So you’re ready to take your music to a public audience and attend your first open mic, but you have no idea what to wear! This is an inevitable concern for many performers, whether beginners or experienced. Industry professionals really care about image and as aspiring artists, you should too.
From the first moment you step out on stage, your clothes speak for you before you have. First impressions are so important and, having seen thousands of contestants each year, we understand any uneasiness you may experience.
Branding yourself is crucial when considering how your audience will receive you. Here are 5 top tips to help guide you when deciding what to wear to an open mic night.
#1 Do wear something comfortable
This may seem obvious but isn’t something that you always think about when deciding what to wear to an open mic night. Considering comfort allows to not only focus on your vocals, but also will help you feel at ease throughout the night, especially when networking.
Usually at open mic nights the sets are short, (normally 15 to 20 minutes), meaning you won’t be standing for long whilst performing. Still, be prepared. Open mic events come in all shapes, sizes and venues.
With that in mind, prepare to potentially be stood up throughout the night, due to the audience taking seats to watch the live music, football or even just stopping by for happy hour. So comfortable footwear is a must.
Try to avoid that top with the frayed hem or jacket with the dodgy zipper. Yes, even if it is your favourite. This can be a recipe for disaster… or worse, a wardrobe malfunction. This can be a real distraction or embarrassment if happens whilst performing
18-year-old Emily Pellatt is a regular open mic attendee. When deciding what to wear to an open mic night she said, ‘I select an outfit that is a cross between casual and for a night out’.
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In the video above, Emily is wearing a jersey Bardot top with stripy casual trousers. This is a great choice as the off the shoulder style is a sophisticated smart casual look. By wearing jersey trousers with elasticated waist helps to prevent Emily from feeling restricted whilst singing.
Acknowledging how difficult it can be to pick the outfit the Southampton singer advises, ‘If I’m stuck, I’ll look at the tagged Instagram posts of the venue to see how people often dress’. Using social media as a guide can be a great way to gain insight into the vibe at an open mic night.
Looking at the social media page for the venue can be a great way of identifying key points when picking an outfit. Is there lighting or a stage? Is the venue indoor or outdoor? This can help you avoid clothing that is too short or revealing and encourage to consider whether, location and setting.
#2 Do dress for the occasion
Take part! Whether its St Paddy’s Day, Christmas, Valentine’s Day or Easter, or even if it’s a themed night, definitely always get involved. Dress up, wear a fitting colour and always check the details of the night.
Speak to the audience and acknowledge how ridiculous or fabulous you all look. It’s key that you display confidence and showmanship by speaking to them, rather than at them. You’ll be surprised at the interaction.
In embracing the theme of the night, it will align you with the venue which can be a great boost to your professionalism. Showing that you can do this can appeal to establishments in booking you as a host or just inviting you to come down and showcase your talent at future open mics.
Additionally, it is imperative to consider the conditions you’ll be performing in. Are there stage lights? Is the stage right next to the revolving door that leads to outside? Is the venue air conditioned? Make sure you bring something to keep you warm and wear layers that can be removed if you get too warm. Always best to prepare for both.
#3 Do wear something that gives you confidence
This is key. A little effort in your look can turn any jitters into confidence. Don’t be afraid, be confident. In the words of Susan Jeffers, ‘Feel The Fear & Do It Anyway’. A great mantra to have when building your confidence as a performer. Once you’ve jumped over the hurdle of fear and anxiety of what people will think, making a statement becomes a powerful tool.
Your image is key when evolving into the performer and artist that you want to become and it starts with your external demeanour. Open mic nights can be an important stepping stone in an artist’s career so treat it like an audition.
Regardless of your personal style, whether this is a natural look rather than heavy makeup, your precious Sharpie personalised trainers, tracksuit, vintage wear or even a statement jacket. Whatever it is, it’s important to reflect your branding. The audience needs to know who you are, what you’re about and what you can bring to the table. So even if you’re wearing a basic t-shirt and jeans, accessorise! Backpacks, jackets, fresh trainers, killer hoops are examples of items to add to an outfit to help elevate your look.
In doing so your confidence will shine through. That’s ideally what you want. And even if making statements isn’t your thing, staying true to who you are through your style can be just as effective.
Upcoming singer-songwriter Elléana speaks about how wearing the right thing is key. ‘I think the best attire is comfort and something which you feel confident in. This helps you feel settled when performing!’
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Here, Elléana is keeping it simple wearing a jersey scoop neck top, jeans and trainers. In going for a casual look, she is still staying true to her style as a edgy, tomboyish fashionista. She explains, ’I like to wear something that reflects my style as an artist but a more chilled version, nothing super over the top’.
#4 Do make sure to be camera ready
Always prepare to be filmed, watched and the centre of attention. Open mics are where talent scouts go to in this day and age, in the hope of seeking the rawest and most authentic talent. Take this opportunity to work on conducting yourself as an artist. From how you act, what you say and what you wear, know that you’re being analysed.
Also, ensure to be social media ready. We’re living in the era of Snapchat, Instagram and Live Video so embrace it and use it to your advantage. As cheesy as it sounds, when you look the part, you feel the part and it’s 100% true. So be ready to be broadcasted. Wear something you feel great in and don’t mind being seen by the world.
Keep in mind that talent shows such as The Voice UK and X Factor are now coming directly to you! You can now be scouted via social media posts of your performance and contacted for a great opportunity. Having this in mind when choosing what to wear is key and will guide you to think about what image you would like to portray to not only your audience, but also to industry professionals.
#5 Do be authentic when choosing your outfit
Whatever you wear, wear something that reflects who you are. As an upcoming artist, scouts, labels and establishments want to see that you can brand yourself. Clothing and image play a huge part in that. Branding is key because it sets the tone of who you are, what you represent and displays a level of consistency and professionalism.
With that being said, don’t compromise your style. That’s what makes you an individual you don’t want to change that, just polish it a little. There’s a difference between grungy and scruffy, natural and bare, simple and plain.
Once you have essentially ‘a look’ and a feel for your personal style, that is the key to knowing your identity as an artist, visually. This does not happen overnight. But once you have that in mind and actively exercise it every time you’re on stage, you’ll begin to feel like an artist and be viewed as one too.
Being authentic is key. Don’t feel obliged to buy new clothes to a portray an image that doesn’t reflect you as an artist. By being yourself and feeling comfortable enough to not only perform, but network and speak to other performers will show your genuine image.
What do you wear to open mic nights? Leave us a link to your performance in the comments!