How to Dress for an R&B; Stage Performance

By Derek M. Kwait ; Updated September 15, 2017
Beyonce earns attention on stage for her dress as much as for her music.

Rhythm and Blues is one of the hottest genres among youth at time of publication. Since 2001, week after week R&B artists have occupied most of the top spots on the Billboard charts and artists such as Adele, Usher, Beyonce, Rihanna and Big Sean virtually own the Top 40. While the heart and soul of R&B is the message behind the rhymes, look plays an important role in bringing your message to the eyes as your music brings it to the ears.

Men

Wear a loose-fitting top. An undershirt or an A-shirt will work fine. Also consider wearing a basketball or football jersey; a T-shirt with a picture of a black music or cultural legend such as Bob Marley or Malcolm X can be a good idea, especially if your rhymes are heavy on social commentary. Going shirtless is an option only if you have the physique to pull it off. If you don't have at least a six-pack, please keep your shirt on.

Don long jean or athletic shorts, ideally reaching to past your knees. Your pants need to be loose and flexible to allow you to move and dance on stage. If you are wearing jean shorts, wear them with a black leather belt with either a gold or silver buckle and hang them at your hips. The waistband of your boxers at your waist should be visible especially if you are shirtless.

Put on comfortable shoes. You can get away with high-tops, sneakers, basketball shoes or tennis shoes, but the most important thing is comfort. Also make sure your shoes do not squeak or otherwise make noise as this will interfere with your performance.

Get bling. The more and the more expensive your necklaces, earrings and rings the better.

Wear dark sunglasses. While not absolutely necessary, big dark sunglasses such as aviators complete the R&B look and add to your bling.

Keep your hair well-trimmed. This isn't grunge rock -- your 'do needs to be as your beats. If you wear a hat, make it either a riding cap or a baseball hat. If you wear a baseball hat, wear it either tilted up to the side or backwards. Crease the brim as little as possible.

Women

Find the right dress. Your look needs to reflect the attitude you want to represent. If you are singing about more serious issues and telling hard-knock stories like Mary J. Blige, dress in a more understated way. This does not mean you shouldn't look sexy, just that you want to show there's more to you than sex appeal. If, on the other hand, your aim is to seduce, after Rihanna, virtually nothing will be considered going too far.

Make your hair stand out. On stage, your hair should stand out and give you a unique look. The biggest women in R&B, Blige, Rihanna and Beyonce, are all known for their elaborate hairdos on stage. Experiment with perms, dyes, highlights, waves and curls to give them a style they will remember as much as your rhymes.

Go big on make-up. Without make-up no one can see your face on stage, with make-up you can give them a face to remember. Again, the goal should be to complement your performance, not distract from it, but don't be afraid to take risks and go a little crazy with colors. A woman with a "look" as fierce as her voice will not soon be forgotten.

About the Author

Derek M. Kwait has a Bachelor of Arts in English writing from the University of Pittsburgh and has been writing for most of his life in various capacities. He has worked as a staff writer and videographer for the "Jewish Chronicle of Pittsburgh" and also has training writing fiction, nonfiction, stage-plays and screenplays.