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.
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…)
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.
Male solo performers had an easier time, no doubt, as the politics of dress aren’t as fraught for most men.
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?
Notice how Michael Jackson transitioned in his costume from group to solo:
Once we got into grunge music, the idea of a band wearing matching costumes began to seem outdated.
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:
As for my own approach, well, I’m sure you can guess where I land!
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!