Wednesday, May 16, 2012

In Which Gail Carriger Discusses How to Choose an Outfit for Film or TV

So, Fashionable Reader, I've done a couple of interviews on youtube and the like, most of which were sprouted upon me without prior preparation. However, this Friday I have an interview for a Steampunk documentary project and I have had actual time to think about it.

Of course, I didn't until this evening, but there you have it. Life of a writer, living on the edge!

Being an academic I went and found various articles on What To Wear On TV.

After the usual blether about making certain you think about your outfit (obviously, or why would I be reading an article on the subject?) and that looking good gives you confidence (really, you don't say?) and that so many people don't think about this before a TV appearance (tell me about it, daytime talk shows), they got on to some concrete advice.

Distilled down it was basically:

Bad for TV

  • wild colors
  • distracting clothing or jewelry
  • white clothes (too bright)
  • dark colors like black and navy (becomes amorphous blob)
  • red (camera issues) *insert Gail's scream of horror here, I do love me my red
  • fine patterns like Herringbone, pin stripes, or check (causes moirĂ©)
  • large patterns or geometric shapes (too distracting)
  • shiny jewelry
  • jangly jewelry
  • eyeglasses (if you, like me, must wear them, avoid shiny frames, then tip slightly up off your ears to angle lenses down to reduce glare from lights)
  • vivid red lipstick or gloss *insert Gail's second scream of horror here
Which basically cuts out most of my wardrobe:

 All black (one of many), check (one of several), pinstripe and cream

 Bright color and bold pattern, small pattern and navy, red

 Bright color and graphic pattern, bold pattern and navy, bold plaid

See Gail make so many of these mistakes. Sigh.

Good for TV

  • solids
  • pastels
  • royal blue (flattering to most skin tones)
  • something comfortable when sitting or standing
  • makeup (apply to all exposed body parts: backs of hands, arms, neck, decolletage)
Which left me with the following:

My old favorite the pea green needs repairs and may be a bit to shiny for TV, though I like the neckline and the dress makes me look slim. The peach is a good choice, but I'm afraid the color might read too close to my skin tone, although I love the odd neckline. Also it does wrinkle badly if I go from standing to sitting so it's probably out.

So then I considered skirt and top options.

Teal is nice, but this might be too bright, and I don't know about knitwear, it can appear quite stretched over the rack. The sailor top has interest around the neckline but it is a bit boobalicious and when the AB took a flash photo of it, it was very very shinny.

There's this nice heathered purple sweater, although I suppose it might cause the screen wiggle issue because it is almost a pattern, and it is a bit thick. It's kind of a moot point anyway, as the only skirt I have that would work with any of the tops is tweed and it does add a little bulk.  

So what am I left with?

The teal jersey ticks all the boxes: it's a solid color, good on my skin, it has a little bow at the neck, it doesn't wrinkle when going from sitting to standing, it has sleeves. It is a little tight in the chest, very body conscious and not the most vintage of my dresses. I could add a belt to help hide the tummy?

The royal blue is, well, royal blue, which they say is the best color choice. It does have a pattern, but the fit is great and I like the cut slightly more than the teal. But it shows my arms, which I'm a bit self conscious about.

How about you guys, which one do you think is better?

And then what if it's quite cold? Most of my jackets and cover ups are black or cream.

I'm thinking simple cream accessories with either one, but are pearls too shiny?

I took a poke about the web to see how the celebrities did it. You better believe I'm going to start looking to see who obeys the rules. Frankly, they are all over the place. But when you're a size 2, do you really need to obey such rules?

Here are a few I found who were following instructions, but they were the exception.

Mostly people just seem to wear black. To hell with looking like a blob, at least I'm a skinny blob! Or they just choose something they like regardless.

And here she is breaking them all.

Argh, I just don't know what to do.

My problem is I think too much about clothing. Here's another article on how to dress before a large crowd and at a distance.

Final TV Checklist

  • Change of dress in case director doesn't like first choice
  • Cell phone off
  • Touch up powder and lipstick
  • Gestures should be smaller
  • Take digital photos sitting and standing to make sure looks OK
  • Find out the background color of the set if possible (my choice, I know it)
  • Ask the producer for wardrobe color suggestions (he didn't have any)
  • Tissues to dab perspiration
 Retro Rack is also on facebook where I post additional images and fashion thoughts.


  1. I like the blue from what you were left with. You have nice shoulders so just keep from squishing your arms to your side like I have to and it will be grand!

  2. My totally uniformed and probably not trustworthy opinion. The teal. Maybe it's the pose, the waist, or the pattern, but the royal blue, um - well, to me seems to make the rack look more - pronounced. At least that's how it seems to me. But you know I have zero fashion sense.

    Maybe a nice foundation garment under the teal to smooth things out rather than a belt. And if you have them some pearls of shades other than white, like those greenish-grey ones. I was thinking a really light pink, the kind that are almost white but have enough of a pink tinge to confuse the issue of the color - but I'm not sure if those would go with teal.

    I don't know how you feel about headbands, I'm a fan of them myself. I could see you wearing something like this with that dress.

  3. Aw, none of those rules, except possibly the white, really apply these days with HD TV. Of course, if you want to look nice on none-HD TVs as well then they're worthy of consideration. Check out what they wear on the morning news magazine shows (Today, GMA, etc.) for some good guidelines. But talk shows with random guests? (Or the random guests on the morning shows?) Fugetaboutit!

  4. I vote for the teal- it's got a great neckline, and perhaps an overall smoothing foundation garment might minimize the rack just a little.

    You have fab accessories, but fewer than usual will probably be best for tv. Broach and earrings, but not broach, earrings, necklaece, pen necklace... :)

    Cream or gold accessories sound like they would work well.

