Easy Steps to Choosing your Portrait Session Wardrobe

Your session is booked for next week. What should you wear? Here are some easy steps to help you choose clothes you’ll be happy seeing on your wall for the next several years:

Simple and Classic - Remember your ‘90s, 80s, or 70s ‘cool’ clothes? Would you still wear those styles today? Choose clothing that won’t look out of style with the passage of time. Un-collared, long-sleeved tops work for both women and men. For men, a basic button-down collared shirt is fine, just keep the collar a reasonable size. Remember giant lapels and Nehru collars? (I’m still trying to forget.) Any ‘hot’ fashion trend today will be gone in a year, you’ll cringe every time you see your portrait, and your kids will laugh at you. For women, keep necklines close to the base of your neck. Plunging or fussy necklines should be avoided. You want people to focus on your face, not neckline ‘clutter’. Think about staging your home when selling - you want people to notice elegance and clean lines, not clutter. It’s the same idea. Simply styled dresses, pants and tops are good. Jeans are usually good if your portraits are going to be casual and you have some in good shape. ‘Lived-in’ looking without being worn out or ratty is fine. Remember, you’re staging your portrait. Welcoming, not worn out.

Sleeve length - As a general rule, no short sleeves. Short sleeves stop at mid upper arm, creating a change in contrast the brain immediately draws the eye to. Most people don’t want to draw attention to sags, bags, or un-muscled arms. Unless you want to show off your upper arms or are photographing your beach body, avoid sleeveless and short sleeved tops and shirts.

Solid colors! - Prints are distracting! Forget about ‘slimming’ verticals or ‘widening’ horizontals. Any pattern causes distractions. You’re going for a flattering, well put-together look. Prints aren’t it.

Colors in general - You’ll likely discuss this with your photographer. Take the session environment into consideration. Choose colors that will be harmonious with the environment. Everyone doesn’t need to be matchy-matchy, but keeping clothing in the same color family works well, adding interest yet looking cohesive. BONUS - If you’re photographing for black and white portraits, the colors don’t even need to harmonize since they’ll be rendered in various tones of gray. Fuchsia and mustard yellow? It’s all good! One more reason B&W photography rocks. Just sayin’.

The bottom line - wear what is comfortable and you love wearing. When you feel good in your clothes, you look good. Don’t buy something that’s an uncomfortable fabric, or isn’t a style you’d normally wear. If you feel comfortable, it will show in your portraits. If you feel uncomfortable, it will also show in your portraits.

Jewelry - Less is more, in both amount and style. If you wonder whether the amount or style might be too much, it is. When in doubt, leave it out. That said, if you have an heirloom piece that is meaningful and you love wearing, do wear it.

Kids - All of the above holds true! Don’t force kids to wear something they’re not comfortable in! If they’re itchy, hot, or tugging at collars, they’re not going to have a good time. Cranky kids = cranky parents and an un-fun session. Let them be comfortable!