What To Wear: On TV – 5 Tips To Looking Great

February 21, 2010

What To Wear: On TV – 5 Tips To Looking Great

Bottega Veneta – R10 – Style

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:


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.

For a more complete evaluation before your television appearance, don’t hesitate to click on my Virtual Styling Service. I would be delighted to help you as one of my favorite focuses and most fun areas of expertise is how to best dress for on-camera appearances.

*Note regarding fashion colors available this season: I have had a difficult time finding suitable clothing in colors that work well for television, YouTube, or video appearances. With the advent of social media and accompanying video, it will be important for designers to take note of this new technology and the accompanying consumer style & color needs.

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  • Hi Kristina,
    What an excellent, helpful post…and so true. I was invited to be on View From The Bay a year or so ago without much notice. Not having ever been on T.V. , I had no idea what to wear. But I decided on a bright colored dress with blues and purples as the predominant colors, a semi low v neckline (no cleavage) a beautiful necklace on the larger side. I wore a solid color sweater (fitted) over the dress to tone down the bold print. And cute shoes. Without really knowing why, I had picked the perfect outfit for the show! The colors looked great. We sat on highstools so I was really glad that my dress was an appropriate length! The female host wore a more tailored look, so we looked just different enough.
    If I had been the beneficiary from your expertise before this post, all my decisions would have been a lot easier and the stress level much lower! I will save this post for future opportunities!

  • Kristina Moore

    Cathy – Thank you so much for sharing with MOS readers your personal experience with being interviewed on a television show and the fashion angst and choices that worked best for you at that time. It can be a stressful opportunity so I am really glad to hear that you believe these quick tips will help other professionals look their best on-air when they are in the spotlight next.

  • Joy

    What a timely and valuable post, Kristina! Your television appearance tips are real gems to those of us who would never know otherwise how we were coming across to our television audience. I cringe when I think back to when I wore solid black to a televised panel discussion with the camera closing in on my pallid face with accentuated dark circles! If only your blog had been around…

  • Kristina Moore

    Welcome Joy! Thank you for your comment. I am really happy to hear that you found my advice to be helpful. Be sure to note my Virtual Styling Services should you need any personalized direct help with your outfits for future professional gigs.

  • Beau

    I am going to be on a regional quiz show for my high school. The background is a black tone. We are on teams, with two teams competing, so there will be mostly wide shots. Our school colors are red and white, and we are supposed to incorporate these colors. Do you have any ideas? (I am male, but you have some great ideas.)

  • Kristina Moore

    Beau – Good news! A solid black backdrop gives you room to play. My recommendation would be to boldly incorporate your school colors of red and white. This approach will instantly show that you have school spirit and that you are a confident competitor [and should be feared ; ) ].

    I do not know the degree of formality for your event nor your own individual personal style (preppy, rocker, chic-nerdy, mixed, etc.), so I will give general suggestions to you and you will still be able to put your own twist on them that best relate to the event and your current style.

    First, I would suggest a bold red dress-shirt accompanied with a white undershirt or if the shirt must be completely buttoned-up then add a white or black tie. Sleeves rolled-up is optional. This combo will draw you out to viewers versus a white shirt and red/black accessory. If the button-down shirt is too formal then I would suggest a fitted red sweatshirt and then have your school letter or logo or motif ironed on the front in white and then outlined in black to make it more legible from a distance. If this is too much then try a red izod-style shirt with a white undershirt or long-sleeve crew-neck t-shirt underneath.

    Another option would be to wear a red and white striped button-down shirt and then roll-up the sleeves if the event is more casual. Ideally, a bold stripe (min 1/4”W) would be more visible to the audience and, therefore, more clearly reiterate your message of team spirit and competitive confidence. You could even add a black undershirt/short-sleeve or long-sleeve t-shirt to make the school-colored stripes more apparent.

    Each of these top options can be worn with blue jeans, black jeans, black trouser pants, camel colored khaki’s (aka chinos) or tan 5-pocket corduroy pants. Select shoes based on formalness of event.

    One additional note, make sure that the red is the best shade of red for your skintone. It could be apple red or it could be cranberry red…think fruits and vegetables or other relatable colors in nature. You will know if it is a complimentary shade of red on you when the whites of your eyes and teeth appear brighter and you look like you are smiling even when you are not. The red in your shirt doesn’t have to be the same exact color of red in your school colors unless that color already suits you. An unflattering shade will make you look sickly and that wouldn’t be conducive to your game play.

    These tips should get you started in the right direction. Wishing you the best for your quiz show! Good luck and have fun!

  • Camposavelarlaw

    Great article and great timing too! Next week, I’m scheduled to make my first of several appearances on Univision to talk about immigration during a daily newscast. I’m a young Latina immigration lawyer who just opened an office in a big town. While I want to appear professional, its more important for me to appear approachable and trust worthy. Not sure what to wear! Help…

  • Corporate Fashionista

    Congratulations – that’s super exciting news! There are a lot of factors to consider when dressing for television and tons of possibilities. Since I don’t know all of the specific details, my advice will have to be somewhat general.

    I highly recommend for your first appearance as a legal advisor to wear a contemporary pant suit. You’ll be able to confidently move freely and get a clear idea on what camera shots and seating arrangements they have planned for your interview, plus it coincides with your professional message. The way your suit fits is the most important thing! This includes making sure your jacket’s shoulder seams rest directly at your shoulder tips, fitted arm holes, pant hemline one-quarter inch from floor, etc.

