Excitement fills the air! A TV news producer is requesting a last minute interview with you on a VERY hot topic. You feel flattered that your thoughts and professional opinions are in demand, but suddenly panic sets in. It’s now 5pm and you have committed to arriving at the station by 7am sharp and you have no idea what to wear! The show even uploads all of their content online, so that means your message has the potential to reach an even larger audience and will be accessible for a long time to come. Yippee! Yikes!
Media opportunities, particularly televised segments, frequently occur at the last minute. Maybe not as quick as 14 hours, but you would be surprised how often short notice is given to the guest. It is just part of the biz. Yet the vast exposure that television medium provides is an excellent and immediate way to get your expertise and products out there in the marketplace. Whether you are seeking television media attention in your professional endeavors or it is seeking you out, it is a good idea to have a reliable instant fashion plan when opportunity knocks.
Here are five key areas that will make the difference between your audience paying attention to your message or being distracted by your “doesn’t look good on TV” outfit:
1. NOTE SETTING
The first step is to figure out the lay of the land. Ask about the color scheme of the stage backdrop. Does it display predominately muted colors or bold colors or does it have a lot of chotchkies/logos displaying on the background wall? Does the show frequently use full body camera shots or lean towards up-close shots during interviews? Are guests usually sitting or standing? If you sit, will you be behind a desk or will your legs show? What about the host(s) – is there a particular fashion style that the host is required to wear or often wears? It is acceptable to ask the television producer these questions if you are not familiar with the show or do not have direct access to the information.
Once you have answered these questions, you have a starter guide to your wardrobe options for your television appearance:
- If a stage setting has a very visually busy background (eg. Face The Nation), you should stay away from an outfit with any patterns; otherwise, it will over stimulate your viewers and veer them away from your message.
- If the backdrop colors are muted, you can wear most any color that is flattering on you except those colors noted in key area #5.
- If the backdrop colors are more bold, you are limited to wearing bold colors. This gives the color(s) in your outfit an opportunity to compete with the backdrop and visually grab the viewer’s attention.
- Add a little bit of style diversity. If the female host is known for wearing a lot of sheath dresses, it would be beneficial for you to wear another style of dress to avoid appearing as a mini version of the well-known host, thus possibly appearing less credible or authoritative to the audience.
- Sitting behind a desk will almost certainly demand close-ups. In this case, simply wear colors that highlight your eyes, tops that elongate your neckline and jewelry that does not overpower your facial features. I will get into more detail on working with close-up shots in my upcoming posts on Skype conferences, and YouTube videos.
- Legs showing require that you focus on flattering lengths of garments and those that are appropriate for the occasion. Be careful with those very popular short dresses and skirts right now in the marketplace – viewers really don’t wish to see your Spanx undergarments. Talk about a distraction! Plus fit is essential too. As a guest, it is important that you are able to easily and discreetly cross and uncross your legs both at the knees or the ankles.
2. REINFORCE YOUR MESSAGE
As a professional woman, it is crucial to visually reinforce your message. However, this does not mean that if you are a corporate lawyer and are being interviewed on television discussing a legal case or a specific law that you must wear your on-the-job required suit! At the same time, it does mean that the less formal dress pants and blouse selected must still exude an appropriately professional appearance. A ‘no-no’ would be a frilly and romantic looking blouse worn with harem pants and platform sandals (even though fashionable) because you would not project an image of authority in this particular context. On the other hand, if you were a divorce lawyer, on television to promote your latest book on ways to attract a lasting romance, this type of outfit would be perfectly suitable.
If you are introducing products instead of concepts, you will probably have them displayed for the camera; however, don’t forget to reiterate your message to the audience via your outfit! It is important to dress yourself with an eye toward expertly showcasing your wonderful goods when applicable. For example, let’s say you got a chance to introduce your new jewelry line on a local cable show. You design and sell small, delicate contemporary pieces. Rather than wearing one or two pieces with your non-patterned outfit, you would want to wear several and layer them on – in a fashionable way of course – this way, your jewelry will stand out rather than blend in and risk not drawing your viewers’ attention to it. (Jewelry designers should do this in person too!). It is not wise to rely on the cameraman to get a close-up shot of your gems.
