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What I Learned from My Survival Job #1: The Importance of Foundation Garments

January 11, 2013

Gentlemen, I apologize at the outset that this is primarily directed at the lady-folk of the acting business, though feel free to read on and glean your own lessons.

For one year I sold wedding gowns at a big, national chain. I then followed my manager to the mall to help her open a lingerie store, also a national chain. What I learned from two years of working retail that I can apply to my acting career is surprising. One unique lesson I learned in these two particular stores is the importance of the proper foundation garment/s.

Seriously, ladies, stand in some brutal light and check your lines from the front and back before heading out. I had brides bypass garments – bras, bustiers, slips – because they didn’t want to feel too confined or too poofy. Instead, the dress hung a few inches too low from their sagging bosom, and the skirts of their gowns hang unceremoniously from their hips for lack of structure.

If you are a costume shop kinda gal, or generally a fashionista, I may not have much trouble convincing you that a good set of supportwear and a great bra, that keeps the girls where they belong, are necessary items in your wardrobe. I know they are obnoxiously expensive for less than a yard of fabric, but trust me, the engineering that goes into that scant amount of cloth and wire is worth it. This is never so true as in photographs and on film.

When you are taking headshots, or if you are booked on a shoot, scrutinize your undergarment selection – and take back-up. I always keep an extra bra or two in my set bag for shoots, because one never knows how the client will decide to dress your character. My best fitting bra happens to be black, but you bet your bippety that I take a nude bra with me on shoots, lest they put me in a white blouse. I have a great bra for a handful of lower-cut blouses, but I dare not wear it with a T-shirt because the line of the demi-cup shows through. Not every bra is meant to be worn with every outfit. No, really – not every bra is meant to be worn with every outfit.

The key is to try on lots and lots and LOTS of bras styles and bra sizes. Have a professional measure you, then try on a bajillion different styles of bras in sizes on either side of your fitted size. And don’t argue with the fitter, they are just doing the math based on their training. I’ve seen A-cups who have a great decollete, and I’ve seen C-cups who look like A-cups in proportion with the rest of their bodies. Don’t get hung up on that size, besides which, your size may vary from manufacturer to manufacturer and style to style. For example, I have to buy a size up in push-up bras because the cup is shaped much shallower than a standard T-shirt bra. A good bra fitter will be able to guide you to styles that match your needs and size and shape.

There is also shapewear to help give you the smooth lines you crave under your garments. You can use pantyhose-style shapewear, similar to Spanx, or if you need to really rein things in, go full on hooks and stays. It is all a matter of application for your body and the outfit you are trying to fit. If nothing else, find a great control top that will help your dresses lay smoothly and not roll at your waist. Seriously, I don’t need to see your thong-line, and neither does the casting director.

Younger women and older women are equally guilty of skirting the proper undergarment. But I guarantee you, with as careful attention paid to what lies beneath your clothing as that outfit itself, your overall appearance will be greatly enhanced, you may even appear to lose a few pounds once all the pieces and parts are sitting in the right place!

Tara Sig

2 Comments leave one →
  1. The College Theatre Dork permalink
    January 11, 2013 4:31 pm

    Praises! Actors, don’t be embarrassed to also ask your costumer for specific garments to work with your costume too…often times, they will gladly provide (era-appropriate!) for you.


  1. Hello! I’m The Growing Artist, and I’ll be taking care of you this evening. | The Green Room

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