Some improv theatres have dress codes. And I believe they should. Theatrical productions have specific costumes for their productions—in order to be professional, improvisational shows should follow their lead—albeit in a very different way.
Improvisers should dress in a way to give the show focus. Again, it is not about you looking your best—it is about the ensemble looking its best and at its most cohesive. Standing out is great when you go to a party—but not when you’re trying to give focus to a form/scene/greater idea at play.
1) Do not wear anything that shows too much flesh—shorts, tube tops, low-cut shirts, midriff-baring tops. It is distracting. And it might make it more difficult to accept that improviser playing someone who would never wear anything revealing (a nun, a senator, a really insecure teen-ager who is afraid her boobs are growing too fast)
2) Do not wear something that you are not comfortable in—or something that you keep pulling at/adjusting/apologizing for it with your face. As a revered improviser said, “we’re already 33 percent dumber when we walk on an improv stage”—so why add another impairment?
3) Do not wear anything that will label you too heavily—loud prints or big fashion statements will serve to separate you from your ensemble. These are great things to wear to parties or to an event where you want to get noticed but in when you’re in an ensemble, you are part of a working machine. That machine needs cohesive, working parts that work equally and together.
4) Now if you’re a tall lady like me—another thing that is important to me is shoes. And truthfully, this should be important to everyone. I try not to wear heels that make me tower over other players—I also don’t want anything on that makes a lot of noise (like big clunky heels or men’s tap shoes). Again, it’s about ensemble.
At the end of the day, wear something that makes you feel great. Dark, flattering colors are always a good bet—as are clean lines and simplicity. Soft-soled shoes are also great for performances. Remember, what is good for the gander can also work for the goose (unless it’s a swan and you’re Bjork– actually the woman was nominated for an oscar so get off her back!!!)