It happens to everyone: you’re sitting watching TV, an interviewee or presenter comes on and you say: “What have they done to their hair”/”What on earth is she/he wearing!!?”. And you forget completely about what they’re saying, and just focus on their appearance.
If that’s you in front of the cameras, you’ve just missed a golden opportunity to spread the word about yourself or your business because everyone’s looking at your clothes on TV – that extravagant pussycat bow, the dog pattern on your jumper or the dirty marks on your tie.
So, here is a quick guide to what not to wear on TV – and what to wear – to make sure that people listen to what you’ve got to say, rather than comment on what you’re wearing.
1. Be clean, be neat
It doesn’t give a great impression if you’ve got your dinner down your front (as a name-less senior politician did when I interviewed him) so do a quick check in the mirror to make sure you’re clean, your hair is brushed and your clothes are straight and in order
2. Wear make up
Whether you’re a man or a woman, if you’re being interviewed in a studio, wear make up. This isn’t vanity: the cameras (particularly in this HD era) make you look like a ghost, and will pick up every flaw, and your face often becomes shiny under the hot studio lights, making you look nervous and shifty. For women, I’d advise wearing make-up in any interview. As I said the cameras are notoriously unforgiving and if you want to look professional, you really need to wear foundation.
3. Dress appropriately
If you’re a farmer being interviewed in the dairy shed, you’re going to look pretty silly wearing a suit. Wear your normal working clothes. If you’re in a studio, it’s better to wear more formal clothes, but these need to be appropriate for the programme. So, on Newsnight, a smart suit is the order of the day, if you’re on the One Show, more casual clothes will work better.
4. No extra busy patterns or wild jewellery
These will be extremely distracting for the viewer, and in the case of jewellery, any jangling will be picked up by the microphones. So keep patterns subtle and jewellery to a minimum.
5. Spare a thought for the soundman
He might want to put a ‘radio mic’ on you, and he’ll need to fiddle the wires up inside your clothes, clipping the mic somewhere on your front, and attaching the battery pack behind you. So, long dresses are a bit of a nightmare (v. embarrassing to have a hairy soundman fiddling up your back and attaching the pack to your bra) as are high-necked T shirts and polo neck jumpers. Go for separates.
6. Think colour
If you’re a woman, black clothes will wash you out so coloured clothes work better. But do think about the impression the colour will give about you. Softer colours if you’re in a ‘caring’ profession, bolder colours if you’re a senior executive. And if you’re a man: avoid white shirts – pale blue shirts work best on TV, a finely striped suit and subtly patterned tie.
7. Wear long socks
In many interviews, you’ll be filmed in an MCU – medium close-up, essentially your head and shoulders. But on some programmes, there will be a wide-shot, showing your entire body. If you’re wearing trousers, you don’t want an ugly expanse of pale white leg before your socks start
8. Avoid short skirts
In a wide shot, the camera will show rather too much thigh and might well be able to see right up your skirt. Not a good look!