Wardrobe Basics for Film Actresses
No time to read? Listen to the blog instead
Hello!! Sometimes it is easier for me to edit my blog when I read it aloud. I decided to record myself reading this blog while I edit it, 1. to find my mistakes and 2. if you aren't able to read this blog, you have the option to listen to this blog instead. 🙂 Enjoy!
(Please excuse the audio quality, I misplaced my mic!)
Now that the new year is here I had the urge to purge starting with my walk in closets. Yes I have 2 walk in closets full of clothes, shoes, wigs and seasonal clothes. I started taking out clothes I don't wear often but then I had a thought. Could I use these clothes for my actor’s wardrobe?
Many of the pieces I have in my 2nd walk in closet are items I had bought for several roles in independent films. So why not go through my closet and put together an "actor’s (actress’) wardrobe". After a few days of research both online and offline, I have narrowed down a list of must-have clothing items and accessories for actors and actresses.
These pieces can be worn for headshots, auditions, plays, film, YouTube videos etc.
I have been in many different types of projects and in each of them I had to provide my own wardrobe. Actors are typically asked to bring 3 choices including accessories and their stylist will choose the best combination for the scene. From experience, I can say that you will need bright colors that match your skin tone, dark/navy blue and off–white or cream colored tops. In film you want to avoid black and white clothing as this offsets the white balance on the camera and white creates green shadows. I learned this lesson the hard way, I got yelled at in film class for wearing a black suit for one of my scenes. Now for theater, black and white are just fine.
If you should only have 1 item of clothing in your entire closet, I'd say it is the perfect camera color friendly well-fitting top. The color you choose for your skintone and your eyes and hair must also be a camera friendly color.
Still not sure what your color is? Here is a really great article on THE color you should wear for on-camera auditions.
When do you need to provide your own wardrobe?
• Scenes where you an extra/ background.
• Low budget films
• Independent films
It is very important that you know your body and that your clothes fit you properly. You don’t want to look like you are wearing your little sister’s tiny shirts nor do you want to look like a little kid playing dress up with your parent’s clothes. Invest a few dollars in tailoring your clothes. This is truly an investment as the “costume makes the clown.”
Even when you are not on set, an actor/actress needs to be pulled together when attending networking events, seminars, classes or just out on the town. To get some inspiration visit Pinterest. I have a board with a bunch of outfits I love and guess what?
As I was cleaning out my closet I found many pieces that I could put together and actually recreate a bunch of my pins in real life! This was way better than going out shopping. Now, if only I could finally open my ‘skinny’ box. In this box, I have clothes I used to wear before the baby. One of these days…one of these days.
Make sure all the buttons are on your clothes and all your zippers are properly affixed. Make sure there are no tears, holes or missing parts on your clothes. Your clothes should be ready to grab and go, therefore they need to be clean, ironed and hung.
The Actor's Wardrobe Kit
Invest in travel clothes bags that will keep your clothes clean and protected when traveling to and from the set. This set of clothing bags is amazing. I have bought 3 sets over the past few years. I always get the clear ones so I don’t have to pull out my clothes when showing it to the wardrobe department. This minimizes the ‘wear and tear’.
The best thing that happened to me since sliced bread is this portable clothes steamer. I usually hang my clothes in the bathroom while I take showers to let the steam remove any wrinkles my dress may have. However, during the drive, my dress finds a way of attracting more wrinkles. All I have to do is pull my steamer out, point and watch the wrinkles disappear.
You will also be happy if you are prepared with a travel sewing kit. The kit doesn’t need to be fancy, it just needs the bare essentials.
You never know when you’ll need to mend something or alter something on the spot. If you already have a sewing kit just throw in a few basic needles and thread into a cute box or bag and there you go!
While we are on the topic of kits, here are some things I have in my travel kit that have saved my butt a number of times:
Bra back clips
Double sided tape
Extra boobies (invisible silicone bra). I actually wear this under my bra as I was assigned a minuscule set. Sometimes a gal just needs to fill in a blouse. But I could see how some of you could wear this without the assistance of another bra.
AND a basic lint roller (I have a fluffy white furred dog who loves hugs) but my casting director doesn't need to know that by looking at my outfit.
