established 2008

Media Training

How To Dress For Credibility

by Joreth Innkeeper © 2009 / updated 2016

How you dress impacts your message almost as much as your message itself does. It is a delicate balance to dress in a way that represents who you are without overshadowing the bigger message of what you are trying to say. You will want to be heard, to be taken seriously, and to have people empathize and identify with you all while not portraying a character that bears no relation to who you are. There are specific outfits one can put together that will give credibility to the speaker, but those outfits may not match your personality or may not be anything that you would actually wear in your real life or have in your closet. I'll give some specific suggestions for outfits and what they represent to "mainstream America", and I'll also give some guidelines on how to work with your own wardrobe no matter what your personal style is. I'll also give some suggestions specifically for TV and photos.

It is unfortunate that so many people still do not see past a physical appearance to the values or skills of the person wearing it. Your message is just as valid and just as valuable as anyone else's, and you may be just as qualified to speak on whatever subject you are speaking. And if you have the time to correct misconceptions, like with co-workers or friends, insisting on your own wardrobe tastes while being a living example of appearances being deceptive or irrelevant is a valid life choice to make. But if you only have 20 minutes in an interview, you will need to make the most of your available time, starting with your appearance.

If you want to reach across whatever your subculture or archetype is, you will have to be the one who bridges the gap. You will have to be the one to moderate your appearance to give your target audience something to empathize with, because it is only after they feel they can identify with you that your message will be heard. Business people still resist believing that a mohawk doesn't interfere with coding or customer service skills. Some people associate a suit with a sense of detachment, arrogance, condescension, lack of compassion and empathy even when that person is speaking about love and relationships. People are more willing to listen to someone in a different age bracket if they appear to understand or share similar tastes or cultural values and ideas. Some people automatically trust a white lab coat while others automatically distrust it before the wearer even opens his mouth. So you may have to make some compromises to your wardrobe based on the target audience to find that connecting point that will allow them to hear you over your appearance.

Do not assume that, because there is no video or photography equipment, that your appearance doesn't matter. Oftentimes, reporters will write their own commentary on your attire and their opinion of you will color how they present the interview.


These are specific archetypical outfits and what they most often mean to a "mainstream" American audience:

Television and Photo Guidelines

Regardless of your Archetype, the following are some general guidelines to avoid technical difficulties with cameras:

So remember, think about your target audience and the message you want to impart, and moderate your wardrobe to match. People listen better when they can identify with the speaker, and clothing on the conservative side has a broader reach. Consider the technical difficulties with cameras in your wardrobe choices. You will look better and you will avoid irritating the person responsible for how you look on screen.

© PMA 2008