How to dress for a television interview

People are always overly worried about what to wear if they are to be interviewed on television so here are a few simple guidelines.

Don’t let the image distract

The overarching principle is don’t let your image distract from your message. We train business people to do media interviews so in our world punk hairstyles, piercings, revealing clothes or garish colours would only get in the way of a message. The audience would be commenting or thinking about the image rather than engaging with the argument.

Guidelines for men

– Typically male interviewees wear a suit.

– Some prefer a shirt and tie with no jacket, some a jacket and shirt with no tie. Most normal is jacket and tie.  Which you chose will depend on the type of organisation you represent.

– Wearing a tie will give the studio engineers somewhere easy to attach a clip-mic.

Loose tie

A loose tie can be distracting and look unprofessional

– If you wear a tie, ensure it is not too garish and that the knot is all the way to the top. Getting either of these wrong will be distracting.

– If you are wearing a jacket pull it down at the back or sit on the tails to ensure it does not bunch around your neck.

– Just in case you are on a soft, low seat, avoid brightly coloured or distracting socks and ensure they are long enough to cover your legs if you sit low. Four inches of hairy leg between sock and trouser is again distracting!

Check your hair

– Check your hair before you go on camera; in particular ensure it is not sticking up at the back. This is easily missed when you look in a mirror.

– Facial hair needs to be neatly trimmed.

– In the old days shirts or tops that were black or white were best avoided. With modern cameras and studio lighting this is not really an issue but it is generally considered that pale blue or pink shirts are the most flattering colours.

– Do not wear high contrast checks. These are likely to make the picture ‘strobe’. You will look as if you have been standing in a nuclear bunker.

news anchors wear suits on camera

Jorge Ramos WNJU/47 illustrates a good on camera look

– Don’t turn down make-up, particularly if you have a receding hairline as the light will bounce of the pate unless it’s powdered.

– If you normally wear glasses, wear them on TV. If you leave them off you may squint, feel disorientated or there may be a mark on your nose where they normally sit.


Guidelines for women

– Most professional women in Europe will wear a skirt, pant or a dress suit on television. Jackets are almost essential, again providing an easy place to clip a microphone.  In the US and Asia jackets are less de rigueur and sleeveless or short sleeve tops are more common.

– T-shirt tops rather than collared shirts are usually better, keeping the image simple and clean at the neckline. A jacket designed to be worn done-up without a blouse or top is fine.

– Scarves tend to look fussy.

– Limit the jewellery and in particular don’t wear dangly earrings. The audience will be watching them move as you talk.

– Anything too revealing will be distracting, for obvious reasons.

Green screen example

Avoid ‘green-screen’ green as it may show projected images.

– Again the rules on colour mostly no longer apply. However, there is a particular green-screen colour that might pick up projected video and should be avoided. For an example of what happens when a news anchor forgot this rule watch the video below. The problem is only visible on some shots and not others.

– Hair needs to be tidy and off the face, in particular you do not want your hair flopping in front of your eyes while your talking. Constant movement tucking hair behind the ear etc is again distracting.

– Most women would avoid overly short skirts in a studio, just in case you end up on a soft low seat. You don’t want to be worrying about how much leg you are showing.

Jackets help avoid mic embarrassment

– Without a jacket, shift dresses are particularly difficult to mic. Most professionals don’t care that an engineer will need to watch them pass the wire up from the hem to the neck of a dress, but visiting interviewees find it intensely embarrassing. Not a good way to start an interview.

– Wear make-up. Even if you don’t normally wear make-up our advice is make an exception for a TV interview. Foundation, and eye make-up are the most important and without them you will look as if you have had a rough weekend!

– As with the men, if you normally wear glasses, wear them on TV. If you leave them off you may squint, feel disorientated or there may be a mark on your nose where they normally sit.

Last minute checks

Check make-up hair, tie knot etc just before you go in front of a camera and then forget about the image and concentrate on a performance.

Most importantly

While it’s sensible not to let your image distract from your message, we at The Media Coach think good credible messages are the key to a good interview of any sort. Spend five minutes thinking about what you will wear and a couple of hours on working out what you want to say and how to say it.

Lindsay Williams

About Lindsay Williams

Prior to founding her communications training agency, The Media Coach, Lindsay Williams worked as a journalist from 1983. She specialised in financial and business journalism since 1991. After thirteen years in the BBC with local radio, regional television, Radio 4 and Radio 5 Live, she moved to Reuters Financial Television as Deputy Programme Editor. Working freelance from 1998, she was contracted in a variety of roles including as an executive producer for Bloomberg television delivering half hour profiles of Chief Executives, as a producer with Sky Business Unit and at CNBC. She has had articles published in Sunday Business, The Business, The Times and in specialist magazines such as Companies & Finance and Impact. For the majority of her journalism career she specialised in reporting business and finance. Lindsay Williams hosts a range of bespoke communication skills courses for The Media Coach which include Media Training, Presentation Training, Crisis Media Training and Message Building.

View All Posts
0 replies
  1. Robert Matthews says:

    The two guys pitching for money for their Cocoa Mountain chocolate business on Dragons’ Den this Sunday broke a fair few of these rules.

    It sure didn’t help their case (and they came away empty handed)

  2. David Nelson says:

    In particular, houndstooth checks seem to have a complete certainty of causing strobing. And, I would also caution against long necklaces which can potentially knock clip on mics. Finally, in this global world, be very conscious of cultural sensibilities. For example a one to one interview with both parties sitting on chairs will reveal the whole person at some stage. In this scenario, female interviewees should take care over hemlines as well as neck lines if there is going to be a Middle Eastern audience.
    David Nelson recently retired as a global video webcast producer for EY, and a 27 year career in TV news.


Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *