Ladies, the pressure to find the perfect audition outfit is real. I doubt I was the first singer to be passed over because someone didn't like my clothes, and I know I wasn't the last. Everyone has an opinion about what to wear (or what not to wear), and you'll never be able to please them all. But as someone who went from being consistently criticized for my wardrobe to someone who is consistently complimented, I hope I can help you find options that will get audition panels to stop focusing on your clothes and start focusing on your voice!
It turns out that the problem with my "inappropriate" audition outfits wasn't so much the clothes, but how they fit (or, rather, how they didn't quite fit). The more I hear about other people being criticized for their outfit choices, the more convinced I am that poor fit is the basis of quite a lot of this criticism. Of course, we're all choosing the best options we can, and we're all in the right ballpark as far as fit is concerned. It's pretty obvious something is the wrong size when it's literally falling off or you can't zip it up all the way, right? Even so, and despite our best efforts, the sad truth is, standard women's sizing - the clothing we find most often in store - is not designed to fit all bodies.
Misses (standard) sizes range from 00-14 or 16 and are designed to fit women who are 5'4"-5'7" with about a B-cup, hips that measure slightly larger than their busts, and waists around 8" smaller than their hips.
If sizing up or down in misses clothing fixes one fit problem but creates another, it's likely you can find better fitting garments in extended and/or specialty sizes.
- If you are under 5'4" and most clothes, no matter how small the size, are a bit long and loose, try shopping Petites. In addition to shorter lengths, inseams, and hemlines, petite garments typically have slightly narrower shoulders, higher arm openings, shorter sleeves, higher waist placement, shorter rises, and higher knee placement.
- If you are over 5'7" and find clothes off the rack tend to be a little (or a lot) on the short side, look into Tall sizes. In addition to longer lengths, Tall clothing features broader shoulders, longer sleeves with lower elbow placement, lower waist placement, longer rises, lower knee placement, and longer inseams.
- If you are 5'4"-5'7" and find that your curves don't fill out most clothes, try the Juniors department. The odd-numbered sizes in Juniors (1-15) generally correspond to the next size up in Misses, but have a higher bust placement and a straighter fit throughout. Since these sizes are designed primarily with the teenage demographic in mind, the styles tend to be fashion forward, but you won't always find designs comparable to those in other women's sizes.
- If you find that standard cuts are uncomfortably tight and don't leave room for your curves, or if most brands stop at sizes that are simply too small, try Plus sizes. Plus sizes start as small as 10s or 12s and run well into the double digits (sizes vary by brand). Plus-size clothes are cut more generously than Misses sizes, to accommodate fuller curves. They also often have lower bust placement, higher waist placement, and higher rises, though they are still mostly scaled for women in the 5'4"-5'7" height range.
Extended/specialty sizes can be difficult, if not impossible to find in-store. Fortunately, we have the internet at our fingertips, and many brands carry extended/specialty sizes online. The Gap and it's subsidiaries, JC Penney, J. Crew, ASOS, and Lands End are among the stores carry Petite, Tall, and Plus sizes online (Lands End even carries Petite Plus and Tall Plus!).
Most major department stores carry Juniors and Misses sizes in store and offer Petite and Plus options online; some have Petite, Plus, and Junior Plus sections in store as well.
Many more brands cater to specific extended/specialty sizes. Long Tall Sally, for example, carries exclusively Tall sizes, while brands like Lane Bryant cater to the Plus size market, and fast fashion brands like Forever 21 carry styles in Junior and Junior Plus sizes.
- If your proportions generally correspond to Misses sizes, but you find you need more or less length in your clothes, look for labels that have the size followed by an "L" (long) or "S" (short). L/S sizes are few and far between (and mostly pants). While these garments do adjust for length, they do not adjust for all proportions across the board.
- If you're looking for a roomier garment try "oversized/relaxed" fit. For snugger styles try "slim/skinny" fit options.
- If you fit into misses sizes but find that you need to size up in tops and dresses to accommodate a large bust, check out the clothes at Pepperberry and Urkye, as well as the "bespoke fit" styles at Simply Be. These clothes are designed with DD+ busts in mind.
**Some women also have great experiences with tailor-direct sites like eshakti; I, however, am not one of them. Every time I have ordered from a tailor direct site, I've had to get the garment altered to fit properly. It's probably because my measurements are a bit deceptive, but whatever. The point is, I always end up paying more for the alterations than the original cost of the garment. Tailor direct sites do offer great fit options including customizable hemlines, necklines, sleeves, and length as well as garments customized by your measurements. They are definitely worth trying (especially if you can find a sale and/or coupon), but may or may not be the answer to your fit problems**
Once you've determined your best size(s), you can refine your clothing search with cuts that will best fit your proportions. Just because something is the right size doesn't mean it will hang correctly on your figure.
There's a lot of information out there on body shapes and how to dress them. My personal favourite is Trinny and Susannah's 12 Body Shapes. Trinny and Susannah provide style tips for 3 different body shapes in each of 4 categories -- "broad shoulders with no defined waist," "bust and hips similar size," "hips wider than shoulders," and "everything else." You can use their body shape calculator if you want, but I suggest you just read the descriptions since your silhouette is more than the sum of its parts.
Hopefully, this gives you enough information to start exploring clothing options that may be a better fit for your body (lol! see what I did there!). Before I wrap this up, though, I'd like to add a quick note about foundation garments.
What you wear under your outfit is totally your business, and yours alone. There are tons of options, and you should go with what makes you feel comfortable. However, no one else should be able to tell what you do (or don't) have on under your clothes.
When choosing your foundation garments, check that all parts of your bra are hidden, that hemlines fully cover your shapewear, that you don't have visible panty lines or seams, that your undergarments' patterns and/or textures aren't visible through the fabric of your clothes, and that your tights and/or control garments don't create any rolls that weren't there before you put them on. And, bearing in mind that 80% of women wear the wrong size bra, if you're not 110% sure you're wearing the right size bra, please read this article, click on the links, and get yourself sorted (you can thank me later).
If your clothes truly fit properly, rocking your personal style at auditions shouldn't be a problem.
- Hate dresses? Don't wear them! Find some fancy trousers or a classy jumpsuit.
- Love colour? Make it happen! Bonus if you can find a top or dress in a colour that brings out your eyes.
- Prefer prints to solids? Go for it! Patterns are super-fun!
- Do you feel best in classic pieces? That's great! After all, classic is classic for a reason.
- Is your style a bit edgy? Fantastic! Choose clothes with cool and unique details!
Now go forth and shop!