SM Style: 3 Factors to Consider
Updated: Feb 21
Stage Manager Style.
And no I'm not talking about your style of paperwork.
I'm actually talking about the clothes you wear to work.
Now this is a topic I have very strong opinions on and I know my opinions may be found a little controversial.
It all probably started when I had a mentor tell me I should start wearing blazers and pants instead of "cutesy-dresses" to interviews to look more professional.
Now while I adore this mentor and the comment was meant sincerely (and was given to help me appear older as I was still in college), it genuinely frustrated me because it was coming from a male.
And to this day I still get frustrated whenever anyone makes a negative comment about what I (or frankly anyone) wears to work.
And before all of you start jumping down my throats- I understand some companies (i.e. The Mouse) have a certain look they as a company want to uphold. Or even as a stage management or production management team want to adhere to. I am not against this and understand this wholeheartedly. However, I personally believe this (if not written in the contract) is something that should be discussed with employees during their orientation but preferably prior to the first day of employment.
However, because this is often not discussed with employees and can often be a sense of pre-first day stress I'm giving you my top three factors to consider when it comes to SM Style.
3 Things to Consider:
Your clothes can not and should not put you ever put you or anyone else at risk when you are at work. For me (and most of my bosses), a non-negotiable has become closed toed shoes. No matter where I'm working or what part of the process I am in I have to have my foot covered. Because you never know when a day at the office is going to be a surprise site visit (#happenedtome #madeitworkthough)
One of my favorite brands for pretty fashionable and extremely comfortable closed toed shoes is Grasshopper (click the photo to check them out). They have a lot of support, but are a tad more stylish than your basic sneaker.
Baggy/loose clothing and jewelry are other potential hazards as they can easily get caught on other items.
Hats are a hit or miss. I personally try to minimize the ball cap wearing because it can obstruct my vision. It also prevents me from making good eye contact with cast members and can make close communication difficult as it might knock someone in the face.
Hair ties are an absolute must.
One of my favorite fashion comments to date is as follows:
Does *that* (referring to my dress) have something you can put your phone in?
(This one was actually hilarious and a story I tell back frequently as he just didn't know what exactly it was I was wearing and since has become a running joke)
As a stage manager or production manager you have to consider the functionality of your outfit. Does it have pockets, a place to hold your headset, phone and walkies?
Comfort is the one of the last things to consider. You have to be able to move and move quickly if you want to be able to your job well. One of the biggest topics of debates I've seen is regarding leggings.
And this is me saying yes- I have worn leggings before.
(insert gasps here)
I used a fanny pack to act as pockets and it was just fine and the show went on and it's never impacted a future job.
You also should consider temperature when thinking about your comfort level. Is there AC in the rehearsal hall or are you going to be sweating your face off? Chances are both (no matter the theatre) so I highly recommend always dressing in layers.
Pro tip: flannels are a BEAUTIFUL layer as they aren't to heavy and can be easily thrown on the back of a chair/tied around your waist. #FlannelFridays
Obviously another important factor is the job, job location, and your position. Are you at the office for pre-pro or in the theatre for tech? Some theatres want you in your blacks for all of tech while others don't care until dress rehearsals. Are you a PA running errands all over NYC? You're going to want supportive shoes.
After considering these three tips, I say go for it. Do not let people dictate what you wear, especially if it does not impact how you do your job. As a stage manager or production manager, there is a certain level of professionalism you should hold yourself to (aka no sweatpants or short shorts). However, you should not be afraid to have a sense of style/fashion because you are a person outside of your work.
Like don't shy away from color because "technicians are only suppose to wear black".
Once you find your SM style don't be afraid to have it be your signature look.
You'd be surprised at how memorable it will make you.
My signature look is the jumpsuit.
Most jumpsuits have pockets and are beyond comfortable.
They have more casual ones for those days when I'm taping out the floor and nicer ones I can pair with a blazer for an in-person interview or even an opening night.
These jumpsuits give me the opportunity to have a sense of fashion, while also maintaining a level of professionalism.
Also look good feel good am I right?
You should feel confident in what you are wearing because you will feel more confident in what you are doing.
For my good friend Beau, it's his signature "Newsies" (as I refer to it) hat. For him it didn't start out as something to be remembered by, but has since developed into something he is conscious of because "even if they don't remember my name, they remember my hat," he said.
And to be 1000 transparent with you, I believe it's made me more accessible to actors.
Now go with me on this.
Those first few hours of rehearsal (or days, but I am specifically referring to my summer stock experience) are critical in creating relationships with the cast. Most actors- regardless of gender- can appreciate a fierce outfit. My kickass jumpsuit on day 1 of rehearsal tends to lead to a compliment or two. This then strikes up an often brief conversation. But a conversation nonetheless.
Day 2 -another kickass jumpsuit.
This time longer.
A relationship is formed. Trust is built.
You might think I'm being silly or exaggerating, but after looking back at how a lot of my cast relationships have started, a lot are because my style has made me approachable. Chances are my casts wouldn't find me half as warm and inviting if I was wearing slacks in the rehearsal hall.
Obviously I have very strong feelings on stage manager style and a lot of stage managers (including some of my mentors & bosses) are going to disagree with me. But I truly believe that we are so locked into this idea of fitting the mold that we lose sight of who we are.
Y'all who you are is what make stand out as a stage manager.
If you are still unsure of what to wear to your first day at a new company, I highly recommend asking your PSM or supervisor. Some will be stricter than others, but this list is a good starting point until you find out.