Custom Costuming in Cabaret

Custom Costuming in Cabaret
Saturday musings...

Costuming for the singer really needs to be all-encompassing!

After attending a NYC cabaret showcase this week,  it bares repeating!

You don't need to think about your wardrobe as costume ONLY when you are in a production playing a character!

Costuming is what you wear when you are on stage - PERIOD.  If you doing a symphony concert, a recital, a cabaret,  WHATEVER - the clothing choices you make are costuming.

In a cabaret setting - which is much more intimate in EVERY way - it is even more crucial.  Your audience is up close and personal,  and often the stage height puts the audience's eyes at thigh level.

GREAT.  JUST the spot we want to be analyzed at!!!

As cabaret spaces are more intimate,  so the decision of what to costume in becomes more important.

Costume is NOT street clothes.  EVER.

Ultimately,  anything you use on stage should be something you simply do not wear in your day to day life.  Invest in the costume.  This is crucial to how your work is seen.

Make mistakes!  We all have!!  Ask questions!  Find out what is expected.  Be open and willing to take a risk or two in finding what works for you.

Using the cabaret stage as an example - the intimacy of the space needs to work FOR you not against you.  We need to work for more height and larger than life while still maintaining an intimacy.  This is craft yes, but part of craft is learning how to costume your SELF.   The costume should enhance, not detract from the craft and journey you are willing and able to take us on.

Ladies, we simply have more work to do.  Guys,  for good or evil, you simply don't have as many choices.

UNDERGARMENTS.  I don't care who you are.  UNDERGARMENTS.

The intimacy of the cabaret stage is...intimate.  We see EVERYTHING.  Panty-line,  rolls, bulges - you got it - we see it.  Find the undergarments that create a seamless silhouette - EVERYWHERE.

This is what I often get when I am working with singers on costuming:

"But I wouldn't wear this to the club or in my every day - this isn't me"

PRECISELY.

This is the point.  I don't WANT you in your regular clothes, in your club clothes nor in your date clothes.  I want you in a COSTUME.

If we begin thinking this way, we will be more successful in making correct and exciting choices in costuming!

YOU are the performer.  YOU need to be larger than life when you hit that stage - even in the intimacy of the cabaret house.  Larger than life doesn't mean bulges and muffin top or a push up and over bra!!! It means presence and length.

The first rule of stage visual is UP.  The audience's eye needs to be led UP your body TO YOUR FACE.  The intimacy of your performance will happen in your eyes, and if we are sitting at your thigh level and looking at bumps and a short skirt that cuts you in half, or legs that go up under and through, or a skirt that is so short that we are concerned it might reveal more than the cabaret intimacy is really needed (!)  we are not with you artistically anymore.

The malfunction of costuming has taken over the performance and your work is lost.

LENGTH LENGTH LENGTH.

HEELS HEELS HEELS.

Work with your body type not against it.  If you are wearing boots and a short skirt, make sure the color is the same so there's no cut off from your toes to your hose to your skirt!

Daytime heel is not stage heel.

Open the upper body and bring us to your FACE.  Know that under cabaret lights you will wash out too - so figure out how to do the makeup to bring out eyes and lips and angles!!

Fabrics should never make more noise than you do!!  They should not make you look bigger.  They should flow,  they should drape,  they should balance.  Textures can be exciting in a cabaret setting too as is the use of color and hue and shade.  Cabaret lends itself to more subtlety that still stands out.

Create a FULL silhouette based on your body type.  THEN accessorize with shoes/boots,  color,  bling...and please - GET YOUR HAIR OFF YOUR FACE!  (and run a brush through it too if it's not too much trouble!)

You are creating a character - and therefore, that character needs a costume.

Short skirt,  long skirt,  wide-legged pants,  cigarette pants,  jackets, tunics,  sequins,  buttons,  satin,  silk,  wool,  boots, stilettos,  pumps,  whatever your choice - make it a COSTUME choice.

You have created this cabaret - be it a full evening or a set - and we SEE you.  Create the line,  the energy, the focus to be on YOU!!!  The largesse of you is about drawing your audience TO you, to see past you and into your eyes and into your journey and you take us with you,  not to be concerned that a seam may break, or when you sit on that stool that your belly is pouring forth, or that girls may spill with one more breath!

COSTUME YOURSELF.  YOU are the character.  Respect her enough to create the outer package as well.

Susan Eichhorn Young covers all things voice—strong and sophisticated singing and speaking. 

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