The Do's and Don't s of what clothing to wear at your portrait session

Here is an example of what not to wear

Here is an example of what not to wear

I think not knowing what to wear to a portrait session is worse than being told what to wear. Granted these are just suggestions (forgive this style if it is a bit harsh?), but for those that want answers in the most direct way, I've included them in the style that I learned growing up as a kid.

In General:

DO WEAR solid, medium-to-dark, earth-tone colors for a timeless portrait that will not be dated by clothing. Big stripes and bold patterns are too distracting. Subtle, subdued patterns, plaids and flannels are fine.

Don't wear white, yellow, red, pink, orange, or bright colors. You face should be brighter than any of your clothing.
  • Keep color schemes to two in either blues, greens, browns, or dark khaki.
  • Try to wear clothing that is natural and comfortable for you. Dress the way you live.
  • Clothing should blend together. To test color harmony, lay all clothing together in the room where you will hang the wall portrait.
  • Full, long skirts are easier to pose than short or tight skirts. Wear "suntan" or dark stockings with dresses or skirts.
  • No sleeveless tops, unless your arms are tanned and thin.
  • Avoid contrasts such as a light shirt or dark pants, or dark shirt and light pants, or one person in dark colors another in light colors.
  • Wear dark shoes . . . not white tennis shoes, nor white socks.
  • Glasses . . . Try to borrow rims without lenses from your optical store.  Do not wear glasses that darken outdoors. Otherwise eyeglass glare will have to be retouched out at an added expense.
  • Make-up . . . About 20% of facial color "washes out" in portraiture, so wear make-up for "night-time" intensity.

In Your Home:

DO coordinate with the color and style (casual or formal) of your home decor, with everyone in similar (but not identical) colors.

Use Earth tone colors to better match the environment

Use Earth tone colors to better match the environment


DO WEAR casual, loose fitting clothing such as sweaters, sport shirts, slacks, jeans, and full skirts. Suits and ties and inappropriate outside. Match the surroundings with solid, medium-to-dark green, teal, blue, or brown (earth tones). Avoid white, red, pink, fuchsia, peach, orange, and yellow. For beach, white, tan, or light blue are best. Not that there are too many beaches in the Greater Cincinnati Area (joke!).

Girls' clothing suggestions

DO WEAR... Clothing that flatters your figure. Don't wear clothing that draws attention to parts of your figure that you're not proud of. The latest styles may not be best for your portraits.

Great Ideas . . . jackets; coats; hats; necklaces; bracelets; big earrings; scarves; swimsuits; sports uniform or your boyfriends.

DON'T WEAR . . . Sleeveless or spaghetti straps unless your arms are tanned and very thin; white jeans or tight skirts (adds weight to thighs); contrasts like a light top and a dark skirt, or a white top under a sweater.

Guys' clothing suggestions

DO WEAR . .. Solid, medium-toned sweaters; plain t-shirts; long-sleeved dark shirts; flannel or small print shirts; muscle shirts or "beaters"; jeans; leather or denim jacket;  sport coats; sports uniforms; letter jacket; hats.

Don't wear . . . White undershirts under a dark shirt or sweater; anything with big stripes.

In my family, my Mom always dressed me in green! To this day I can hardly wear it! Still I'm grateful for the direction my parents gave me making decisions much easier for me because I got my fair share of do's and don't s!!!