Costume do’s and don’ts


So you've found the exact right sound track and you've rehearsed your routine to death, next thing you need to sort out is what are you going to wear! Please put some thought into this... not cool to do a show in your regular training clothes (unless that is the specific look you are going for). It's like going to a party without your party dress - you just won't feel quite right. You've put in a huge amount of effort so far with all the training and rehearsing you've done, so you only deserve to look the part as well.

Also chances are if you look good, you will probably feel good too - and if you feel good you'll probably feel good out there on stage too.

So throughout my decade of circus performances I have probably made every mistake in the book. Yep from wigs going flying during a web spin, to costumes ripping mid show, to getting stuck in the silks by bits of flapping costume - I've been there and embarrassingly got the ticket. But costume malfunctions are kinda not ideal situations for performing (good for laughing about later though - we still have giggles over the wig incident) so to save you some possible awkward situations as well as offering some top tips, here's my checklist of costume do's and don'ts.

1.) Do pay attention to what you will wear

You want to wear something visually striking, intriguing or interesting... something that will immediately captivate you audience as you step out on stage. You can be a character, follow a theme, be stylish, quirky, elegant, fantastical or surreal... (there are millions of ways to get creative with your performance wardrobe) but whatever it is try to make a statement. You want the audience to be engaged with you right from the get go, and wearing the leggings and T shirt that you always wear for training ain’t really gonna say much other than I can’t really be bothered with this. Put on something that is going to set the tone for your act, oh and sorting out some make up and your hair do also goes a long way too.

2.) Do feel comfortable in what you are wearing

No good wearing some awesomely creative and fantastical outfit if you can’t move in it or it is likely to fall off. This was always a bit of a sticking point for me - as costume was often my first love and performance second. Be warned aerial is hard enough as it is so don’t make things harder. Think minimal and let the performance do the talking.

3.) Do wear a fantastical costume or use props if that is your thang...

So not wanting to put you off wearing that fantastical head dress, wig piece or whatever either... if that is your thang then go for it (I'm all for adding a bit of crazy dress up to a show) but just remember that it will need rehearsal. As much time as you spend rehearsing your tricks you will need to spend with your prop or costume. For example I know an aerialist who used an ironing board as a prop (yes in the air) - now that took some work, and I always had a bit of an aerial shoe fetish - however foot locks in killer heels is an entirely different approach... and a silks routine in flippers - well definitely possible but it does have it’s limitations! As does that dinosaur outfit or whatever else it is you are dreaming about.

4.) Do wear a costume that brings out the best in you

Preferably with a touch of your personality.

5.) Do feel free to play a character or pick a theme

This will help tell your story and make the act more interesting.

6.) Do match or tie in style ideas if you are working as a double or trio

It's just more pleasing to the eye if there is some sort of partner / group continuity at play.

7.) Do look sexy if that’s what you like and you are confident with it

Everyone enjoys a bit of sex appeal so this is a sure fire way to win audiences over.

8.) Don’t do a reveal by mistake half way through!

Always, always do a costume run through, a low cut catsuit or leotard may be ok when you’re standing up but possibly not while hanging upside down and beating with momentum to the bar… try it - you’ll see what I mean!

9.) Don’t wear dangly bits that will get in the way whilst you perform

 Skirts / long sleeves / tails / ears / wings / flappy costume bits / dangly necklines whatever it may be…. keep everything streamlined and tucked away... unless of course tangling up in your silks or wrapping to the bar is part of the act!

10.) Don’t have bits that will fall off, slip off or become unhinged

Things such as wigs, hats and head pieces. Also beware about zips - could be a tad embarrassing if they undo (has been known)… and also suspenders… if you want that burlesque type look then go for the faux suspender tights where they are guaranteed never to come undone. Great of course though if you wanted to add a bit of comedy!

11.) Don’t wear anything either super slidey or super sticky

Lycra and latex being prime examples…

12.) Don’t wear anything too tight which inhibits movement

Sounds obvious but I once made a costume out of PVC - great look, but the fabric was only a one way stretch, which meant I couldn’t move my shoulders easily - fine for posing - not fine for hocks beats - I couldn’t get up to the bar!! Corsets also fall under this category - first up can you breathe properly in a corset? (I think not) and have you tried doing a pike in a corset - it’s pretty damn impossible. Those small under bust corsets are just about ok - but better to have a costume made with the corset look designed into it with a 2 way stretch. Just saying you know what I mean...

13.) Don’t have VPL (visible panty line)

You wanna look good... and the VPL well it's just not... And boys get those dancers supports so that you’re all held in so to speak. Camel toes also not cool.

14.) Don’t have bare skin

Unless of course you are cool with the bar rubbing the skin off the backs of your legs or friction burns if you are on silks. Also wear long sleeves if you intend to do the crucifix move to save you the war wounds.

15.) Always, always, always do a costume run through

Preferably before the day of performance so if you do have any costume malfunctions they are totally fixable before the show! Read this tip again... it's probably the most important one of all!

Any more things I've missed out... please comment below on your do's and don'ts... especially if you have any comedy malfunction moments that will make me laugh!