What to Wear for Family Portraits

We’re planning a family reunion to surprise my grandma for her 80th birthday. The big event planned is a professional family photo. We have agreed on jewel tones and solid blacks or grey, but I am not quite sure what photographs well, is stylish and won't have me cringing 20 years from now. I am a size 14, busty and my style tends to trend a bit rocker chic. The color of the items is less important, but what do you think I should lean towards in regards to shape, material and style?

what to wear for a family portrait

You lucked out with the color scheme! Not only is this easy to find at any pricepoint, size, and personal style, but it’s also going to look less dated in a decade or two.

Some colors just don’t photograph well, and one of those is red. Luckily, there’s a ton of other jewel tones available that are far more flattering. I recommend going with a true jewel tone instead of a primary – emerald or teal in place of Kelly green, berry or violet instead of purple, garnet or merlot over red. The color should be one that you like, as your relatives will likely be wearing all different shades.

I’d recommend a knit top in a saturated color – ponte knit, merino wool, silk knit, and silk jersey all hold color really nicely, drape well over curves, and will look better in a photo than a traditional jersey knit. When it comes to the top, neckline makes all the difference. The photographer will likely have some of you standing, others sitting, so the body will end up blending into a sea of jewel tones and black. Choosing an interesting neckline will flatter your face, elongate your neck, and possibly slim the look of your figure. Scoop, surplice (faux wrap), and v-necklines are usually the most flattering, but depending on your personal style you may prefer a square or boatneck.

For the bottom, I recommend black over gray. I bet most of your relatives will also wear black, so you will blend in. Not only that, choosing black pants or black skirt and opaque tights with black shoes makes current trends for hemlines, shoes, and cuts not as obvious when admiring the photo in the future. Keep accessories to a minimum for that is what dates a look the most. Maybe a small necklace or a small pair of earrings, but no statement pieces. A photograph like this is about your family, not your personal style. However, if you have a favorite piece of jewelry that was a gift from your grandma or a family heirloom, it would be a lovely touch to wear it for the shoot.

As for hair and makeup, no matter how classic you try to make it, it will still look dated in 25 years. I love watching historical dramas from the ‘70s and ‘80s and how they thought feathered hair or rust-colored streaks under the cheekbones looked historically accurate. Just be yourself, but the most polished version of yourself. This post on how to prepare for a professional headshot offers suggestions on how to do your hair and makeup for any photo shoot.

Finally, SMILE! Your grandma and your family for years to come will far more enjoy a genuine grin than a sophisticated pout or wan smile. They’ve seen your teeth, your gums, your cheekbones, your chin at Thanksgiving and your cousin’s wedding, this is not the time to be self-conscious or do weird faces in an attempt to look younger, thinner, or different. This is your family, they deserve the real and happy you. For there is nothing more attractive than a genuinely happy person!

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8 Comments

  1. HokieKate
    November 18, 2014 / 11:22 am

    Great advice for dressing for a crowd. I love your suggestions on how to fit in, yet look your best.

  2. Jennifer
    November 13, 2014 / 5:15 pm

    How timely, we are having family pictures taken this weekend! Hopefully we’ll hit the right note. 🙂

  3. November 13, 2014 / 2:39 pm

    Great tips! I wish I had a family portrait of my whole family! That would be such a gift!

  4. lexalemmy
    November 13, 2014 / 9:13 am

    Very helpful! Thanks so much, Allie!

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