It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year! (One Instructor’s Approach to WG Costume Design)

| June 5, 2009 | 1 Comment
Color guard instructor Amanda Gilanyi from Southern New Jersey has started a new blog for her own reflections and musings on the everyday life of a guard coach.  In her article (reposted here with permission) “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” [June 5, 2009] she talks about her process of choosing the perfect uniform for her fall field show.  Read her article and link to her blog – or follow her on twitter!

Don’t get me wrong. I love to choreograph field shows.

But my most favorite aspect of all is the overall show design. From uniforms to equipment to makeup to a bit of drill, I’m in love. All of these pieces enhance the show’s theme, so careful (and in my case, obsessive) consideration must be paid to them – especially in the color department. (I won’t lie, I’m not afraid of color.)

Since I’m in the stage right now with my guard’s 2009-2010 theme, Reaching for the Stars, I figured I’d write a bit about my thought process in three parts: uniform, equipment, and drill.

(As a reference, the band is playing “When You Wish Upon A Star,” “Fly Me To The Moon,” “How High The Moon,” and “Moondance.”)

Part 1: Uniforms

What do you want your color guard uniforms to say about you?

Perhaps the better question is: Who do you want your color guard to be? Whether they are robots in the takeover of mankind, pirates, farmhands, or jacks-of-all-trades, figuring out the guard’s role is your first step in uniform selection.

Because our “Reaching for the Stars” theme didn’t have any obvious characters for the color guard to portray, it was decided that we wanted them to portray something more abstract: elegance (or class, sophistication, etc.)

So with that in mind, I set out to find the perfect uniform. I flipped through catalogs like Band Shoppe, American Band, and Band Hall as well as searched online through sites like Algy and StylePlus.

But how do you find the uniform? If you’re like me, you know as soon as you see it.

If you’re not like me, and uniform selection is not something you enjoy, try a more formal approach by asking yourself these questions (that is, after you figure out what you want your guard to be):

1. What style does the theme infer? When you hear the music, what words would you use to describe it? Make a list of those words. While your paging through catalogs, consider uniforms that can be described the same way as your music. (In my case, I heard: classic, flowy, jazzy, ballroom-ish, etc.)

2. Will the uniform fit with your style of work? Will a skirt, even though it fits your theme, mesh with your writing style? How wide should pant legs be, if at all? Sleeves or no sleeves? In terms of smaller props, is there somewhere to stash them, if needed? These are all reasonable questions that will help you weed out possibilities.

3. What can the members wear? It is always important to keep in mind the build of your members. While spandex costumes are nice, one must realize that the members must be confident, and not body-conscious, while performing in them.

4. What colors?: Since you can get uniforms in tons of colors, this is the last piece I’d think about. The school I work with does not have a military-style uniform, but instead typically wears tuxedo pants (black) and shirts (white) with bow ties and cummerbunds (red). Whatever colors your band wears, I’m HUGE advocate of making sure your color guard complements the band. For example, it’s very likely I will never use lime green if our band wears red (unless it’s a Holiday show). Not sure what colors go together? Try the Color Scheme Designer [visit her blog page for the link!]

It’s important to note that even when I “know” I’ve found the uniform I want to put on the field, I ask myself the same questions above so that I know it’s truly the one.

And sure enough, after hours of browsing the internet and thumbing through catalogs, I found the one: I know you want to see it! [visit her blog page for the link]

Yes, our uniforms will be all white. Yes, I realize this is for a field show. Yes, I know white gets discolored easily.

Truth be told, this is a whole new realm for the program I work with. For the most part we’ve stuck with dark colors to avoid obvious stain marks.

We’re already planning speeches on laundering (I will be getting them cleaned 3 times during the season), alternate uniforms for rainy performances on non-turf fields and football games (old uniforms, not new), appropriate undergarments (like no lime green bras), etc. to keep these uniforms in the best possible condition.

Did you find this entry helpful? What do you think I missed? What are your tips for outdoor guards wearing white uniforms? Please comment below.

And stay tuned for:
Part 2: Equipment: Does it complement the theme in construction and color and type?
Part 3: Drill: Is your color guard being featured correctly at the best possible moments?


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Category: Costumes, Design

About the Author (Author Profile)

Amanda Baker has been instructing outdoor color guard at Lenape High School in Medford, NJ since 2003. Visit her blog “One more time, I promise! … Now do it again” at

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