In case you missed it, the style revolution has officially begun!
In "A Letter to the Modern Diva," published on Schmopera in August, Suzanne Vinnick-Richards and Sara Duchovnay of Opera Diva Dress Collection encouraged singers to embrace their personal style in professional settings.
"It's hard to show your personality when the "rules" limit you to a few dress styles that will undoubtedly be worn by every other woman in the hallways of OPERA America and Nola. It's hard to feel supremely confident in your skin and give your best performance when the underlying message that these rules send is that your body and your individuality might be "wrong". . . archaic rules for audition and performance wear need to be broken (or at least bent)."
Like so many singers, I was absolutely on-board with their call to #freetheknee. And I thought it would be great if we started sharing our professional style. We could inspire and encourage each other to embrace more unique looks, while simultaneously creating a searchable resource for those times we're unsure of appropriate professional dress or just feeling stuck in a fashion rut. So #DivaStyleOOTD (diva style outfit of the day) was born!
Suzanne put the clout of Opera Diva Dress Collection behind the hashtag to sponsor a contest for submissions. She coordinated prizes from Opera Diva Dress Collection, S. Richards Photography, MatchaMe Cosmetics, and Jennifer Bradley Cosmetics. When the contest closed on October 31st two other judges and I picked 6 winners from the hundreds of absolutely stunning entries!
The divas behind our winning looks were kind enough to share their style advice with me.
Our prize for Audition Style went to Diane Kalinowski for this fun, vibrant blue ensemble!
How do you describe your style? I love pretty things and have a special affinity for bows, but I also love leather jackets or a good pair of stilettos with spikes on the heel. I love feminine, classic lines with a touch of glamour and edge.
What is your biggest style struggle? My struggles in style usually result in worrying too much about what someone will think. This can be tricky when you are opening yourself up to judgement in the form of an audition – judgement about your singing, yes, of course; but also judgement about your look, your weight, your height, whether you “look like you sound,” and on and on and on. The only aspects of this career worthy of my thoughts are those that I can control. For years, I have striven to be vulnerable enough to allow the truest, full sound of my voice to be heard in the craziest of circumstances. I try to approach my style with the same goal – to truly show who I am the second I walk through that door and to OWN it unapologetically.
What is your favourite style tip? I usually like to find one piece of an outfit that I know makes me feel good. For singing, that piece is my blue sparkly pumps whenever possible. Every time I put them on, they put me in the “zone.” I love that they are just a little too fancy but so fun, and I think they show off my personality when I walk in the door – all this from a pair of pumps! Find something that makes you feel amazing and that you get excited to wear.
Our prize for Concert Style went to Brenda Turner for this cute, unique maxi skirt!
How do you describe your style? My style is sexy conservative. I don't show a lot of cleavage or wear things that are super tight, but I wear things that flatter my body and make me feel good. I think the combination has a certain sex appeal, honestly. I wear things that are professional enough for my work as Manager of Individual Giving at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, but "cute" enough for me to go to a happy hour before rehearsal (yep, I said it, lol).
What is your biggest style struggle? My biggest struggle is that my body is basically three different sizes. If I find a dress that fits perfectly around my hips, chances are the bust is way too small, and the waist is very loose. They say hourglass is the sexiest body type, but let me tell you, it's hard to find clothes. I have to get nearly everything tailored.
What is your favourite style tip? My advice is to do YOU. Wear what makes YOU feel good. Wear colors that YOU like. If you wear it fiercely, it will be fierce. I promise.
Our prize for Everyday Style went to Jessica Fishenfeld for this stylish pants outfit!
How do you describe your style? Whimsical. I'm very sensitive to external stimuli, so, especially with all of these fashionistas I'm friends with on display, I see something that inspires me that day or I feel a certain way and dress accordingly. I could potentially wear drastically different styles each day, but I'd say it's all (usually) within reason and good taste!
What's your biggest style struggle? I've got a larger tuchas and thighs, with a more petite waist and upper-body, so finding pants and shorts that fit well is often extremely difficult. But when I do find those magical pairs, like my psychedelic black & white bell bottoms and, often, other high-waisted fits, I just want to wear them until they fall apart.
What's your favourite style tip? We're type-cast enough on stage. In real life, YOU'RE in control of your image, so don't pigeon-hole yourself when the world of fashion is your oyster! Try wearing something that you don't think you can "pull off" -- a particular hat, color, pattern, cut, style, etc. It may attract more attention than you're used to, but you might be pleasantly surprised to receive copious compliments on a cool, bold choice!
Our prize for an ODDC Find (an outfit purchased through Opera Diva Dress Collection) went to Shanna Nolan Gundry for this stunning Couture Poetry dress by designer Faith McGary.*
How do you describe your style? Vintage, sleek, sequins.
What's your biggest style struggle? I have a slim athletic build, and many of the dresses I love look odd, like sunken cups, because my chest is flat and muscular. They highlight that in a bad way.
What's your favorite style tip? Love your body for what it is and only wear things you absolutely love.
*about the designer: Faith McGary has been an invaluable member of Opera Diva Dress Collection. She has been incredibly generous in making her stunning pieces accessible to singers. She also uses her designs to support animal rescue; specifically Lone Star Bulldog Club Rescue, Great Dane Rescue of Southeast Texas, and St. Tiggywinkles.
Our prize for Style Slay went to Shareese Arnold for looking stylish with her baby bump.
How do you describe your style? My style reflects me. It's magnetic, brilliant, and uncompromising. I wear whatever makes me feel like I'm on fire.
What is your biggest style struggle? I don't know if it's a style struggle, but I was born beautifully large and as a result of that, it's difficult at times to find shoes that are on trend in my size. I wear a size 12.5. Thankfully, websites like Torrid, Lane Bryant, and Avenue are picking up the slack in those areas.
What is your favourite style tip? My favorite style tip is this: Don't be afraid to do you, whatever that may look like. I believe we are the most captivating when we feel the most like ourselves. If that means 6 inch heels or comfy flats to a person, it doesn't matter. Whatever gives you the confidence to take up space is what you should wear. You are the boss of your life.
Our Free the Knee prize went to Hannah Colvin for a spectacular outfit posted with an equally spectacular message:
"Recently, I've been super frustrated with what society dictates "bigger" women can and can't wear. [Opera Diva Dress Collection] has inspired me to say "Screw your idea of beauty!" Also, I think I look pretty damn hot. Here's to our personal styles, wearing whatever the hell we want (both in and out of auditions), and looking FAB."
How do you describe your style? Eclectic. Sometimes, I wear mesh tights and an over-sized tunic with combat boots, other times I’m wearing a neon pink bodycon dress with 6 inch heels. I describe my style as confident, bold, professional, and sassy.
What's your biggest style struggle? My biggest style struggle is finding things that make me feel empowered. Too many times do I walk into a store and go to the plus size section and find clothes that are meant to hide the women wearing them.
What's your favorite style tip? My greatest style tip that I ever received was to try on one size bigger and one size smaller when shopping for clothes. Turns out, not everyone is the same size all of the time! Every day before I leave my house, I look at myself in the mirror, and if I don’t feel like I am ready to take on the world and show everyone that I have arrived, I always go put on leopard print heels and hot pink lipstick. It makes me feel confident every time I do that. Be you. Find what makes you feel sexy and confident and it will take you far.
Though the contest is over, I hope the hashtag is just beginning. For even more diva-worthy style inspiration, check out #DivaStyleOOTD on Instagram or on Opera Diva Dress Collection, and don't hesitate to keep adding to the posts!