Ask Avery: Lights! Camera! Action!
blog by Avery Hartmans • May 25, 2012 @ 8:00am
I work at a television station and guests are constantly asking me what they should wear when they’re being interviewed on camera. What should I tell them?
What guests first have to remember is that things often look different on camera than they do in real life. The lights are bright, the camera is in close, and that great top you didn’t realize was see-through is actually doing nothing to cover up your bra or that muffin top you get when you sit down. Great. So before going on air, guests should do a little checklist, just to make sure they’re not about to commit a gaffe that will have everyone thanking the FCC for that three second delay.
First: Do I look like a tramp?
I know, I know. It’s sometimes a really tough question. But even the trampiest of tramps knows when her outfit is crossing the line. Though I’m not positive, I’m guessing this television station is not on Pay-Per-View, so your outfit should be appropriate enough to please even nuns. This means that your shirt is not see-through, the camera cannot see up your skirt, your midriff is not on display and there’s no danger of another Janet Jackson episode. This might sound silly, but do a wardrobe test before you leave the house: turn on the brightest lights in your bathroom to ensure your shirt isn’t sheer and wiggle around a little bit to make sure nothing slips, shifts or falls out.
Second: Do I look like a bum?
You’re probably having an existential crisis by the point, asking yourself all these personal questions. But this is important: if your clothes look sloppy, wrinkled or ill-fitting off camera, they’ll look even worse in front of the lens. Make sure everything is ironed, fits you correctly and is stain-free. You might think you can hide that toothpaste spot on your top, but it will be just your luck that it shows up crystal clear on camera. Though wrinkles are sometimes impossible to avoid, especially in the case of linen or with most pencil skirts, do your best to leave the house looking like the television star that you are — at least for the day.
Third: Are my clothes scary or distracting?
Though plaid may be your signature look or you think neon is the new black (I’d have to agree with you on that one), certain looks should be avoided for television. A loud pattern will most likely clash with the background of the set or the hosts’ ensembles, and too-bright hues will be blinding onscreen. Stick with simple, subtle patterns in neutral tones or try bright solids. A solid pink, blue or green top will flatter most skin tones and hair colors, as well as look nice on camera, while a leopard print top in dark brown and black looks fun yet understated. You don’t have to look boring and drab, but your look should be on the simple side.
Fourth: Am I going to look pale and horrible on camera?
For those of us not blessed with a year-round golden tan, we often need a little help to look our best. Though I don’t usually say this, in the case of television, more is more. Liberally apply foundation and make sure it is even and well-blended. Don’t be stingy with concealer, either: any blemishes or under eye circles will appear ten times worse under the harsh lights on set. You might want to use a little contouring as well to make it look like you’ve seen the sun lately: use bronzer to define your cheekbones and a tiny bit of blush to brighten up the apples of your cheeks. And lightly brush bronzer on the places on your face the light naturally touches — forehead, bridge of the nose and chin — because they’ll look pale and shiny under the bright lights.
I’m a 20-year-old guy moving to Texas in a few weeks for a summer job. The dress code is casual but I have to look nice. How can I dress well without A) looking way too preppy so that I stand out as a Yankee, and B) dying in the 100 degree heat?
While I can’t guarantee those Texans won’t immediately detect your Western New York allegiance — try and tell me you don’t have the famous Buffalo accent — I can guarantee that you’ll be well-dressed. Although it’s a lot harder for guys to beat the heat, considering that tank tops and short shorts are off-limits, you can be cool and workplace-ready all at the same time.
If you’re living that far south, you really have to learn to appreciate shorts. And no, I’m not talking about cargo shorts. Those atrocities should be banned along with the aforementioned male tank top or mid-calf black athletic socks, unless of course you’re a binge-drinking, lacrosse-playing fraternity pledge. And trust me, I’ve watched enough “Friday Night Lights” episodes to know that that guy won’t make friends in Texas. So look for shorts that are well-tailored, hit right above the knee and don’t have 20 pockets for carrying your drug paraphernalia and extra lacrosse balls.
Just because I’m allowing you to wear shorts, however, does not mean that the rest of your outfit can consist of your favorite hoodie and a pair of basketball sneakers. Pair your tailored shorts with a nice polo shirt or button-down with the sleeves rolled up. If you’re trying to avoid looking like a typical Northeasterner, don’t wear pastel shades or any patterns that include tiny whales, polo players, tennis racquets or argyle. Nor should you for a second think that tying a sweater around your shoulders or wearing a sweater vest is acceptable in the Lone Star state. Some cowboy catches you in that and you’re in for a Texas-style beating.
As for your footwear, stick with boat shoes or loafers. Sneakers are never acceptable in the workplace and, even though cowboy boots are the norm down there, you’ll probably get made fun of if you try to pull that look off. While your yacht-ready footwear will instantly give it away that you’re as Yankee as they come, there isn’t really a fashion-forward alternative — you’ll just have to stick it out through the taunts. But you might want to have your dueling pistols ready, just in case.
Photo courtesy of Flickr / rabbleradio.