Costume Strategy: To Match or Not To Match, That is the Question

Apr 08, 2014 | 1:41 PM

When I was little, my sisters and I won a cruise ship talent show singing "That's Entertainment" dressed in identical mustard-colored, terry cloth shorts with matching zip- front short-sleeve tops.

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little sis, Abbi, on the left, big sis, Amy, middle, and me on the right

 

I often look back on that costume choice and wonder if my mom was hoping to evoke the styles worn by some of her favorite female singing groups of her teen years, like The Ronettes and The Chiffons (and The Supremes and The Cookies and The Marvelettes…)

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The Chiffons                                  The Ronettes

I think, by cultural osmosis, she knew that by dressing us in the same outfits, she was creating a sense of unity: a team, so to speak. We were different from everyone else. We were "the Rose sisters."

My mom was also on to the fact that by dressing us in the same thing she was eliminating hierarchy. No one got the "prettier" costume. We were of equal status: all equally talented and equally adorable.

This equality works well for singing groups, but not as well when one member becomes the standout. You can almost hear the contract negotiations that must have gone on when "The Supremes" became "Diana Ross and The Supremes." And God only knows went down between Martha and The Vandellas. As far as I can tell by the pictures below, the only thing that was possible was bigger hair for the lead singer and a better positioning in photos.

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Obviously, "The Supremes" and "The Vandellas" aren't feeling all that equal!

Male solo performers had an easier time, no doubt, as the politics of dress aren't as fraught for most men.

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Whether at work or at play, Frankie and his Four Seasons dressed alike

But the question remains: how should you dress if you're an individual but -- and this is the key issue -- have a group as your back-up support?

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Little Richard's solution

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Bruce Springstein and The E Street Band

Notice how Michael Jackson transitioned in his costume from group to solo:

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Once we got into grunge music, the idea of a band wearing matching costumes began to seem outdated.

Dave Matthew's Band wouldn't be caught dead in matching outfits!

Dave Matthew's Band wouldn't be caught dead in matching outfits!

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Destiny's Child sort of matched ...but didn't

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Madonna is related to her dancers but stands out in a color inversion

Performers can do anything they want today. Wearing matching outfits does, indeed, seem old fashioned, but some performers want to evoke the old days. Bruno Mars has most certainly taken a page out of the old-school costume book:

Singer Bruno Mars performs during the Billboard Music Awards at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas

Bruno evokes the old-days by matching his band and having them all dress up

As for my own approach, well, I'm sure you can guess where I land!

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Le Poisson Rouge

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The Cutting Room

 

Some performers feel that "matching" is an affront to individuality; others feel it's a statement of individuality. What do you think? To match, or not match? Answer my question!

xo,

Isabel

4 thoughts on “Costume Strategy: To Match or Not To Match, That is the Question”

  1. Bruce Thomas     Reply

    Genre dependent and band or solo and back up band. You wouldn’t catch Van Halen rocking matching outfits ( plus David Lee Roth has a unique sense of fashion). Most metal bands gravitate to all black so it just looks like they match. If you’re a pop band I still like to see an occasional effort to match.

  2. Joe Machos     Reply

    Isabel, If you are interested in a custom costume creation, my daughter Kaitlyn is setting up shop. Here is a YouTube link from Charleston Fashion Week held last month – (her piece starts at the :54 mark)

  3. Joe Machos     Reply

    http://youtu.be/NuZkiP8kDA4

  4. Kevin Reynolds     Reply

    Fascinating post … with more than one individuals inputting a band/artist’s decisions, usually along with managers and other industry people, it might not be an easy choice. Musicians/singers can assert their individuality or the band/artist can assert it themselves as a whole. It does amount to quite a lot of variety onstage which is a good thing. Dressing alike can also mean dressing like Devo. To each act its own.

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