“You should look like yourself”—you have probably read this rule from acting websites over and over again. But what if “being yourself” only takes a shirt and a pair of jeans and the character you’re auditioning for is a lawyer? Are there certain unwritten rules you should be aware of? The answer is, yes, there are.
Ginger Poole, producing artistic director at Mill Mountain Theatre in Roanoke, VA, recommends solid colors, especially a bright color that works with your skin tone and hair color. Burgundy, emerald green, moss green, purple, grayish blue, and denim blue are some of the colors that enhance skin tones, frame the face, and give it focus. On the other hand, J. Steven White, supervising producer for Harold Clurman Lab Theater at the Stella Adler Studio of Acting in New York, favors neutrals like black and brown because they also throw focus to your face. Lara Marsh, general manager for Nebraska Theatre Caravan, recommends colors that draw attention to your skin and eyes. Avoid busy patterns like stripes, zigzags, and polka dots.
By now you probably know what colors suit you, but there is also a science to it.
Don’t overdo your makeup when attending auditions, or you end up being remembered as the newbie who’s desperate for attention. Just like your headshots, a light liquid foundation that covers your dark circles and a lipstick that matches well with your skin’s undertones are enough. Your makeup should accentuate your natural features. This is not a modeling gig. In acting auditions, less is more, so drop the fake lashes, hair extensions, and synthetic mustache and be yourself.
Hint at the character you’re auditioning for, but do not wear a costume. You can take out as much guesswork for the casting director as you can, but do not be awkward and overbearing. J. White shares the cautionary tale of an actor who auditioned for the part of Huckleberry Finn. “He came in with a straw hat, the short jeans, a flannel shirt, and bare feet. The hat and his feet took all my focus away from him. He could have made the same impression in a T-shirt and modern jeans and sneakers.”
If you feel comfortable wearing full priest blacks and dog collar, or a blood-stained wedding dress on the bus, the casting panel judging you might not.
Leave the Avengers shirts at home. Avoid logos and brand names at all costs. This includes product names, designer names, and cartoon characters. They draw attention away from your face. What casting directors want to focus on is your natural features. You want to be remembered for your performance, not the huge smiling Spongebob you were wearing. Settle for a solid-colored shirt and jeans to create a casual and natural look.
You don’t want to over accessorize in auditions. Clunky big jewelry can be very distracting on camera. Imagine wearing so many bracelets that everyone could hear you in each move you make in the room. You want the casting directors to be paying attention to your acting performance, eyes, and facial expression, and not on your flashy neon earrings. If you do not wear glasses normally, you should not be wearing glasses. No hats either.
You’re not going to a club or party, so don’t wear a glittery tightfitting bodycon dress. Several production representatives say it’s you and your audition, not your clothing, that should take center stage. Avoid cocktail attire and clothes that are too tight and suggestive. Avoid wearing clothes that show too much skin or cleavage unless the audition calls for it. Depending on the actor’s body, it can send the wrong message.
Wear shoes that help you walk and stand confidently. If you suck at walking in heels, do not wear them to an audition until you’ve mastered the art of working it. Being comfortable in an audition is paramount. In general, you should aim for shoes that are flattering and don’t inhibit movement. Women who choose to wear heels should make sure they are no higher than 2 ½ to 3 inches. For men, comfortable shoes or designer sneakers are generally appropriate. Men can also “dress down” a pair of dress shoes with jeans.
When you get yourself a callback, keep track of the outfit that worked in the audition. A lot of other actors do this. They wear the outfit sparingly or only wear them for auditions to preserve its mint condition. That way, they don’t start to look faded from the washing machine. A lot of these actors hang the clothes either in a separate closet or a different place within the closet. You might want to consider this secret sometime soon.