What to Wear on TV

Many people would rather go to the dentist than do an interview, and checking what they look like in the mirror before they do it is the last thing they want to do…but unfortunately, what the viewer sees visually is a big part of what they remember and what you wear can help or hinder your message.  You don’t need movie star good looks to be effective on camera and have impact, but you do need to visually match your message.

So to make getting ready for an on-camera interview as painless as possible, run thru this quick checklist before you get dressed and remember what White House Press Photographer Association award winner and Director of Photography Murray Pinczuk says,  “don’t forget, you are not only dressing for the viewer, but the camera as well.”

Do you visually match your image?
Basically, your goal is to dress so the viewer does not notice your clothing.  It should blend in seamlessly with what you do for a living.  You want your clothing to match the image the viewer has what someone who works in your profession would wear.  If not, they may wonder why you are not dressed properly and miss what you are saying.  A construction executive may usually wear a suit and tie to work, but that’s not what the viewer thinks they wear to work.

Likewise, if you dress flashy and/or wear dangly earrings, you again risk distracting the viewer, and they will again miss your message while wondering what store sells those earrings.

The clothing that you pick can work for you by giving you some added credibility and authority without ever having to say anything.  The viewer’s first impression will be made by what they see and how you present yourself.

Blue or Red Tie
Ever since JFK wore his red tie during the Nixon/Kennedy debate, red has been in.  Not only is it considered a power and authoritative color, in many cases it can help bring color to a pale face.  A red tie paired with a black suit and crisp white shirt though will give the camera problems.  Better a slightly off white shirt or gray and not so harsh color suit.  President Obama wears mostly red and blue ties.  He says it’s because he can just quickly pull something that works out of his closet without having to think about it.  But there is actually more to the two colors than meets the eye.  The effect of blue and red on people has actually been studied.  Juliet Zhu’s study published in Science Magazine, reports that when people see blue they think more creatively.  Red summons authority but it’s also associated with danger and stop signs!

Especially for ladies
Many crews bring wireless mikes with them.  These mikes usually need to clip to the back of your clothing and the mike wire is then run up your clothing and clipped somewhere on the front of your blouse.  It’s much easier to do this if you are wearing pants or a skirt vs. a dress.

If you have flyaway hair, it’s a nice idea to throw some hairspray and a brush into your briefcase that day, just in case.

It’s ok to wear your glasses
Don’t try to be someone you are not.  It is best to do an interview, whatever way you are most comfortable.  If you usually wear glasses, you should wear your glasses.  A good videographer will adjust for your glasses and remove glare.  The only kind of glasses to avoid are those that change shades based on daylight.

Avoid stripes and busy, tight patterns
So what to avoid when getting dressed? No stripes or small busy tight patterns.  Stripes and busy patterns confuse the camera and will make a flashing, weaving, light infused pattern.

Avoid black, white and a lot of red
These colors create a lot of harsh contrast.  White shirts are ok if you are wearing a jacket, suit or sweater with it.  It’s a good idea to bring a change of clothes to work, just in case this is the morning you spill coffee on your suit.  It’s is also nice to give the videographer another option if your original clothing choice is not working well.

Be comfortable
Wear something that you wear all the time, that you are comfortable in and allows you to move.  That way your clothing will help you feel relaxed and animated.

Real men wear make-up on TV
Cameras can be harsh.  Sometimes there is a shine on skin, sometimes it can get hot and sometimes the camera can make you look pale.  Wearing some powder or foundation is routine in the industry and you should approach it as so.  It’s not visible to anyone who sees the interview and it washes off easily afterwards.  It will make you look good so that nothing unsightly detracts from your message.  The crew will have this with them so when they ask if they can use it, please say “Sure!!  No problem.”  They just want to make you look good.

Anyone else on camera today?
You may not be the only one on camera today.  Sometimes a producer will want to get some footage of your business in action to use in the story.  If that may happen, it’s a good idea to give employees a heads up so they don’t come to work in tattered jeans.   Again, the goal is to not visually distract from the message but to visually support the message.

Still think it would be more fun to go to the dentist?
Nah!  It’s not so hard.  Just pick something to wear that’s a part of you, adds some credibility to your comments and does not detract from your message, and maybe just maybe, the viewer will remember what you say!!

This article is part of the Beyond Point and Shoot series produced by Susan Stolov and Washington Independent Productions Inc. WIP  is committed to helping companies and organizations put issues and ideas on the public agenda through videos and targeted distribution. Services include research and message development, video production, script writing, media outreach, social media strategy and live streaming events. See how to harness the power of video for your organization at www.washingtonindependentproductions.org