Congratulations, you’ve scheduled your portrait sitting! Or perhaps you’re still thinking about having your portrait created but you’re not sure what you’d wear or if you have the right clothes. Read on and learn everything you need to know about putting together your portrait session wardrobe.

First, think about why you’ve chosen now for your portraits. Are you approaching a milestone birthday? Have you recently achieved a goal or had a life change? There are lots of reasons to book a session, including for no reason at all. But understanding your own motivations might help you pick our your session wardrobe. For example, if you’re having a portrait done because you’re turning 40, you might want your portrait to reflect both what you’ve accomplished/ the person you have become as well as what’s ahead of you.

Portrait of Heather Fleing by Louisville Portrait Photographer Ben Marcum

How do you want your portrait to look? When you see it hanging on the wall or in your folio book, what do you want to see? Do you want to see yourself dressed in an important or meaningful outfit? Or wearing something dramatic and show-stopping? Understanding what you want to see every time you look at your portrait is the key to picking the right clothes.

Here are some general clothing ideas. There are many more looks that you may love which y0u and I can chat about when planning your sitting :

Formal wear – let’s face it, if you’re going to sit for a portrait, you might as well consider doing it in an evening gown. Lots of people wish they had more reasons to get dressed up, your portrait session is the perfect opportunity.

A killer suit – if a flowing gown isn’t your thing or isn’t the vibe you want for your session, consider an impeccably tailored pantsuit. Razor-sharp lines, clean hair and makeup, and statement accessories make this a top-notch choice.

A vintage gown – maybe you want to rock a little vintage glam or you’ve got a dress that belonged to your mom or grandma back in the day. Going vintage can be just the ticket for a distinctive and meaningful look.

Your wedding dress – this doesn’t just have to be for a bridal or anniversary portrait, either

A bridesmaid dress – despite the reputation bridesmaids dresses have for being endured rather than loved, you might nevertheless have one you adore. If you don’t, you might be pleasantly surprised by how many of them you’ll find to your taste. These gowns are often dramatic and wonderful and often resell cheaply because they don’t have a ton of re-wearability

Your old prom dress or other formal dress – Yes, your prom might have been a while ago or maybe the style wasn’t didn’t turn out to be classic. But that’s not always the case. If you have a gown hanging in your closet from some special event, get it out and try it on. Your portrait session might be the perfect reason to bring it back again.


Fit is important – while some on-set adjustments can compensate for an -ill-fitting outfit, the better your clothes fit, the better they’ll look on camera and the better you’ll feel wearing them. Consider taking your wardrobe to a tailor or someone who does alterations. A few small adjustments can make a huge difference in how a garment behaves.

Silhouette matters – Your outfit is going to be captured motionless in a single, still moment. You’ll want to wear something that has a definite shape even when you’re sitting or standing still. Very loose, flowing garments might be lovely in motion but they often don’t look their best in a single shot. Likewise, boxy garments aren’t always super-flattering on camera. Consider items that have some support and structure, or wear undergarments (like a petticoat!) that give them more definition.

Really busy patterns or highly embellished fabrics can become a distraction – it’s ok to bring items with some life to them, but consider pairing them with solid colors or plain textures. For example, pair a vivid floral print ball gown skirt with a solid colored top or a dramatically patterned scarf with a solid colored dress.

Bring out your accessories – a statement necklace or earrings or a pair of opera gloves can take a dress from nice to amazing. While you don’t want to look at your portraits and see a stranger, you might find that you want your portrait to have a bit more pizazz than you might wear for an ordinary night out. If you bring along options, you can always add or subtract them

When you’re trying to decide on your session wardrobe, it can be really helpful to try everything on and take some mirror selfies. That will give you an idea of how things will look on camera and can help you narrow things down.


Check out eBay, thread up, and Poshmark or visit your local consignment shops.

Your friend/sister/mom’s closets – If nothing in your own wardrobe seems right, check in with your family and friends, especially if you know you’re similar sizes.

Rent the Runway lets you get the experience of a designer gown without the designer price tag


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