What to Wear for Portraits

by Mimi Abney ; Updated September 28, 2017

You want to immortalize your beautiful likeness--or your family's--in a portrait. The ultimate goal is to look fashionable and timeless in the photograph, but you don’t know what colors and fabrics work best. If you're clueless about what to wear for a special portrait, learn a few key fashion pointers before you strike a pose.

Wear monochromatic colors. Clothing with bold stripes and colorful prints are distracting. Choose one solid hue that complements your eye color. Dark colored clothing works well because it has a slimming effect in photographs .Avoid very light colors as they don't photograph well.

Wear classic styles to prevent the photograph from looking outdated later. A simple sheath dress for women or a blue or gray suit for men are recommended fashion choices. Or ask the photographer to recommend clothing options that will blend best with the portrait setting.

Keep your makeup and hairstyle simple. Outlandish hairdos and extreme makeup choices look unnatural. Makeup is actually exaggerated in portraits by the harsh lighting. Subtle tones and hair combed away from the face allow your natural beauty to shine through.

Wear V-necks. Bulky turtlenecks, thick scarves and sweaters can add additional pounds to your appearance. V-necks and open collars elongate the neck and body and flatter your face. Likewise, choose sleek, close-fitting clothes over baggy.

Dress your family members in complementary colors. When sitting for a family portrait, apply the monochromatic rule discussed in Step 1. Or use a color palate that has variations of one color theme. A family portrait should focus on your faces; clothing options are secondary elements when considering the overall composition of the photograph.


  • Do not have your hair cut the day of a portrait. Schedule hair appointments at least a week in advance to create a more natural look in the portrait. Cover your arms with long sleeves or a jacket--bare arms are a distraction in a portrait because it draws the eye away from the face. Keep jewelry simple.

About the Author

Mimi Abney is a lifestyle writer specializing in online content for women. Her work has appeared in NewsOK.com and "Keepsake Magazine," among other publications. With over 15 years of writing and editing experience for the web and print, Abney is also a contributor to online health, beauty and fashion publications. She holds a Bachelor of Science in biology from Spelman College.