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Dressing for TV

by Barrie Zwicker

The sound bite version:

Choose what you feel really comfortable in. Avoid distractions. Ask.

The Russian novel version:

Do you have an outfit that draws compliments? Even one article of clothing - sweater, jacket, blouse, vest, tie, scarf - that causes people to say "I like your vest" or ask "Where did you get that?" That's probably what you should wear on TV.

You'll be more confident and relaxed. More "you." Your clothing has been compliment-tested for colour co-ordination with your complexion, for fit, for all sorts of other factors that image consultants charge big bucks to advise upon.

Good, additionally, are solid colours, soft patterns. Makeup for women that complements your clothing. Makeup for men that prevents shiny nose syndrome, lessens circles under eyes and noticeable blemishes.

This can still leave choices. Of your "you" clothing," casual or formal? Work or play? To help narrow down, try to watch the program in advance. And rule out distractions, which include:

  1. White, except in very small patches. White "flares."
  2. Small checks, fine lines, hound's tooth, light stripes, geometric designs, chevron tweeds. They "jump," "buzz" and "vibrate" in the camera's eye. Distracting.
  3. Bright colours make you look too bright.
  4. Colours similair to your skin tone will wash you out.
  5. Anything that glints, shines, reflects. This includes jewelry with shiny surfaces, non-glare-resistant eyeglasses, metal eyeglass frames, glossy lipstick. Distracting.
  6. Anything that makes the slightest noise, such as beads (which can click), other jewelry (which can clink). I once drew a sound person's caution by rubbing my chin. It made a whisker noise.
  7. Anything that moves, such as pendants, large ear-rings. Distracting.
  8. Message buttons. Even poppies on Remembrance Day raise an issue, visually.
  9. Clothing that makes you stand out in the wrong way. Even if you're a bank manager you may regret dressing in a double breasted suit and button down tie on a panel with farmers in plaid shirts and overalls.

The single most important rule: Ask! Programs often have special requirements or suggestions. Things will tend to go smoother if you can accommodate these. For instance, on Vision TV'sdaily human affairs program "Skylight," black outfits are "out." The reason is that Skylight's studio background is deliberately black. The head of a person dressed all in black would seem suspended in space.

If you're going to be on TV with some regularity, consider adopting a "trade mark." Pierre Berton's bow tie may be Canada's best-known example.

TV is impressionistic. People will tell you they "saw you on TV." They won't usually remember what you said. They'll be left with an impression. So attention to clothing, grooming and deportment is essential.

Of course, you might flout all the rules, yet dress perfectly. If your message button is central to why you're going on TV, it may be an excellent idea. Put on that clown suit and go to the funeral directors' conference. People will be sure to tell you they "saw you on TV." They might even remember what you said.

Dressing for TV, the Wallet Version

Distractions: Avoid! White. Glint. Clicks, clinks. Dangly jewelry.         F
R emember your audience. Remember your cause or organization.      O
E xtremes in looks will seldom help your cause or organization.            R
S elect what makes you feel good, what you're really comfortable in.    T
S elect what has drawn compliments: Outfit. Or vest, blouse, scarf, tie. V

No tiny checks, hound's tooth, fine lines, lip gloss, big earrings. Try to avoid:
Metal framed glasses, dark-tinted lenses. Above all, ask beforehand!

Barrie Zwicker is Publisher Emeritus of Sources. He's ticked off that the dressy vests he has long favoured have become as common as sound bites.