From dropped skirts to stolen auditions shoes, and popped zippers to inadvertent breast exposures (this isn’t Europe here, people) wardrobe malfunctions and fashion faux pas have had the members of Shoperatic turning pink, feeling hot under the collar and grasping for their uncooperative garments and dignities simultaneously. All the while continuing to high kick, maintain composure or finish the aria before leaving the audition room or stage to burst in giggles or tears as the occasion warrants! Because the show must go on, you know, even when your excellent Verdi high B pops the crotch snaps of your oh-so-necessary shapewear undergarment, and said garment proceeds to roll up on itself visibly underneath your dress for the remaining interminable four minutes of the aria. (Deborah Blakesly, you hero, you! AND she booked the job, I’m happy to report!)
An online kaffee klatch over our most embarrassing wardrobe moments started when Ksenia Popva shared a recent audition experience she’d had on the Opera Diva Dress Collection FB page. As those of us in the business know, the audition hall at Opera America is painted Benjamin Moore __(want to find out the actual paint color brand and name)__ Blue. It’s a great color, vibrant and deep at the same time. A color which has also captured the imaginations of many dress makers of late. (Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein dresses immediately spring to mind.) Ksenia writes, “My first audition at the National Opera Center, one panel member says after I’ve finished, ‘Thank you…it’s good you have bright hair, as your dress matches the walls.” She shrugged it off and thought to herself, “Good to know!” Now, I can just imagine the green screen, floating head affect effect this might have had for the audition panel while Ksenia was singing, but comments about one’s hair and dress after you’ve poured your heart out in an aria, aren’t exactly what one might love to hear during an audition. She put out the call for other members to share their worst fashion faux pas moments, and stories from our divas came flooding out.
Multiple reports of full skirts falling off, several barefoot auditions due to stolen shoes on the subway and broken heels, busted zippers and various terribly overdressed/hideously underdressed accounts followed and notorious tales of poppin’ titties were almost too high to number. Think Bridget Jones at an audition. One of my favorite stories came from La Goerke, our favorite down to earth diva. Here’s Christine’s account:
“I had gone for an audition at CAMI Hall for a company years ago. I had just gotten my new audition outfit – which consisted of a sassy pencil skirt and a really beautiful wrap blouse. They asked for ‘Non mi dir’, and they seems *really* attentive during the entire B section. I felt good about how I sang, so I figured I was in! When I finished, I looked down, and quickly realized that my wrap blouse had become…UNWRAPPED. The room was completely silent, and I did the only thing I could think of. I grabbed the edges of my blouse, looked right at them, smiled with a shimmy and said ‘did I get the job?!’ The two guys who were hearing the audition nearly fell out of their chairs laughing. Side note: I did not get the job. LOL!”
We can mostly laugh about it all now, but while they were happening, these moments undoubtedly had some real sting. It is in our perfectly put together outfits that we exhibit control: over our bodies, over our ten minutes in the room. Sucked in, hair-sprayed, decked out, we have on our armor, to protect us from all the things that can be cruel about the business and the world. And so when our garments or costumes betray us, it is as if our armor has been compromised. There is a real feeling of danger there. We are exposed, and we are left with the feeling that “it just wasn’t supposed to go this way.” It can be mortifying. Truly.
As I was reading over each story and the comments and likes that accompanied them, the language was supportive, the authors reclaimed their embarrassment using humor and story-telling, and others responded with empathy, solidarity. We’ve all been there and the popularity of the thread (35 different women sharing their stories and dozens of others liking and commenting back) represents what I think Shoperatic is actually about, a true online community, and a safe space to be women. A place where we understand what our clothes, our appearance and our bodies mean within the context, not only of show business, but in the wider world. So, hold your heads high, and your soft palates higher, especiallyif your corset, which is attached to your full skirt has popped open while you are singing Ombre Pallide (Props Kaitlin Fron, that is no small feat!) and know that afterwards you will have a place you can go where people who understand you, will say, “Yes, girl. BEEN THERE.”