Under - where?
Yes, under there. We have to cover all angles here. When you go for a costume fitting you want to be modest and comfortable as there is very little privacy with people poking about taking measurements and putting things on you.
You’ll need undergarments that not only fit well but also provide the support you need. I recommend you keep a couple of nude colored brassieres and underpants in different cuts and styles such as thongs, bininis, boy shorts and whatever else makes you feel comfortable. The bras should include sports, underwire, wonder and just a basic non-extra fluff bra. Make sure to include a convertible bra that is also a strapless bra. Like this one
This is your basic list and anything extra is wonderful, just make sure you are wearing the correct bra size and underwear. Try to measure your chest at least yearly.
On Call Ready
How do you avoid freaking out when you have little to no notice and have to be on set just hours after you’ve been called in? You keep a well-stocked closet, that’s how. I understand it is impossible, impractical and pretty expensive to keep a closet like a movie star on our starving actor income. However, there are several ways for you to collect clothes that simply must be in your closet.
Here is where I get my clothes from:
• Saver’s and Goodwill
• Outlet Stores (wait for seasonal sales)
• Going out of business sales
• Ross’s, Marshall’s and TJ Maxx.
I have no shame in admitting that I shop second hand. Most of my favorite pieces are from thrift stores! I have found vintage outerwear, dresses and handbags. (I never buy used shoes, that is a no-no for me personally). With a little bit of laundering, dry-cleaning and tailoring that secondhand piece becomes a beautiful addition to your collection.
Before you go off to buy clothes make sure you have a list of what you actually NEED. Remember these pieces are primarily to help you snag an audition and will help you shine on the set. When you receive your instructions with what to wear, pay attention to details. For example, are they looking for a businessman zombie? What would that look like?
Would you be willing to lose your clothes to red blood for good? Did they cast you as an unkempt homeless woman? You get the point.
Where was I going with that? Oh yes, pay attention to details on your breakdown and make sure to grab the correct pieces for your part.
Here are the common and basic staples for the actor’s/actress’ closet.
Leggings, stockings, tights
Ah the shoes. I’m a lover of the shoes. I could talk for days about my shoes as if they each had a personality and a backstory. See for me, shoes help with my transformation. If I’m a mom or a teacher I go to the flats. If I’m a power-lady I go for the chunky 2 inch heels. And when I’m the seductress I go for the stiletto. It’s just and unwritten rule I guess. But the way I feel when I put on these shoes complete my character. I could wear a nude simple dress and still be neutral but when I complete that outfit with any of these shoes I am somebody.
The flats and medium sized heels should be business casual. That means no peek a boo toes, no open toed and no open heels or sandals. The party shoes can be anything you will be comfortable in. I don’t have to say that in your travel kit you should have extra shoe cushions and toe protectors right? Ok. Moving on. When you go to the set regardless of what your role is, it is a good idea to keep an ‘in between take’ pair of shoes. You will be on set at least 6 hours + and you WILL get tired.
Here are some extra pieces you could have in your wardrobe but is not an essential. However, if you already have some of these laying in your closet just hang on to them and you’ll be glad you did.
Bikini or bathing suit (for summer pool scenes)
Robe for in between takes or costume fittings
Any Halloween costumes that aren’t licensed, like Doctor’s scrubs, police officer, vampire, etc.
You, Your Niche, Your Brand
Remember these pieces will reflect your niche, your brand and it’s even better when these pieces are mix and match. With this list, you should be able to complete your actor’s wardrobe in no time and be prepared for just about any audition or project. Keep the color palette simple for you and make sure everything is clean and well-maintained. There is no need to run out and start spending thousands of dollars on clothes, simply look in your closet and I guarantee you will be able to pull a few pieces to start with.
I would love to see what you put together by posting your pictures in the comment section below or by posting a link to your Facebook page. If you don’t have a Facebook page yet, let me know so I can show you how - it’s easy!
Thanks for reading!
Got questions? Comments? Leave a message below.
If you want more resources or more detailed information on how to work as an extra and how to get gigs, check out my e-book.
Thank you so much for reading and break a leg!
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