    Then I would focus on color. If your hair is dark then I would wear a dark colored suit…black hair…black suit…blonde hair….light taupe suit.

    A moderate scoop neck top will soften your look and add to your desired approachability factor. Opt for a flattering color that enlivens your skin tone…not too dark, so that it gets lost on camera amidst your black suit jacket…you want some visual dimension in your outfit. You should also take into consideration the studio backdrop…you want to make sure your outfit colors do not clash with it.

    Jewelry should be subtle and I would forgo dangly earrings that can move around too much and be distracting to the audience. If your hair keeps them tamed then it is fine. 2”-3” gold tone hoops are your best option.

    To keep your look extra fresh and modern, you could wear dark nail polish on short, cropped nails.

    For your follow up appearance, I would review reactions from your first on-camera interview and then perhaps wear a colorful blouse with a fitted pencil skirt…black if your hair is dark, light if your hair is light colored. Or a beautiful, fitted, colorful solid-colored sheath dress with simple, clean lines. And then gage how that goes over with the studio, your peers and the public. The possibilities are endless.

    Have fun and go get ’em girl!

  • lwilliams

    I am a stay at home mom going on the news (neutral backdrop, tans, chairs to sit in, casual atmosphere, to promote a school function. I will have my daughters with me 9 and 6. help! I have light brown hair, daughters are blonde and red-head. I get very nervous and blush alot!

  • lwilliams – Color is going to be the most important factor for you! I would opt for a solid colored top or dress in dark purple or royal blue…both of these colors will play nicely against the news station’s neutral stage setting, you and your daughter’s different hair colors and camouflage your flushed cheeks/face.

    A few other quick tips for you: do not wear jeans, do not wear over-fussy jewelry (ie. dangling earrings with matching necklace), do not wear hair pulled-back or in a ponytail. You do not have to wear heels, you can opt for a pair of classic almond-toe or semi-round-toe flats. Make sure dress hem is long enough to casually cross your legs at the knee or ankles.

    Be strategic with your choices…let your clothes help you…to feel your best…allowing you to confidently promote the school function on the program. Best of luck! You’ll do great!

  • lwilliams

    Thanks so much. I found a purple button down, had been looking at based on some of your other responses. Is it okay to wear black trousers? I try to let girls pick their own clothes, (sometimes it is very hard), should I encourage them to dress up? They do not like wearing jeans, so we don’t have to worry about that.

  • lwilliams – I would suggest a darkish purple scoopneck top or thin-knit sweater rather than a button-down blouse for this particular event. A button-down seems too conservative for your topic of conversation and the ‘casual studio atmosphere’ you described, but if you already have one then it should work well enough. “Yes” to black pants.

    I think color and confidence is what is going to best promote your school function to the audience, so I would highly recommend making this a super fun experience for both you and your daughter’s…not everyone gets an opportunity to go on television…it’s pretty darn cool…and tell them you need their help to promote the event. I think this ‘group think’ will make the girls feel valuable and, in turn, more confident while on camera. Feeling confident will not only make you and your daughter’s feel better and have more fun during the interview, but it will also inspire the audience to get involved. Let the girls pick out their own individual outfits, but educate them on the fact that how they present themselves is important to get people interested in their school event. As long as their outfits are neat and tidy, I wouldn’t fret about it. Best wishes!!!

  • lwilliams

    Wow are you a life-saver! Thank you so much for all your advice. I am off to search for a scoop neck! I really appreciate you taking the time to share your expertise! Thank you for all your kind words, I am still nervous, but feeling optimistic because of you!

  • You’re welcome! 😉

  • Michelle

    This is so helpful! I’m going to be interviewed soon, and I found a great navy blazer at Banana Republic that works well with my hair and skin tone — but the color comes from a weave of blue and black. You can only see the (subtle) pattern up close, but I’m worried it might look strange on TV. Is this something to worry about?

  • Michelle – That’s exciting news! No worries about your blazer. The on-trend blue/black color combo, plus the weave fabric will actually add visual interest to your garment and, because it is subtle, it will not overpower your facial features for those up-close camera shots. Best of luck with your TV interview!

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  • Thank you! I needed to read this before my segment tomorrow! These are really great tips! xx Jenelle

  • Emy

    Thank you Kristina. Im an anchor and reading your post enlightened me and refreshed some important facts about appearing on Tv. Keep it up

  • Will do. 😉 Thanks Emy!

  • Glad to hear it. Best wishes on your segment Jenelle!

  • Melody

    Hi! I am a singer/songwriter and I’m about to record a live, intimate video in the studio tonight with just me and a piano. What color is best for me to wear? I’m a brunette.

  • hara

    Is dark navy blue okay? I am pale, freckled and brunette.

  • Hara – Any shade of navy blue is an ideal alternative to black for you given your personal colorings!

  • The Office Stylist

    Awesome tips! I think it’s super important to make sure your clothes fit right, especially when you’re on tv. If not, it could relay a negative message to your viewers.

  • Christina- was just getting ready for a TV interview tomorrow about Scentbird- and look where I ended up! Great advice and look forward to catching up.