So, you are about to appear on television or video and you’re wondering what’s the best way to dress?
When on camera, we want to appear as collected as confident as we do in real life. Taking pride in your appearance can make you feel good about yourself, so you must be mindful of how you look when you are being captured on camera.
Although our video message likely mirrors the message we convey in day-to-day life, it is important to remember that your appearance on camera is different than in person. It is helpful to be aware of the ways different clothes are perceived on camera so that you are staying true to yourself and setting yourself up for success.
Although there isn’t “one best way” to dress for the camera, I want to share some guidelines with you that can be applied to your screen time, whether you’re a guest on someone’s news program or your own video.
Let’s get started.
- Dress the Part
There is a chance that the clothes you decide to wear on camera can confuse your audience if your message doesn’t match your attire. For this reason, the number one guideline I must share is to wear is something that helps people figure out who you are or what you’re about.
So, if you’re a dairy farmer it may seem a little odd to wear a business suit – even though you may be a businessperson running a 10,000-person farm, it still looks confusing to people based on their preconception of what a dairy farmer “should” look like.
If you are a valued traditional investor or mutual fund manager and you’re wearing flip-flops and a tie-dye shirt, that can also be confusing to some people.
On the other hand, if you’re a musician, flip-flops and a tie-dye shirt might be 100% what you’re about!
So, you need to ask yourself: who am I, and what do I want people to think of me when they see me?
They shouldn’t be confused. Your clothing should be consistent with your message and what you’re all about.
I sometimes work with bankers who often wear a traditional, conservative suit. Though this is appropriate for their purpose, I also work with fashion designers who don’t want a boring suit – they need something that demonstrates their color and creativity. Fashion designers are artists, and artists don’t want to look bland or boring.
Now, if you’re in a lot of organizations, such as a government agency or an industry that isn’t particularly in the arts, chances are you don’t want people focussed on what you’re wearing. In this case, you want something more traditional for business in your area. It may be a suit and tie or a woman’s business suit. It might be a business casual look but it’s not calling a lot of attention to itself.
There are limitless options of what you could wear, and you should consider your purpose as you figure out what works for you.
- Ditch the Small Patterns
While there are clothing items that can benefit the way you’re perceived on camera, there are also some things that I would avoid if you’re going to be on video.
Stripes can jump around and dance around. Remember, you have to think about how you look not just on a big high definition tv screen, but also on computer monitors and cellular devices. Certain things can look great on high-definition television but watching videos through the YouTube app on your cell phone can be blurry. So that’s the problem with stripes – unless they’re particularly bold, they appear fuzzy and distracting.
Other things that cause problems are patterns – especially small patterns such as paisley and herringbone that just jump around, appearing blurry and fuzzy. I’d avoid small, complex patterns.
- Consider your Color Scheme
Certain colors are a problem on camera.
Bright red can do what we call “bleeding” – even though you’re moving, the color can linger behind and appear pixelated.
Pure white can also be a problem (unless it’s your own production like mine where you want a clean background). If you’re wearing white clothing, such as a white shirt, it can be more difficult to properly light your face – the camera will think your white shirt is a light and it will darken other objects. For this reason, I’d avoid wearing white clothing.
All black can also be a problem. Now you may be looking at me and thinking: “well you’re wearing black!” Although my shirt has black in it, it has white in it too, so there’s still contrast – you can see where my arm stops and my body starts. If you’re wearing a pure black outfit, unlike real life where the color can have a slimming effect, black can make you look heavier on video. Wearing black blurs everything together, so it’s harder to light, and you can look like a blob from the neck down. Plus, it’s more likely that you’ll blend into a chair because so many chairs are black. For this reason, I’d recommend avoiding black on tv.
Keep in mind these are general rules of thumb – it’s not the end of the world if you’re out somewhere and someone wants to interview you while you’re wearing black. It’s not the end of the world if you’re wearing a white shirt. Former U.S. presidents Barack Obama and Ronald Reagan typically always wore white shirts when they were in the Oval Office and it didn’t seem to hurt their careers!
So, keep in mind these are general guidelines that may give you a little extra edge, but they are not ironclad rules. Being mindful of how you dress on camera will help you appear professional within your unique industry so the audience can fully grasp your ideas.