“Nine times out of ten – especially when I meet a guy – it’s my looks that get me in the door. I’ve learned is to use my looks to get me in the door, but I’ll use my intelligence to let me stay.” – Lana J (@Official_LanaJ)
Whether you’re an actor in character or a writer hidden behind an avatar, the way you present yourself influences your career. Especially when you are transitioning from one stage to the next. This month, I asked six women: What do you hope to convey about your artistic self through fashion? What feedback have you received about your dress as relates to your art?
Note: while dress is important, talent and work ethic will always trump branding, marketing, or anything else. Shout out to The Representation Project and its #AskHerMore campaign which inspires people to call out sexist reporting and suggest ways to re-focus on women’s achievements.
“It’s very important to me that I feel comfortable and that means feeling like myself. No matter what. In the classroom, there is definitely more of an awareness of my body, so I do consider whether my outfits are too “sexy” or revealing. I like to feel more exposed when I perform. I am very comfortable in my body so I like to show skin. It’s part Riot Grrrl ethic, part self-objectification. I love hotpants and booty shorts. With or without tights. And, boots. Always, boots.” – Alicia Swiz (@popgoesalicia) Professor, Performer, and Professional Feminist
“When I do a show, I put my face on. I wear my nice jeans and a top that isn’t covered in stains on my chest. I want to look great, able to high kick and put my best forward. That’s the outfit that does it for me. Sometimes I wear a dress. I know, crazy! A hoodie hides me and is defiantly my woobie. Watch ‘Mr. Mom’. It’s so great! When you’re doing comedy, don’t hide. Put YOU out there. If a woobie is what you need in your FIRST days of comedy, go for it. No judgments.” – Amy Sumpter (@Amy_Sumpter) Stand-Up, Comedic Actress, and Storyteller
“I’ve always wanted to have a closet full of the same outfit. Just like cartoon characters. I’m most comfortable in jeans, a sweater, and a pair of Converse. The idea of standing out in a crowd feels more stressful than exciting. The one garment that never fails to draw attention: my hijab. As a Muslim American woman, my headscarf is usually the first thing people notice. In our current political climate, I often feel like I’m representing a community of 1.6 billion people rather than just myself.
I’m still learning to face audiences with confidence. One of the biggest compliments I’ve ever received regarding my appearance was from an audience member. She confessed to thinking my hijab would be distracting, but by the end of my performance she had forgotten it was even there! Due to my lack of fashion sense, there’s not much of a difference between performer and regular me.” – Laura Bowers, Improv/Sketch Comedy Artist
“Learning to truly love living life at your own pace is very important in today. With everything moving so fast and changing constantly, it’s important for me to find that balance between the internal self, the self that interacts with others, and the desiring self which seeks fulfillment within my chosen career paths. I’ve always wanted to find something that makes me different. Actually, what makes us all different is already a part of who we are. All the time spent on searching is just a part of the process of creating our own special piece that fits perfectly into the puzzle of this world.
Externally we are a walking billboard displaying our brand. People are drawn to how we carry ourselves; the way we stand, our clothing, our hair color, haircut, etc. Expressing your creative brand in this way can and will add stylistic individuality if you truly embrace the things that fancy you and not the external factors impressed upon you.” Kellye Howard (@kellyehoward) Comedian/Performer/Producer
“I think I offer a unique perspective both in how I dress as well as my comedy. My style of dress reflects my art in that both are well thought out while also trying to maintain a playful essence. Although none of my jokes are second hand, I often shop at thrift stores. In both cases, I like to take chances with things that are out of the ordinary. I design and make some of my clothes and jewelry. Some are sold on my website.
I've only gotten good feedback on the way I dress. At least to my face! This is how people who know me expect me to dress for a show. Those who don't, often comment positively while relating my style to my persona.” – Kat Herskovic (@KatHerskovic) Comedian/Designer
“I’ve gotten very positive feedback about my dress. I want to look like I am dressing up for the part. I want to stand out for being dressed up. The outfit I’m wearing today is intentional because it’s bold. I love the colors and shapes. For my show, Simmer Brown, I also dress in [traditional] Indian clothes. This ensures people realize that I am Indian. It’s my heritage and I’m proud of it. I want people to see that a woman who is dressed in a traditional, non-western clothes can also be a comedian. I want people to make that association. What they should realize is that this person is can express themselves – with covered hair or whatever – and still be relatable. It’s not a shield or a wall they have to overcome.
A lot of comics – I don’t know if they don’t want to stand out or if they are portraying a different brand, but their look tends to be a little more casual. I like to be dressed up. I wear dresses and skirts. It may sound strange but I dress like you would in a business meeting. Because I mean business. You also have to be comfortable. This outfit makes me feel very confident. That’s a big thing. If you feel confident on stage, that will come through. My take away is: wear what you feel confident. In the past, wearing Indian clothes embarrassed me. Now [wear Indian clothes] as a way to reclaim my heritage and making it powerful. I dress up to feel feminine, but strong. It sounds like I’m a tampon.” – Sameena Mustafa (@SameenaMustafa) Comedian/Producer
Radio host and TV personality Lana J a great thought on how dressing can influence your (creative) career. “If I know that somebody is gonna be some place, and I need to meet this person, I’ll get dolled up like no other. Then, when I meet that person, and we start having a conversation, we end up legitimately doing business. Even though they may want to (flirt) with me, they won’t pass that route because they know at the end of the day I can actually bring shit to the table that [they] need.” – Lana J (@Official_LanaJ)
Thanks, Alicia Swiz, Amy Sumpter, Laura Bowers, Kellye Howard, Kat Herskovic, and Sameena Mustafa for being generous with your time and knowledge.
Don’t die from exposure! Read 5 Ways to be Paid for Your Art
A creative with type-a tendencies. I come from a family of artists and entrepreneurs. While I wait for my big screenwriting break, I share my BA in Communication and work experiences to help fellow artists get organized and put more art into the world.
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