.

Come As You Are Tour 2009 !

Don’t worry about dressing up – you sing better in grubbies anyway, right?

If we hire you, chances are that we’ll make you wear something fairly crazy anyway, so looking your prettiest/most handsome isn’t really a selling point for us. (This will also keep Rahree from paying too much attention to your cute shoes and not enough to la voce.) Come as you are, and blow us out of the water with your amazing musical talents! And don’t forget to say “hi” on your way in. We’ll be the folks sitting behind the table…

…in our sweats.

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