3. FIND THE RIGHT FIT
The camera highlights every fit flaw, so this is the single most important element to pay attention to when dressing for success on television. And because of the nature of the medium, viewers have the opportunity to sit back and thoroughly observe and critique these flaws. Most of the time viewers are unaware to the degree with which they take the visual into consideration as they evaluate whether a guest is qualified to give them advice. However, advertisers will tell you that visual stimulation is a substantial part of this assessment. So, here are your basic fashion fit tips:
- A garment that is too large gives the appearance of sloppiness. For example, pay particular attention to the proper placement of shoulder seams on standard suit jackets – seams should fit on the outside edge of your shoulder.
- Conversely, a garment that is too tight projects the appearance of someone who is not taking care of themselves (and in the viewers mind they are thinking that perhaps she will then not be able to take care of me or her work is shoddy). For instance, make sure buttons are not pulling at the bust line or seams are not over stretched on pants.
- The lengths of sleeves, skirts, dresses and pants are important for proper fit on TV as well. As dresses and skirts that are too short may be a negative distraction for viewers and draw them away from the context of your message. For the best fit length take into consideration age, body type, profession and the TV show’s setting. Equally, dresses and skirts that are worn way too long instantly project an ill-fitting and out-of-date image.
- Always try to create a waist with the outfit you choose to wear on television – either with designed seaming or sash details built into the garment itself or simply add a belt. By creating a waist you will not only appear slimmer on TV, but you will also not disappear into the stage scene background and potentially loose your otherwise captive audience.
4. CREATE A CONTEMPORARY OUTFIT
When professionals wear industry appropriate, contemporary outfits on television, they are instantly sending a message to the audience that their ideas are forward-thinking and modern. All too often, we see experts on TV that do not use dress to project their novel ideas and products appropriately. Put simply, they lose their audiences. Pay attention to current trends (not fads!) and incorporate them into your professional attire especially for televised appearances. Keep up-to-date or consult with those who know the way in which modern clothes should fit and how to create flattering proportions and fashionable silhouettes appropriate for your profession, age, body type and personality.
Plus note that it is always better to dress up rather than dress down for a televised gig. You will not overshadow anyone – this is part of your marketing strategy and when done well, you will attract positive attention from all those around you. I often see professionals hold back on dressing up for television (especially local television spots) and this is a mistake! What is the point if you dress as though you are easy to forget? – Dressing well is always constructive to your message.
5. CHOOSE THE RIGHT COLORS
Here is the reason it is so important to pay attention to which colors you wear on television! Research tells us that the right color can evoke positive emotions for the task at hand. For a television audience the screen frames a work of art, so color becomes even more important. Additionally, it is extra challenging because camera lights can change the hue of colors. So, a flattering color on you in-person can become an ill-flattering color to you on television. There are few colors to avoid on TV when the show has exceptional studio lighting (and you remember to evaluate the stage backdrop as mentioned earlier). But this circumstance is rare. Unless you are on Oprah, The Today Show, or any of the über popular nationally syndicated shows; it would behoove you to stay clear of the whites, pastels, nudes, reds and blacks! – Under camera lights these colors don’t allow the camera to capture the natural curves of the human form, making us would-be television stars look like solid blobs of color. Lush shades of blue, purple or green, on the other hand, are surefire hits for the professional woman/ television celeb!
When we wear an unflattering color it automatically makes our skin tone appear sullen and peaked. This fact is only amplified while on TV. An antidote to looking washed out and fatigued during your television appearance is to wear colors that do not clash with or blend into the background as mentioned earlier, but also those that instantly make you look like you are smiling even when you are not. Your best colors will enliven your natural skin tone – reduce any skin discolorations, brighten your eyes, whiten your teeth. Plus bring to the forefront the physical reflection of the joy, excitement and enthusiasm within you. I believe that a person can wear any color; they just need to find the right hue that works best for them. So, go ahead and experiment with color for your television appearance but keep these dependable tips mentioned in mind.
There is a lot of minutia to take into consideration when dressing professionally for a television spot. Don’t worry! These five quick tips will help you get started in putting together a successful outfit for your televised appearance. Because media opportunities are so often last minute, especially in broadcast television, you may as well get started now and be ready when you get the call! Show your viewers instantly that you mean business.