Creating your own Exhibition Drill Uniform

DrillMaster Drill Team Training, Drill Teams, Instructional 0 Comments

Military-type exhibition Drillers around the world are looking more and more into developing their own uniform.

Creating your own uniform sounds great- after all that is what I did!

Copying a military service, law enforcement or firefighter uniform is perfectly acceptable. Many law enforcement and firefighter dress uniforms are based off of military dress uniforms. However, wearing a service’s uniform without being a veteran or cadet of that service would be frowned upon. Caution: Wearing a specific service’s uniform, without being a member of that service or service’s cadet program, is highly frowned upon. That is not to say that, when you wear a uniform that you have created, you will not be mistaken for a “soldier” of some sort. That’ is OK. Remember, wearing any kind of uniform may create some kind of question as to who you are or what you do. Explaining the situation and not wearing the uniform at any other time except for performances will work the best.

Think “uniform” and not “dress shirt and slacks” because it will look like you are wearing a dress shirt and slacks. You’re not just “dressing up,” you are dressing for the part. “Sunday-go-to-meetin’s” is not dressing for the part.

Here are some ideas of work-type uniforms. If you go with a 511 set of blue “BDUs” (for instance, the pant and the shirt), this is something that is easily recognizable as a uniform and is nondescript  It may not be what you are thinking of, but it is along the lines of a military-style uniform and this is the style you are looking to pull off to create the military flavor (click here for an article on Military Flavor) look of the performance.

Look for official dress- or ceremonial-type uniforms here: Lighthouse Uniform Co., Marlow White, Kel-LacMilitary Uniform Supply.com, Elbeco.

Here’s an idea, create a persona- this is easier for a soloist, tandem or tetrad, but can be accomplished for a larger team. Create a routine that uses a special uniform on purpose (WWII, law enforcement, gangster, cowboy, etc.). Uniform also equals costume. Not necessarily a story book costume, but something that enhances the persona that you want. But remember, military flavor.

What makes a “uniform”? Trousers, a shirt, (optional- a jacket/blouse), shoes and a cover/hat. It’s about design and color. For great insight on this, I’d like to introduce my friend, Brent Becker, a uniform designer for marching bands and drum and bugle corps, has done extensive research into what makes a uniform and the history of uniforms (read an outstanding article of his here: RE-Defined: A New Look At Uniforms).

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Brent BeckerBrent designs for musical ensembles, but the door is wide open for military uniforms. As a matter of fact, did you know that the Air Force Honor Guard wears a different uniform from the rest of the Air Force? Slight changes in design and material, but these are hardly noticeable. The contract for making the USAFHG uniform was awarded to DeMoulin, another uniform company that makes marching band and other uniforms just like Standury, the company that Brent works with.

Exhibition drill is ripe for uniform design for teams across the country. My hope is that teams begin to explore the opportunities an exhibition performance uniform creates.

Here is what he has to say on our subject of creating military-styled uniforms:

From my perspective, you’re absolutely on the right track. So much of the literature I’ve read on this matter refers to these garments as “Military Costuming.” This can be a bit of a head scratcher, since even today, the term “costume” is frowned upon even in more theatrical venues. However, your notion of developing a persona is an intriguing one, as it opens itself up to a physical manifestation of said character portrayal through wardrobe – this is the essence of theatrical costuming design and as such, where we encounter a relatively undefined zone in the philosophy of uniforms.

Speaking mainly from the standpoint of musical groups, much of my philosophy revolves around this idea that, a) uniform purchases are tremendous investments and that they should be, b) based upon the intrinsic values and performance demands of a specific unit within their given time and place.
Again, this is kind of an “easy out” and it doesn’t define anything per se, but it lends certain academic credence to your statement concerning costuming.

Perhaps more important here is the facet of “how” the articles of clothing in question are worn or presented. In the earliest records of European military-issued uniforms, they were part of a compensatory package – a “perk” if you will, of joining up – a man who enlisted received an overcoat emblazoned with colors and markings significant to his master or nation/state. For an impoverished peasant, this was a tremendous and cherished offering! King/Country was literally putting clothing on his back – and very often, that garment would be the absolute finest article that that man would ever wear – hence the long-standing tradition of men marrying in uniform! So dressy without being too flamboyant. Refined and mature without appearing stuffy and droll.

Uniforms in the European military tradition were also seen as something of a extension of the Colors – banners, standards, and other symbols representing Divinity, Ruler, Nation, City, Unit, etc. As a representational extension of those institutions, it is approached with utmost reverence and honor. Hence, to be referred to as “a disgrace to the uniform” is to accuse its wearer of disrespecting that which the uniform represents. So, without directly taking a serviceman’s uniform and copying it, let’s think about what those colors and symbols mean to the people who wear them and the citizens they defend. I’d recommend a sort of, “reverse engineering” of government issued attire – think about the image those uniforms create and for what they stand [emphasis mine -DM]. What can a military Driller assemble on their own to present that same-said essence?

I guess my point in all this comes back to my contextual/art & design stance – When is a uniform “military” in nature? Certainly when it appropriates physical accouterments of government-issued apparel. Sight lends itself to immediacy in the mind of most observers and as such, a visual suggestion of militaria immediately connects such a uniform to the armed forces and service organizations. But I would think the underlying motive driving one’s choice of military costuming must be considered – and this ties right back into your earlier notion about developing personae – in other words, if going with a military-inspired outfit, why? Is the Driller in question presenting an outward manifestation of honor, duty, sacrifice, patriotism, strength, precision, loyalty, etc.? If so, what kinds of lines, shapes, colors, or existing symbols can be used to suggest those otherwise intangible elements? Again, I know it’s subjective, but I would honestly leave this more open on the grounds of individual preferences within their given context. Perhaps advise striking a balance between a very standard military image and creating a unique, lasting impression, especially when adjudication is a factor.

Must read articles by Brent: Uniform Rumination.

So, dress for the part. Otherwise, you might look like you’re just headed off to church and took a wrong turn.

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