By Master Acting Teacher ~ Diane Christiansen
There are really no hard and fast rules about how to dress for an audition. For a long while, I thought the one absolute was to never arrive to an audition dressed in costume. Then I received a note from casting to come dressed as much like a voodoo gypsy as possible. Another audition notice I received instructed me to wear scrubs for the role of a nurse. Then of course, there are all of those stories of how celebrities landed some of their most memorable roles by “looking the part.” Katey Sagal created her signature look as Peggy Bundy in Married With Children by wearing her own red bouffant wig to the audition. Dorothy Dandridge had to shed her sophisticated image in order to convince Otto Preminger to cast her in the Oscar-nominated role of Carmen Jones by arriving to the audition oozing sex appeal in a brand new getup fit for a “hussy.” And just this past March, Eva Mendes was featured on the cover of Backstage magazine discussing how she is “breaking out of the bombshell box” in an upcoming drama. For her audition, she wore a baggy t-shirt and jeans, no make-up, and unkempt hair in order to look like her gritty, no frills character. Even young Jennifer Lawrence was told, at 16, that she was too pretty for an early film role, so after her audition in L.A., she and a parent flew all night to N.Y., to follow the Casting Director and arrived with no make up, uncombed hair and unkept. She convinced them. (Bold Parents!!) I guess that means the rule about looking your best for every audition is up in smoke too.
So in the absence of any absolute rules about how to dress for an audition or any explicit direction from casting, the best advice is to look to the script for clues. As you are preparing your role, you should begin to get a sense of who your character is, including how he/she dresses. As with any choices we make in acting, the choice of dress should be a strong one. Your style of dress may not rise to the level of costume, but it should definitely suggest who this character is, even before you speak your first line. Neglecting to make a character choice about what to wear may cloud the picture of you in the role, particularly if your personal style contradicts that of the character. Or worse, dressing haphazardly may inadvertently send an altogether negative message about your level of professionalism. Right or wrong, making a strong choice for your character, in style of dress or otherwise, will at least convey commitment to the role and possibly pique the interest of casting. So dress for success!