  5. Okay, one more suggestion. The most flattering outfit in all your posted photos is the plaid suit, hands down. It's a good color for TV, it floats over the rack, and it has that serious writerly feel that you can punch up a bit with assessories, as you see fit. I also like the green and blue print dress because it's so perfectly summery. Don't do the teal -- too formfitting for TV, so you may regret it. Don't do the blue if you're worried about your arms. (I think your arms are just fine, but don't do anything you might regret later. TV is like wedding photos -- it lives with you always.)

    (The above links may not link because apparently I have no idea how to manage links in comments. Who has the magic code...?)

  6. Don't you think the check will cause moiré and and green and blue is too bright?

    1. Moire? On non-HD TV, possibly. They're wearing all sorts of plaids and checks on TV these days because so many people now have at least 720p, so it's rapidly becoming a non-issue. Ditto on the green and blue. TV lights are so bright they tend to wash out color, so if you're it wearing indoors it strikes me as less of an issue. You can see lots of brights on TV these days.

      On black -- you'll look a bit blobby(but slim, of course) even in 1080p, but you still see a lot of it. I think the question, really, is what is the recording resolution?

      On another note, there was a summery dress you wore two years ago to the Hugos in Australia, with a totally cute purse that I got a (really bad) photo of. I only vaguely remember the dress, but I distinctly remember thinking how pretty you looked in it, and it made an impression because there was buzz about you at the convention. Maybe it had a fullish skirt...?

  7. The issue with reds is that 'true' reds appear much more orange on TV, if you have any deep, burgundy reds then they can still work. Plain cream also tends to read as off-white on set so it's a possibility, whereas true-white will glare - but I would avoid black because 'interview' makes me think plain, dark, desaturated background, which a black jacket would just melt into. I would avoid anything that 'changes' colour in different lights, as you never know which part of the colour the camera will pick up (teal and peach are sadly among the worst offenders!)

    Have you thought of testing your checks and plaids to see if they're going to look strange? If you have an old camera phone or camera that does low-resolution photos, take some pictures from a variety of distances (you don't know how close they'll want the cameras to be) and see what happens to the pattern. You can also try uploading the photo to your computer and zooming out to see if the pattern turns into weird ripples. The moire effect is usually from high-contrast small patterns i.e. black and white check or herringbone

    You can always check with the director to see if they will do a quick camera test (not a problem with digital, if they're using film then it might not be possible) first so you can see if you're happy with how you look - if they have a lighting rig, they may be able to diffuse the lighting a little more if there's any problems with shine off your clothes.

    Although I have to say if I was to make one choice, it would be the pea-green! It's the kind of thing the very trendy news reporters in the UK would pick - a single bright, saturated colour in a large block, with fairly neutral accessories. I'm so used to seeing reporters in their shocking pink, bright green and banana yellow raincoats!

    Oh, and don't wear a hat or large hair ornaments - I would say any hair ornaments at all - they cast shadows on your face, and pick up glare from the lights because they're the first thing it hits :)

  8. Blue yes, pearls yes, cream shawl or bitty shoulder jacket perhaps? Your character is a big, some extra shine makes sense- Marilyn Monroe certainly didn't obey these rules with white and pearls. If hat then just a bitty one- the 20's one is too distracting I think. Teal could work too, but yes, some sort of belt thing.

  9. I would also go for the pea green if you can repair it in time. From experience, I think that's going to show up best on film. It looks like it has a bit of texture to it, which will offset the shine, unless I'm completely mistaken. My second choice would be the teal. The pattern on the royal blue is going to be a bit too distracting, I think.

  10. After reading all the above I still vote for the plaid or the summery green and blue. However, if you're eliminating those then perhaps the pea green suggestion is the best. It's a pretty dress, one of your faves, and shine may be easily dealth with, as Ash notes.

    Gee, thanks, Gail, this is fun! And good luck with the interview -- I bet it's going to terrific!

  11. You look lovely in both!! But since you asked us- my preference is the teal jersey, there is just something about it that looks so PERFECT on you. =)

    And although your arms are completely fine and you have NO reason to be self-conscious, I can relate as my arms are my "issue" area on my body as well. :/ Anyway... I know from experience that being uncomfortable *at all* in something, will translate on camera to awkward movements and posture (i.e. it will be obvious that you are self-conscious/uncomfortable). Wear something that you are comfortable in and that makes you feel 100% fabulous. :-)

    Good luck, and have fun!!

  12. On glasses on TV, if you have an anti-glare coating they won't reflect the lights much. And as someone who used to intern as a grip for someone who shot a lot of interviews, we could usually find one sweet spot to put the key light where there was minimal glare. Also clean your glasses just before you go on. Smudges on your lenses can show up and look odd.

    I think the teal will film the nicest myself. And pearls film really nicely. The problem is more from larger faceted gems (which can catch and reflect light oddly) and large polished metal surfaces.

  13. I'd say to go with the royal blue -- with a little jacket (in cream or black if that's what you have, bugger the rules). The cut and color are lovely on you, and jacket = arm worries sorted.

    Reasoning: The cut of the pea green is also fab, but the color is just a twinge on the side of outrageous. (If you're going for slightly outrageous, the pea green might be the winner.) I'd be self-conscious in anything as form-fitting as the teal myself, though I do love that bow.

  14. First of all, you've got a touch of something extra in your tea today if you think all of these rules are steadfast and absolute. Have fun, enjoy your outfits and let the director worry about how to film what you're wearing.

    second, since it clearly means so much to you, there is no other choice but the Royal blue. The teal is probably pretty in person, but on TV it will show EVERYTHING. go with a stiffer fabric and, if you must, wear a little cardigan over the blue. Good luck :)

  15. Dear Lady, you have lovely arms...that Royal Blue will looks amazing as will you:)



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