Sunday, November 19, 2006

What to Wear for the Family Portrait

Dear SheShe,
I'm heading home for Thanksgiving, but at my house, there's a price to be paid for turkey and pie. My parents love to make us all pose for a family portrait, and this year, they've gone all out and made an appointment with a local photo studio. I guess it's good that my dad is finally going to replace the fifteen year old photo of me in glasses and braces, but what should I wear this year to make sure this new version doesn't make me cringe, too?! I think we're going for a sort of business casual or slightly more relaxed feel, but the only guidance I got from my parents was "no jeans!" I'd love your advice on what is appropriate for this one. Thanks! Natalie

Aren't families just fabulous? At least your mom doesn't make you all dress alike! I have three family portraits on my mantle: the entire clan dressed in khaki trousers and chambray shirts. Next year, the entire crew dressed in khaki trousers and snowflake sweaters. Last year we were all wearing khaki trousers and polo shirts. We looked like a Home Depot ad.

A few tips to remember (which you may want to pass on to the other members of your family) when having a family portrait taken: try to keep everyone within the same basic color family, but not dressed identically (that's so 1990!) As a general rule, your clothing should be either very light or very dark, depending on the backdrop, so everyone will stand out. Solid colors only - patterns, stripes and busy colors do not reproduce well on film and are very distracting in the portrait itself. And stay away from trendy fashions, anything too tight, too short, too bare or sleeveless. Dress in something that makes you feel comfortable, reflects your own sense of style and makes you feel most like yourself.

I would suggest the timeless look of a soft cashmere sweater paired with classic wool trousers. Elegance, without being too formal. A wrap front or side tie sweater is very flattering. Another option would be a flattering blouse paired with gabardine trousers, or perhaps a long skirt. Depending upon the size of your group, you may find yourself sitting on the ground or perched on the arm of a chair, so stay away from short skirts.

One of my favorite looks (and this is what we are going with in our family this year) is a classic black and white photo. Everyone can wear dark colored tops (not necessarily black, because the photo processing will give you varying shades of charcoal and grey) with light colored skirts and trousers and the final products is classic and timeless.


Anonymous said...

I had this same kind of issue, and I've been finding really lovely classic-but-not-too-formal-but-still-stylish stuff from Satine. Their shop is in LA but you can order from the website ( have all sorts of high-end designers that I have a hard time tracking down elsewhere. Lifesaver for all the holiday party outfits I'm starting to need!

Anonymous said...

I am eternally sick to death of the matchy matchy holiday outfits that people wear in family portraits. If I get one more card with the entire family in Santa sweaters or elf shoes I think I will hurl! Keep it classy people - your children will never forgive you if they have to see themselves dressed like morons for all future generations to laugh at!