10 Sartorial Tips for TV Success

“Clothes…do not make the man: but, when he is made, they greatly improve his appearance.” 

Henry Ward Beecher, 19th century clergyman and social reformer

Whether or not you believe that clothes make the man (or the woman), the way you dress for a television news interview will have a major impact on how your audience responds to you—and the messages you’re communicating. Here are some tips to keep in mind next time a reporter calls and invites you to the studio:

  1. Don’t be a stiff. Wear clothes that are comfortable, so you can gesture and animate naturally.

  2. Fit is everything. If you’ve gained five or more pounds, forget about (or let out) the pants or skirt you bought five pounds ago. If you’re fortunate enough to have lost five or more pounds, make sure to stop by the tailor.  

  3. Avoid black, white and red as your primary color. Black tends to make you fade into the background, stark white washes you out under the lights, and flaming red is subject to tearing on camera. For men, a powder blue shirt with a navy suit and a tie, with a third base color (burgundy, yellow, green) and muted design in navy or powder blue, works well. For women, a navy suit or skirt with a pastel blouse and a scarf—with a third base color and muted design that matches—will do the job. Another option is a pastel-colored suit, skirt or dress, with complementary accent colors for your accessories.

  4. No herringbones, houndstooth or small plaids. They tend to tear and “dance” on camera, due to the moiré effect, which degrades the quality and resolution of graphic images.

  5. Stay cool. Wear lightweight material, even in the dead of winter. Studio lights will heat up the space, and the last thing you need is another reason to sweat.

  6. Leave the crown jewels at home. Jewelry becomes a major visual distraction when the lights bounce off of them. Instead, wear non-reflective jewelry that’s attractive, low key and doesn’t jingle and jangle.

  7. Dress for the occasion. Wearing jeans and a T-shirt might play well in Silicon Valley, but not on your typical business show or traditional newscast. Watch a broadcast so you can get a feel for what the anchors and guests wear. When in doubt, dress one level up. If you’re lucky enough to be interviewed at the beach, on a football field or walking through a vineyard, look like you belong there.

  8. Skip the Lady Gaga glasses. If you wear glasses, forget about fancy, decorative frames. Keep them plain and unobtrusive. Avoid transition lenses, which will go dark under the lights and in daylight.

  9. Press, clean, buff, shine. Be sure that your outfit is freshly pressed and cleaned, your shoes are shined, and that you look like you mean business. Carry a spare blouse and scarf or shirt and tie in the event that someone spills their latte on you 10 minutes before air time.

  10. Hats off. Unless you’re a haberdasher plying your wares on a TV talk show, don’t wear a hat on the air. While it may be a fashion statement, it tends to cast strange shadows over your face.

The bottom line: An awareness of what works and what doesn’t, combined with good taste and common sense, will enhance your credibility on and off the air. 

Jon Rosen is a
 former assignment editor and assistant news director at ABC. He owns Impact Communications, a media and presentation training practice.

This article was adapted from
 PR News’ Media Training Guidebook, Volume 4This and other guidebooks can be ordered at the PR News Press online store.