Sarah Boisvert is a writer who covers a variety of topics including business, offices, and how to liquidate office furniture. She is a pianist and singer and has particular interest in musical theatre and jazz.
A music performance should be an auditory contest. But we do not listen to music with our eyes closed at competitions. Since we see the performers as part of the show, it makes sense for the participants to consider visual impact as part of the competition.
Music is an expressive art form that conveys emotion or tells a story, and wardrobe is an essential part of that story. Bess singing Gershwin’s “I Loves You, Porky” from Porky and Bess in a religious habit would not fit with the lyrics, “if you can keep me, I wants to stay here.”
Whether a soloist or a group, wardrobe can help sell a song to the audience. Of course, a cappella groups should follow a few guidelines.
Reflect the Music’s Message
As mentioned before, choose costumes that convey the message of your repertoire. Try not to clash with the overall theme.
If you’re singing a set of all-American tunes by George Gershwin, Cole Porter, and Richard Rodgers, then red, white, and blue is a nice color scheme.
While each song may be unique, group the overall concepts into two groups, as there is usually time for a costume change. Perhaps try a fun, upbeat section in bright colors, followed by a sophisticated finale in black and white formal attire.
Don’t Go Too Far
Yes, it’s important to tie wardrobe into the theme, but don’t get carried away. Tasteful red, white, and blue colors suggest American music – hint, hint. While red sequined tops with matching blue and white hats scream tacky. Enhance the music; don’t take away from it!
Sex Sells – or NOT!
The advertising adage “sex sells” may be true in some circumstances, but not in an a cappella competition. Music judges watch American Idol and all the other TV reality shows, and have by now seen it all. Literally. But you don’t know their personal feelings about dress or their religious beliefs. So it’s better to play it safe. A girl can never go wrong with tasteful clothing. Again, something that merely suggests sexy is more provocative than being naked.
In this day and age of musical spectaculars, it’s easy to get pulled into thinking sets and costumes are all important. And yes, they do help convey the message of a song. But first and foremost, let the music come through and speak, for it is the universal language.