Brian Edwards Media

Media Tip: What Not to Wear.

pink-spotted-shirtA lot of time and angst can go into choosing what to wear for a television appearance.  Our basic advice is simple: your clothes should be appropriate for the occasion and the programme.  A three-piece suit will look plain silly on Country Calendar; shorts and gumboots won’t do you any favours on Close Up or Campbell Live.

The trend these days is for informality. Even John Campbell has given up wearing ties much of the time.  A suit or jacket with an open-neck shirt looks fine in most settings, unless you want to be very formal. On many programmes you can abandon the jacket.  Take a look at what your host is wearing.

The camera has difficulty with all black or all white.  Black can make you disappear into the background of some sets.  White can make you look like the victim of a bad spray tan.  So it’s sensible to choose a pale colour rather than white, and to leave that sexy, dense black number in the wardrobe.

Red can be a problem as well.  In the days of black and white TV, reds came out as white on camera! Very disconcerting if you spotted yourself on a monitor. Be aware that red will stand out far more than other colours. You can use that to your advantage, of course.

Some colours work well on telly – if you’re not sure, stick to greys, blues, greens, fawns and soft oranges.   Purple looks great if you can wear it. And beware: any colour that doesn’t suit you in real life will make you look dreadful on camera.

Tricky little patterns, tweeds and fine stripes give the camera a headache, and it will respond by “strobing” – that visual buzz you see with some patterns and fabrics. So plain is better than patterned, clean lines are better than fussy ones.

Women have some extra things to think about:

If you’re seated in long shot or on a couch (think Breakfast, Good Morning,Sunrise, Q+A) please, please don’t wear a short skirt unless you look like a super-model or you’re a professional exhibitionist.  Firstly, we’ll see a lot more leg than you imagined and with thighs squashed on the couch it may not be a good look; secondly, perspective will make your knees look enormous. Longer skirts or trousers are the safest thing.

Avoid glittery or dangly jewellery.  We can’t concentrate on your words of wisdom if we’re fixated on your Christine Rankin earrings or the diamantes disappearing into your cleavage. If you’re being interviewed at a table (Close Up, Campbell Live, Native Affairs) strip off any bracelets or solid watch straps before the interview starts.  You’re likely to set up a percussion accompaniment and the microphone will amplify the banging and crashing.

You’ll find a jacket of some sort is great for attaching those microphones.  Otherwise the mic cord has to go under, up and out. Never, never wear a high or polo neck without a jacket. You’ll probably end up with the mic clamped to the outside of your cashmere and the cord dangling inelegantly down your front.  

Lastly, what you’re wearing should never distract your audience from what you’re saying.  You really want people to remember the strength of your argument, not the eccentricities of your wardrobe or accessories.

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  1. Between the adrenaline of trying not to make mistakes on camera, the need to compress a lot of information in a confined amount of time, and the searing lights, it can feel like performing Shakespeare in a sauna. Dress for the tropics, I reckon.

  2. All this demonstrates is the utter shallowness of those watching. I could not give a toss what someone is wearing; I am interested solely in the message and if the message is worth listening to I frequently will not even look at the screen.

    More important than the clothes is teaching people not to speak in cliches (‘going forward’ seeming to be everyone’s favourite at the moment and John Key this AM talking about ‘blue sky’ thinking) and not to intersperse every sentence with ‘um’ and ‘err’. I would also like at times to see the interviewee bite back at some of the asinine questions asked by an interviewer who has clearly not done his or her homework.

    • All this demonstrates is the utter shallowness of those watching.

      Not necessarily, Ben. If you are distracted by what someone is wearing, you won’t be concentrating on what they are saying. The whole point of an interview is the exchange of information and barriers to that information getting through should be avoided.

  3. Some truth in what you say. Just look at those ridiculously long ear rings of Christine Rankin, and the way she dressed in those impossibly tight skirts, showing off her legs the way she did. Totally crass and tacky, lacking in any appropriate dress sense befiiting her age.It was a cringe-inducing case of “mutton dressed up as lamb”. She deserved all the ridicule she copped, including Prebble, the then-head of the SSC.

  4. Eh. This is kinda reminding me of “thats a moustache on a lady”. But I understand. Sorry.