dress for improv

How to Dress for Improv

Improv comedy doesn’t have an official “uniform.” There isn’t an outfit that all performers have to wear. Some teams prefer to keep it simple while others make sure their attire aligns with a specific theme, usually related to the main topic of their shows. While an individual troupe may have strict rules, not all of them do. Additionally, when it comes to practices or classes, you might not receive any guidance at all.

Luckily, while there aren’t any hard and fast rules about how to dress for improv, certain guidelines typically apply. Here’s a look at some of the dos and don’ts for improv attire.

Do Aim for Comfort and Movement

As an improv performer, you never know where a scene may take you. When you pick an outfit, opt for something that is comfortable to wear. Avoid itchy materials that could cause you to unconsciously scratch or lose focus because of the sensation. Also, bypass attire that’s too small or tight. Otherwise, you might be tugging at your clothes during the performance to make sure you don’t accidentally expose skin you don’t want showing.

Similarly, choose clothing that lets you move around with ease. You don’t want to be held back because your shirt prevents you from lifting your arms over your head, or your pants are too tight or lack the stretch necessary for jumping, kicking, crawling, or climbing. It’s also wise to avoid clothing that doesn’t pass the “bending over” test. After all, no one (not you, not the team, not the audience) wants any surprise butt crack.

Before you settle on your outfit, spend some time in it. See if any part of your clothing binds you up physically or doesn’t feel good. Do some basic tests by running, jumping, leaping, squatting, crawling, and bending over. That way, you can choose attire that won’t hinder your performance and keeps you appropriately covered.

Don’t Choose Anything Too Distracting

When you’re choosing improv attire, you don’t want your clothes to serve as a distraction. Novelty t-shirts with bold graphics or sarcastic sayings might be fine for a casual outing. But, when you’re on stage, the audience may spend more time focusing on your shirt than on your performance, and that’s not a good outcome.

Additionally, it’s important for the improv team to look cohesive. Even if an outfit wouldn’t be considered overly flashy from a personal style perspective, if it makes you stick out like a sore thumb from your co-performers, you should reel in it. Similarly, if everyone else is dressing incredibly colorfully or fancy, then you should, as well. Otherwise, your subdued approach may be distracting.

When in doubt, simple clothing that is plain but nice can be the way to go. Solid colored shirts and slacks are rarely a miss, especially if everyone on the team agrees on a color scheme in advance. Just make sure you choose colors that allow you to stand out from the backdrop.

Do Get Some Cross-Fit Shoes

Another vital piece of attire when it comes to moving around is your shoes. Since improv could take you anywhere, you need supportive shoes that will allow you to do just about any movement imaginable. Cross-Fit shoes are designed for high-intensity activity and bouncing around in nearly any direction, making them an ideal choice.

With Cross-Fit shoes, you get a ton of support. Plus, there are versions with features designed for nearly every foot shape as well. Do you have wider feet? Look for a wide size to give your feet space. Have high arches? You can find versions with amazing arch support.

Plus, you can get them in styles that aren’t too vibrant or distracting. This allows them to cohesively blend with the rest of your outfit.

Don’t Be Careless with Accessories

When you’re going improv, accessories aren’t always your best friend. While wearing a belt can be a smart move, particularly since some waistbands on pants can stretch with wear, other items might not be a great idea.

Dangly earrings can get caught in hair or clothing, including that of other performers. Imagine going in for a hug during a scene only to discover that one team member’s earring is wrapped up in the other’s hair. Now, you’re stuck together and have to find a way out without ruining the moment. That’s a challenge most people would rather avoid.

Bangle bracelets are not always a great choice either. With one big hand gesture, you could fling one across the stage or into the audience. Playing that off might not be easy.

Smartwatches are similarly a no-go. If you forget to mute notifications, the next thing you know, you are contending with a random sound or flashing icons that could disrupt from your scene. That’s just no good.

While you don’t have to be free of all accessories, limiting them is generally a good idea. If it isn’t necessary, consider skipping it. Otherwise, you might introduce something into a scene that you didn’t intend.

Do Plan as a Team

If you are performing with an improv troupe, then it’s smart to coordinate your attire. Now, this doesn’t mean that everyone has to dress in the exact same outfit. Instead, it’s about cohesion, creating an overall look that looks reasonably put together.

In some cases, the head of the team will dictate the rules. In others, it’s a joint decision. Regardless, spending some time planning your improv clothing as a team should be part of your pre-performance ritual. That way, you can send the right message and look like a group of seasoned performers.

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