By Mary Lou Andre, Bates Executive Image & Style Expert

In the era of YouTube, video chat, and Go-to-Meeting, most professionals need to be camera-ready as part of their day-to-day responsibilities. If your job entails media interviews, the need to have an on-camera look that instantly creates a credible, confident and worthy-of-attention persona is even higher. 


If your job does include on-camera media work, read on. Below are five strategies for mastering the art of dressing well when the cameras roll:

Strategy 1: Be Prepared

The first step to making a visually positive impact on air is to collect as much information as you can ahead of time about the lighting, background and general set-up of each interview and plan accordingly. Many executives have media relations teams at their disposal. This is the time to make them work overtime for you.

If you will be shot from the waist up in a formal studio, shoes and hosiery are not as big a deal. If you will be outside, wind and weather are definitely factors that need to be woven into your preparation. Asking about the lighting and background will allow you to coordinate your outfit in a way that will not clash with your surroundings or make you appear too washed out or too “visually” loud.

I recently worked with a female CEO. Every taped interview that was being conducted as part of a media launch was shot with a strong red company logo in the background. By having her wear a variety of primarily navy outfits for both the formal and informal interviews, she and the logo stood out in all the right ways.  

Strategy 2:  Frame Your Silhouette -- The Dark to Light Rule

When coaching both male and female clients for any on-air presentation, we often refer to the “dark to light” rule. Simply put, it is a dressing technique that allows you to frame your silhouette in a way that creates a strong, vertical presence that enables your audience to more naturally connect with the message (instead of the messenger!). A dark jacket or sweater paired with a lighter colored shirt, top or blouse is an easy way to envision this concept.

A top or dress in a solid color can be a nice choice for women looking to forgo a jacket or sweater while still framing their silhouette well. In addition to black, reds, grays, blues and fuchsia are our primary “go-to” on-air colors for women. When there is good lighting and a bright background, we often suggest a black dress with pearls for a classic dark to light look that appears uncluttered. If I know the lighting might be dark for an on camera interview, I search high and low for fuchsia, red and turquoise jackets, tops and dresses for our female clients. Even if a client has killer biceps, we do not recommend sleeveless garments for any executive on-air interview. There is simply too much skin on display and it is too easy for your shoulders and arms to become the story (instead of framing the story!) 

Strategy 3:  Clean up your neckline

The right neckline will further keep the focus on you (and what you are saying!)  For men, your dress shirt is your visual centerpiece during any media appearance. Be sure it fits well and the collar is flattering to your facial features. If your collar is too loose, your message will literally be drowning in your shirt. If it is too tight, you will look like you are choking.

With or without a tie, a modest spread collar is a modern choice and gets the job done for most men.  A button-down collar can also be a good choice for informal interviews as the buttons ensure that the collar stays put without the help of a tie.  For a more formal interview, a tie further helps showcase your face, and therefore, your messaging. Although there are many opinions about whether to wear a tie with a button-down collar or not, we suggest clients do not do so for media interviews as the look is slightly old-school and can have the same effect on your message.

For women, a V-neck top can have a similar effect as a man’s tie as it too creates an inverted triangle that naturally directs attention towards your face. Be mindful of the cut on all necklines. Too low is well… too low!  Two high is not great either. Consider filling in the neckline with a necklace that is conservative enough to read business yet interesting enough to draw people in to hear you out. 

Women’s collared shirts can overpower the face as there is often too much fabric to manage, especially during an interview. In my role as a professional image coach, I frequently watch executive interviews.  One that stands out is of a highly celebrated female CEO giving a TED talk with the collar of her shirt stuck awkwardly under her jacket during her entire presentation. Unfortunately, it was the most memorable part of the talk. Ouch!

Jewelry and interesting embellishments woven into the collar of a garment are other great ways to accent your face and messaging. If your jacket or top has an interesting neckline, refrain from wearing a necklace and just wear earrings to create the right finishing touch. 

Strategy 4:  A Word on Fabrics & Prints  

The thought of being in front of a camera makes many people break out in a cold sweat. No matter the weather outside, choose natural fabrics for internal climate control. Cotton shirts and sweaters, light weight wool suits, jackets, pants and skirts as well as silk blouses, shells and dresses all help you keep your cool while also keeping wrinkles to a minimum. Consider having shirts professionally laundered so they work overtime for you.

For hard to fit women, try Ralph Lauren dresses made with the brand's signature stretch material.   Available in petite, regular and plus sizes, they offer an easy, flattering fit, are affordable and come in a variety of jewel tones that are very camera friendly. 

While solid colored fabrics are unquestionably the easiest choice to wear on camera, some prints are possible and even worthwhile, especially if they are on trend and you use them to position yourself as a creative and contemporary leader. Ties for men and tops and scarfs (as long as they don’t add unnecessary clutter to your neckline and are treated more like a necklace than a blanket!) are easy ways to incorporate prints. Subtle pinstripes and other textures in suiting can also add a rich element to your overall executive presence.  

Strategy 5:  Get groomed

Finally, what you do behind the scenes is critical to showing up to any on-air commitment pulled together and ready for the cameras to capture you at your best. At a minimum, commit to regular appointments with skilled hair, nail, make-up, dental and, if necessary, skin-care specialists so that your personal grooming is in top working order. Women, consider having your hair professionally styled for media interviews as well as having your make-up professionally done. It is well worth the investment.

MaryLouAndreMary Lou Andre is Bates' Executive Image and Style Expert, working with executive clients to guide them in developing an overall presence and physical demeanor aligned with their positionLearn more about Mary Lou.

Looking for more tips on how to make a positive impact in any media interview? Join Bates and Mary Lou for our Speak to the Media Program on November 18-19. Learn more about the program here.

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