In this blog, you will:
|| Define each element of the Style Triangle: color, fit, fabric.
|| Understand how each element functions individually and as a whole.
|| Apply each element in the creation of your outfit.
How To Style Yourself for your Portrait Session
Illustration by Darya Kozachuk
Trust me, the task of styling feels more daunting than it actually is.
Whether styling for one or two, let's walk through building your outfits for your professional photoshoot.
Let's start by looking at...
The Style Triangle!
To start creating an outfit, we need to consider:
Click each term to learn about its importance in the "Style Triangle."
Click HERE to start planning your outfits.
Style Triangle Elements, Explained
'Color' is a two-pronged category, referring to:
a. the color of the clothing relative to your skin tone and
b. the color of the environment around you in the photo.
The environment and lighting color will be handled by your photographer, though for your knowledge, the time of day you choose to shoot and weather effects both.
To keep matters simple, let's focus on “the color of the clothing relative to your skin tone.”
Why Does Outfit Color Matter?
Of the three elements, color ranks highest in importance. Why?
Color holds more visual weight in an image than the texture or style of a garment. Colors that work well with your skin tone create a harmonious image, like these:
If you need help figuring out where to start with color, read about or take a skin tone color quiz. Online color matching is not an exact science, so if you want a true color-matching experience, I recommend finding a Color Analyst.
At a minimum, discovering whether you’re cool or warm-toned can profoundly help to inform your color choices. To discover your undertone, Cosmopolitan lists seven questions and quick tests to help direct your skin tone exploration.
My favorite tool to use when deciding on colors to wear is the Adobe Color Wheel.
Once on the site,
Navigate to the Split Complimentary setting - it will look like a "Y" formation.
Click on the color at the end of the "Y" shape.
Select the color sample dropper and sample a color from a photo where you are in good light.
The wheel should generate a new selection of colors that work with your skin tone. In my case, light and navy blues and forest green work with my skin tone.
This information aids in deciding your outfit color palette, which we discuss in "How to Assemble Your Outfit."
'Fit' describes how a specific garment or accessory interacts with your body shape.
I point my female-identifying clients to Erin Busbee's video, "How To Determine Your Body Shape Using Measurements," to determine which body shape or shapes describe your figure:
Once you have identified you body shape, take a look at the outfit recommendations on The Concept Wardrobe by typing this phrase into your search engine:
*insert your body shape* Body Shape Outfits The Concept Wardrobe
My fashion professor introduced our class to this site and it has greatly enhanced my understanding what clothing cuts and colors flatter my body shape and skin tone.
For reference, here's a list of the male body shapes they discuss:
Why Does Fit and Body Shape Matter?
Understanding your body shape allows you to take more power over your wardrobe - how? Once you understand the basic fashion guidelines, you can begin to redefine the guidelines to fit your style likes or dislikes.
Sure, it's not recommended for taller, slimmer figures to wear skinny jeans, but WisDM disrupts those parameters all the time, and freakin' rocks them.
Or, YouTuber Jade Fox helps masculine presenting women find fashion inspiration that caters to their body types and clothing preferences.
My goal is not to tell you what to wear, but to introduce you to the information and let you do what you will with it. You can dress to your body shape, selecting what flatters you most according to fashion professionals. Or, you can disregard what's seen as flattering, finding different ways to drape your shape.
There are times when I choose to lean into what flatters my body shape to impress myself or appear put-together in professional business headshots. There are other times when I feel like wearing my basketball shorts and an oversized tee to walk around the mall, which may not necessarily flatter me but hey, I feel comfortable and authentic, and those mall selfies still deserve the hype.
At the end of the day, wear what fits for you, not just on you.
'Fabric' describes the material that a garment is constructed from. In Arizona, pay attention to clothing fabrics in the summer months. If shooting here in the summer, choosing clothing with breathable material and of light color will keep you cool.
Fabric can also encompass the texture that the garment creates. Referencing the above fabrics, linen has a woven look that creates a visual texture apparent on camera.
Why Does Fabric Matter?
This all comes down to comfort. Wearing a weather-appropriate garment allows you to stay at a steady temperature and protects you from the elements, allowing you to shoot for longer. A good fabric can also help eliminate common discomforts such as inner-thigh chafing or heel-rubbing when walking between each location.
To determine what fabric fits for your shoot, pay attention to weather conditions. Google and your photographer are great resources! Your photographer can happily recommend what to wear, or at least can tell you what they are wearing.
