What You Wear Brings You Into Character

Anna, in her stunning dress

When Anna first appeared on stage in that exquisite black lace fitted gown, I was mesmerized. She looked stunning but it was so much more – Anna commanded the theater. Every character she portrayed was so real, so believable.  By the end of Anna’s concert performance, I knew, I knew, that I needed to ask her about the dress. What the dress meant to Anna and the role that it played in her music and her singing. We sat down and I had my chance to hear from Anna …

About Dresses in General …

I have always loved wearing dresses. I was a tomboy, but I still loved wearing dresses – dresses with a baseball hat! Jeans actually gave me a skin rash. Today, I find dresses to be very freeing. They allow me to stand tall and watch my posture. I will never forget the first dress I wore to perform; I was a senior in high school. It was a red satin gown, v-neck, with a rectangular jewel at the neck. I loved it so much that I kept it (it still lives in my closet at home, even though I can no longer wear it!).

About The Dress …

I wanted something I could wear for this concert. There are certain protocols regarding dressing when performing as a soloist with an orchestra or choir: your dress needs to be floor length and cover your shoulders. I wanted something that I would wear often. I was in the city and decided to check out Macy’s. The dress was the last one I tried on and the best price from the sale rack! The minute I tried it on, it was perfect: the fit, the length (no hemming needed!), the style, and I couldn’t beat the price – everything was just right. I was able to check everything on my list! The black lace overlay on a neutral bodice was elegant but simple and I really loved the interesting back detail (which is important for the performances when I am conducting and my back is to the audience). The dress was so perfect that I didn’t need heels, and the only accessory I wore were large earrings.

About What the Dress Meant to the Performance …

When I performed in the concert, I wanted the dress to enhance all of the characters I was portraying. What you wear brings you into the character but once you get on the stage, you want to be able to forget about the dress. That’s why I am grateful to have found a simple dress, one that I didn’t need to tug or pull or shift in any way. Because I didn’t wear heels, I was rooted to the ground and rooted to my breathing.

There is a saying when performing, that whatever you are thinking about as a performer, the audience will think that, too. If you feel uncomfortable in what you are wearing, the audience will feel it with you. Ultimately, you want to have an outfit that helps the audience feel what is important. Nothing that will distract from the music – it is all about the music.

Anna Lenti is a choral conductor, music educator, and soprano who specializes in early music and the works of JS Bach. Anna is a full-time Upper and Middle School Music Teacher at Kent Place School in Summit, NJ, where she directs various vocal ensembles and teaches courses in general music. Anna is also a private voice teacher and coach to students ranging from middle school age to adulthood. 


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