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Wardrobe Style Guide

Updated: May 4, 2023

Wardrobe Style Guide for Photo Shoots

Desireable wardrobe color combinations for photo shoots with Artistry by Jennifer Lee Johnson, hairstylist, makeup artist and photographer in Newport RI
Imagine a bucket of gray paint mixed in with the colors

Picking out what wardrobe to wear at a photoshoot can seem daunting.Usually you will have something at home that can be used. If you don't have something at home, a quick stop to a store that has current fashions might be in order. Wardrobe does not need to be "name-brand" or have a high fashion label. A picture will not show the texture or feel of the fabric so it's not important that it be expensive. Find a store that has current trends for lower cost. Examples of stores are Zara, H&M, Target, Old Navy, Macy's, Forever 21, etc. Check out resale if you're in the mood for a treasure hunt.

Where do I start?

  • Visualize the end product. Think of the images that inspire you. What is your vision?

What colors do I wear?

  • Avoid neon colors near the face (this can cause a bright color cast on the skin).

  • Avoid primary colors. Choose colors with a muted tone. Imagine throwing a gallon of grey paint into a color.

  • Avoid solid white. A bright white will blow out the photograph and might make the images difficult to edit.

  • Avoid solid black. The color black will cause the subject matter to recede and not pop from the background.

  • Do not wear the same color head to toe.

  • Consider the time of the year. Don’t wear fall colors in front of a bright pink flower field. For inspiration, Google “What are the colors of this year’s season?”

  • Consider the location. Try to coordinate, do not match. For editorial consider dressing "opposite" to the setting. ie. formal wear in an abandoned warehouse.

  • i.e.: Don’t wear a bright green t-shirt when the shoot is planned for a location in a field.

    • i.e.: Consider pastels over head-to-toe taupe on a sandy beach.

What are the rules for patterns and pattern combinations?

  • Rules? Nope! Use your best judgment! If it doesn’t work, try something else. Some of the best shots combine contrasting elements: hard and soft, bright and pastel, dark and light. Mix floral patterns with stripes, polka dots or even plaid. The possibilities are endless.

  • Keep in mind that your wardrobe needs to be visually appealing.

  • Try to coordinate, do not match.

What do you recommend for men?

  • Keep the wardrobe clean and simple.

  • Look at fashion magazines and catalogs for inspiration. Look at periods of history for inspiration. For example, a white tank with suspenders, jeans, and a newsboy cap are definitely a look. Consider dressing up more than down. Think suits, vests, and layers.

  • Layer up. For example, pair a knit cap with an undershirt and a button-down top, jeans, and a belt.

  • A contrast always looks beautiful.

    • If one person is in a dress or something that is "busy" or more extravagant, the other should be in a clean and pressed button-down shirt and suit pants. Bring a suit coat and leave it unbuttoned.

  • Avoid animated t-shirts or graphics.

What do you recommend for women?

  • Clean lines. Well cut garments.

  • Layers! Accessories!

  • Avoid: Leggings

Do I need to accessorize? What about jewelry? What about props?

  • Less is more. Keep it simple. Don’t wear too much jewelry.

  • Don't bring props unless it's something simple that can be interacted with while posing.

    • i.e.: coffee cups, flower, book, brimmed hat, etc.

  • Take off your smartwatch. Leave the phone in your car.

What if I don’t have a proper wardrobe?

  • Go shopping! You can return what you don't use or like. Even if you wear it in photos. Note: You cannot return shoes that have been worn. However, some wardrobe stylists get around this by putting painters tape on the bottoms of the shoe... especially if shooting in a clean studio.

  • If it’s down to the wire, simply bring several options to the shoot. The photographer will make suggestions. Be sure to press and hang your options.


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