Pro Tip: When it comes to shoes, bare in mind how far you will be walking and bring a back up pair of comfortable shoes to change out of when switching locations. Learn more about what to bring to your photoshoot here.
Phew! I threw so much at you! Let's take what we just learned and start building an outfit, shall we?
How to Assemble Your Outfit
Illustration by Lydia Hill
Keeping color, fit, and fabric in mind, let's start assembling your outfit!
Styling One Outfit
Here are two methods to use when styling outfits for one person:
1. Use an OOTD Photograph for Inspiration.
Hear me out: Take a saved outfit photo from Instagram or Pinterest that you have been wanting to wear or style. Using what you have in your closet, find pieces in a similar color or fit to that in the image.
Imitation learning, which is what you are exercising here, helps beginning stylists like us to make judgement calls through physically trying on different colors, fits, and fabrics. This task also is teaching resourcefulness, taking outfits you admire and making them reality using what you have in your closet.
Like a body chain from a Kim K outfit? Makeshift yours from two cross-body purse straps.
Like a jewel detail on a dress - take a decorative hair pin and use it as a jewel detail.
Like the fall color combo in a fashion show you saw? Take out all your oranges, browns, maroons, and tans out of storage and mix and match them.
With millions of "outfit inspiration" images online, you are bound to strike fashion gold by imitating what catches your eye.
2. Pick a color palette.
Referring back to our color section, once we know our skin tone and a few complimentary colors, we can start to play with color palettes.
Using the Adobe Color Wheel, you can experiment with seeing what colors fall in your range. I found that light blue, navy, forest green, and pink are colors that flatter my skin tone and make me look more "alive," as color analysts would say.
I can take those colors and look through my closet for blue, green, and pink pieces. Luckily for me, my closet has a lot of these colors:
When creating the outfits above, I chose between two and three colors that would unify my outfit. I push myself to have one patterned piece in my outfit, organically causing me to pull colors from the pattern which become my color palette.
Let's look at a model I styled:
Anistinn, my model, informed me that warmer pinks work well with her skin tone.
I selected a paint-splotched dress with colors red, purple, pink, and white. The hat, earrings, and corset help to draw out the white from in the dress. The paint texture on the dress works with the geometrical, pink brick, with added contrast supplied by the circular lace on the corset. The fittedness of the corset helps to accentuate Anistinn's hourglass body shape. Too, the corset and dress create visual lines leading up to her face.
Sharing my intentionality behind the outfit, you can start to see how each of the elements - color, fit, and fabric - work together to create a whole look for this photoshoot.
Styling for You and Your Plus One
Whether friend or partner, here are two methods to use when wanting to coordinate outfits:
Create one outfit head-to-toe, then pull colors.
Pick a color palette you will share and match accordingly.
Take a look at these couple's outfits to gain an understanding of how to coordinate:
Method 1: Pulling Colors
This method always produces reliable coordinating outfits, built around the patterning or colors in one person's outfit. My approach to this method would be to:
Pick a patterned piece from one person's wardrobe.
Of the colors on that patterned piece, find what colors the other person has in their closet.
Looking at the first couple photo, Sarah, pictured right, selected a multicolored sequin dress. Her boyfriend, Braxton, chose to compliment the blue colors in her dress by wearing a navy suit and light blue button up and bowtie.
This method works best for beginner stylists, who may not know how to coordinate yet based on a shared color palette.
Method 2: Color Palette
My couples who like to style or have a bit more knowledge or experience with photoshoots always love to use this method:
Find what colors you and your plus one share in common - reference your color palettes.
Of those shared colors, select, at minimum, one neutral and one accent color to share.
To avoid the cringey 'matching-family vacation' look, integrate patterned pieces or mis-match colors on the tops and bottoms.
My couple in the first photo decided on black as a shared neutral color and and an off-white / cream as an accent.
Though this method takes a bit more forethought and planning, I assure you the time put in is worth it and renders consistent, camera-friendly coordinating outfits.
What Should I Wear for my Photoshoot?
My hope is that this question no longer is point of stress, but a point of pride! With the tools of color, fit, and fabric, I implore you to get out there and style yourself as you see fit.
Need Outfit Inspiration?
Dallas Rogers (a.k.a. Dal) is a professional photographer specializing in portrait and fashion photography. She aims to provide young women with an editorial-like photography experience, creating ever-lasting, ever-empowering images of themselves.