Clothing For Cabaret

In addition to rehearsal, putting the music books together and memorizing songs, we also worked on clothing choices for our upcoming cabaret sets.  Tuxedos work very well for the men.  You can add personalized touches by the color of bow tie, vest and pocket handkerchief, plus studs that you select.  A local store that has great men’s clothing and good prices is Mr. Formal in downtown Portland, OR. 

As you might suspect, ladies’ clothing choices require more time and work to put together.  The clothing doesn’t necessarily have to be expensive, but it does have to look good on you and fit properly.  Some local stores that I like that have some bargain but beautiful clothing include The Glass Butterfly, Ross Dress For Less and Kohl’s, but of course there are many others that you might prefer.  It might be easiest to begin with taking your current measurements and taking those to clothing stores with you as an aid to finding the correct sizes.  Having said that, every brand tends to size their clothing differently, so feel free to grab a couple of different sizes in everything that you like and want to try on, to save a bit of time in the dressing rooms.  If I’m doing a two-piece outfit, I like to start with the bottom half, which tends to be plain.  A short or long black skirt that fits well, along with appropriate hose and heels are a good place to start, and they are pieces that you can use in a wide variety of cabaret settings and performance situations.  Then you will need a top.  You want to think, in advance of hitting the stores, what colors you look good in, and what basic styles are flattering on your body type.  Play up whatever your best body features are, and downplay those that need it–you will know what I mean–upper parts of arms on those of us who are older are not always best to be displayed, for example.  If you have a great bustline, flaunt it–sex sells, after all, and this is a marketing strategy that has worked over time in the entertainment industry.  Once you have some tops, try them on and see how comfortable they are–can you raise your arms and have freedom of movement without the fabric constricting?  The answer should be yes.  Also make sure the waistlines are not too tight–you do need to breathe to sing, after all.

Once you have some separates, then consider a dress.  Colors and design styles vary widely, so they need to be tried on–take some extra time with this. 

Accessories are important.  Consider the earrings, necklace, possible bracelet and any hair adornments that might work well with the outfits.  Gloves are another possibility.  Think about not breaking up lines in the clothing, to create a sleek and slim appearance.  This means you might go for a short black skirt with black hose and black character shoes, for example, to keep a long line and not break up the leg area, especially important if you are short.  This also goes for the arms of clothing–you might want to add long gloves to keep the line long.  Be careful of necklace placement–a choker can break up your neckline, which might not be beneficial if you are a little thicker in the neck area, whereas a longer necklace may help to keep the line more vertical and give a nice long line to the front of the outfit.  Hair up or down–it’s your choice, but pick a style that you look good in, and one that will stay in place for the duration of your sets.  Shoes are important as well–they should be comfortable, and should stay put on your feet, which is why character shoes are always great.  Select a heel that works for you, or flats–whichever is most flattering to your legs.  After you have selected clothing, make sure that you have the appropriate undergarments to work with the outfits, so that straps don’t show or pantylines, and so that you are sufficiently covered even in a revealing evening gown.  A dance store may offer a nude leotard that can work well under these types of dresses.

Once you have a great outfit, wear it with confidence.  The bottom line is you want to feel and look great when you are on stage performing, and your clothing should do its part to help in this regard.  It is a major contributing factor to the style and look of your show, so it is worth paying attention to, especially when it comes time for taking headshots and publicity photos for flyers and other promotional materials.

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About Athena at McElrath Cabaret

Athena McElrath is an entertainer with a love for theatre and singing. She enjoys delving in the area of historical cabaret, researching the singers and clubs that were in business from before 1920 to the present, in New York and beyond.
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3 Responses to Clothing For Cabaret

  1. flights rhodes says:

    ahhhhhh very good, bookmarked :-) keep it up, JusyKassy. http://www.flightsrhodes.org

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