How You Walk Matters as Much as What You Wear
I spent three days helping run a booth at SLC Comic Con. There were lots of people in costumes, everything from professionally created and modeled down to made at home by a ten year old. I quickly discovered that some of the costumes impressed me while others did not. The difference did not lay in the quality of workmanship, nor whether the body shape of the person who wore the costume matched the character portrayed, though those things did have an influence. What consistently caught my eye was how a person walked while in costume. There were many people dressed as Loki who passed by my table, some of them in full kit with the horned helmet, but the core element of the Loki character is his arrogance. He honestly believes he should rule the universe, this means he must walk like he owns the floor. The very best Loki I saw was a woman shorter than myself (I’m 5’3″). She did not have the height to be imposing, yet people got out of her way. She had Loki down. Lord Vader is another character whose clothes are actually ridiculous, but when the person in the suit stalks, then ridiculous transforms into ominous.
The importance of body motion holds true even when the costume in question is that of a doctor, or sales clerk, or writer, or parent, or any other set of clothing. When you walk confidently, people assume you have authority. If you hunch a little bit and don’t meet people’s eyes, then you’re more likely to be able to pass unnoticed through a crowd. There are dozens of things you can do with your body to either draw attention or deflect it. The really cool thing is that body control is a learned skill. Though during the process of learning you will have stages of high self-conscousness, eventually the different ways of presenting yourself become like clothes that you put on when needed. At comic con my role was to be a booth support person. I was also pretty stressed by the sheer quantities of people at the event. I focused my energies on sliding through the crowds or staying in the background at the booth. Sometimes I stepped forward into a sales role where I needed to be personable and meet people’s eyes. At other events I am a presenter and author, then I dress and walk in ways that draw attention and make people more likely to listen to the things I have to say. Then I go to church and my job is to be a connected and supporting part of the congregation. Each of these roles requires different clothing and different personal presentation. If I just put on the clothes without changing the way I walk, I halve the effect.
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