You did it! You found the perfect casting notice, you submitted for the role, and now it’s time for you to head into the casting office for an audition. So, you fill your folder with headshots and resumes, you prepare your sides, and then you walk over to your closet. Only to stare blankly into it asking yourself the question you’ve never really thought about addressing before: What do I wear?!
Picking out what to wear can be one of the most unexpected, yet still nerve racking, steps in preparing for an audition. You’ve heard it all: No crazy patterns, no stripes, no white/black shirts, no uniforms, no browns, oranges, red, yellows, blues, greens, purples, Christmas sweaters…Ah! What is an actor really supposed to do? When it comes to fashion, naturally, everyone has their own tastes and preferences. But, here’s the key: Instead of constantly worrying about what the casting director wants, worry about what your CHARACTER would wear. Do the acting work, and the outfit to wear will come.
“You did the work as an actor, you spent time on the script, you understand the story, you understand your character’s service to that story, and you make really strong choices as an actor. And once you do all that work you have a better idea of what your character would wear anyway,” explains actress and personal actor stylist Tunisha Hubbard, “Or you at least know where to look for inspiration or for guidance when you’re trying to choose what to wear.” Whether the role you’re auditioning for is for a commercial, television show, film, or theater production, the casting breakdown (and whatever other material you receive for the role) will outline who the character you’re auditioning for is. With that, and the use of your own imagination and strong choices, who that character is for you starts to resonate inside you. And that’s what the casting directors want to find: The character! “I think that it’s always good, if you have a description of a character, that you dress that way as much as possible. I think that’s great,” shared casting director Sara Paterno, “If you don’t really have a description, I don’t necessarily suggest to guess. Because then, you know, if you come in and you have a certain look it may throw off the casting director and the director. So, I would just choose more of a simple wardrobe if you’re not exactly sure who that character is. It depends on the description that you’re given if you should come in dressed as that character or not. It really depends how much information you have.”
So, let’s say you don’t have a ton of information about the character. You put together all the information you have and you’re ready to go, but even with all of your research on age, time period, genre, and more, figuring out what your character should actually wear is still a little bit vague. What defines a “simple” wardrobe? “If it’s for a commercial audition, definitely look up the brand that you’re going out for. Check out the other commercials that they’ve done in the past and look at things like the color of their logo, the styles in the commercials that they do, and kind of take hints like that,” explains stylist Tunisha Hubbard, “But, at the end of the day I really think that you should wear something that makes you feel amazing, no matter what. Because that confidence will really shine through when you walk into the room.” And what better way to find your confidence for an audition than by dressing for success? “You don’t want anything distracting. You want all basic colors and if there’s a color that looks good on you and brings out all of your features, then I totally suggest wearing it,” encourages Sara Paterno, “I would just say, subtle. Because you want the focus to be you and not what you’re wearing…You want to look warm.”
But, what if you know exactly what kind of character you’re auditioning for? You have your scrubs all ready to play a nurse! Or you have your police officer uniform pressed and ready for on set action! Now, just hold on for a second. Knowing your character is key, but is a “costume” for a character ever appropriate? “I don’t know if you want to come in full out in a police uniform. Maybe, bring elements of the uniform with you,” says Sara Paterno, “So, for a doctor, if you want to bring a stethoscope or something that will help you feel more in that character, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that.” And if you don’t necessarily have or want to use specific pieces or props? “Just think: What would that person wear in their homes? When they’re off of work?” advises Tunisha Hubbard, “They don’t always walk around in scrubs. So that’s a really good way to just imply that you are a doctor or a nurse.” But overall, no matter what your character may be, fashion is fashion. And it could be the factor that ties your whole brand and trajectory of your career together. Whether it be how you utilize it in the audition room, or how you decide to dress when meeting up for coffee with a director. Your sense of style should NOT be ignored. “Don’t go looking like you don’t care. Dress in something nice. It doesn’t have to be super professional, but again, at the end of the day, wear what makes you feel good. Something that you can be confident in. Something that you love. As long as it’s on brand, go ahead and wear that,” Tunisha Hubbard emphasized, “Women don’t have to wear too much jewelry or makeup…For guys it’s all about the way your clothes fit.” In general, just be smart about how you fill your closet and how you present yourself in the business.
And when it comes to auditions, it’s really quite simple. Your headshot that got you in that room in the first place emphasized one thing: You. And that’s who casting directors want to see initially walking into the room if you don’t know how to dress exactly like your character. In fact, that’s what the wonders of movie magic are for! “It [the transformation of an actor on set] is so cool to see! Especially in period pieces,” describes Sara (who is not only a casting director, but who has also worked as an on set costume and wardrobe assistant), “That’s my favorite. How people transform.” So, do your research. Wear what feels right on you. And get ready to transform into more characters than you ever have before.