It's that time of year where we all begin scheduling family photos. As more and more people are hiring photographers for their holiday cards, they're also wondering what to wear.
If you've scheduled your family photo shoot, it's time to plan the wardrobe too. If you're a Mom like me, this means you're most likely styling your kids and husband too. You may also have grandparents, cousins, or other caregivers in the mix. Start planning your family's outfits at least 1-2 weeks ahead of the shoot date. Seriously, put it on your calendar: "Plan Outfits for Shoot".
Stay True to Yourselves
If you never wear dresses, don't plan on purchasing one for your photos. You may feel uncomfortable or self-conscious. Even if you look objectively great--those feelings of insecurity won't photograph well. Apply this to the rest of your family too. If your husband hates button-downs, there's no reason for him to sport one for this year's Christmas photos. You will all have a better time, and better photos, if you're comfortable with what you're wearing. Go ahead and dress up while staying true to yourselves.
Consider Your Environment
For a casual shoot on the beach, denim, sandals, and pastels work well. For a vibrant downtown shoot, bold colors will pop against a city backdrop. Keep your clothing season and location appropriate.
Choose a Color Story
If you google this topic, you'll find hundreds of examples of people wearing all white or black shirts with jeans. Those are both dated and lend a somewhat creepy cult-like vibe to photos. It's best to avoid such a literal uniform look. While you don't want to match, you do want to coordinate. Similar to a capsule wardrobe, you can do this by starting with one piece. For example, if your daughter is wearing a pink, blue, and green floral dress, then the rest of the family can wear pink, blue, and green in any combination. For a large group, you can choose three colors that work well together and let everyone know to show up in some variation of them. Complementary colors include:
Work with Patterns
Solids and prints can both photograph beautifully. Try not to overwhelm the images with too many conflicting prints. For a family of four, if 1-2 people have a pattern on their clothing, that will work great with everyone else in solids. Note that the people wearing patterns will draw the eye's attention in photos. In short, don't put your shy or self-conscious family member in patterns.
Things to Avoid
There are some things that won't like right in family photos, and this includes:
General Photo Tips
Real talk: taking photos can be awkward. Most of us are not models. With a family shoot, some of this awkwardness is mitigated because you'll be interacting with your kids and probably get some great action shots doing so. However, if you don't have little ones, you can appear more natural playing with objects or holding something. Try to bring a couple of these items with you as props:
Stylists Can Help
If this sounds like too much work, you can hire a stylist to help. As a personal stylist in San Diego, I offer photo styling services. Even if you're outside of San Diego, I offer virtual styling services as well.
In true "forgotten second child" fashion, our son is nearly two and had yet to be professionally photographed. I was feeling guilty that there were literally no family photos with him in our home. So, we booked Robin Dayley for a family photo shoot in October.
I had planned the perfect fall outfits, complete with cardigans and boots. We were working with a color palette of maroon, navy, grey, and white. I was planning to wear a striped sweater, my trusted Rag & Bone blazer, and a pair of booties. My son would be adorable in jeans and a grey cardigan. My husband would look devastatingly handsome in a navy button down and grey denim. My daughter would literally sparkle in a silver sweater dress. We were going to look like a Modern Multi-Cultural Pumpkin Spice Pinterest J. Crew Catalog in the best way possible.
However, I had to change plans at the last minute because it was one of those late October days in San Diego where it was 95 degrees at 5pm. So, I scratched those layered outfits and went back to more basic tops and denims for us parents, shorts and a tee for my son. I could not change the dress for my daughter--a true fashionista in the making she was fully committed to the look. She lectured me about the fact that this was her "family photos" dress for about 15 minutes before I gave up the battle.
Since I did not have the wardrobe resolve of my four year old daughter, I changed to a navy peplum top and grey jeans, both from Banana Republic. I paired them with a layered necklace from B.P. and a pair of Rag and Bone booties. I recommend one button blazers or peplum tops for photos all the time because they are flattering. It's one reason the "peplum trend" never really goes away--it looks good on most people.
Shop the Look
As a personal stylist, I'm frequently asked, "how do I look fashionable when I'm just taking my kids to the park or running to Target?" While it's perfectly acceptable to do these things in active-wear, if you're asking me the question, what you're really telling me is that you don't want to do that. You want to feel attractive, confident, and in-control. A pair of yoga pants just isn't doing it for you anymore. And, that is completely fine! Get ready to join the stylish mom tribe.
Even if you're not a mom, you may have a very casual job or work from home. These same tips can be applied to anyone with a very casual lifestyle.
Step 1: Lose the Yoga Pants
Trade your yoga pants (or leggings or pajama bottoms) for a pair of dark wash jeans or track pants. I prefer dark wash jeans because they tend to be more flattering and have the added bonus of hiding a multitude of stains. If you prefer to go the track pant route, look for some that have a bit of shape so you're not adding extra weight to your frame.
Step 2: Put on a Real Shirt
A free marathon T-Shirt is not meant to be worn outside your home. You can be just as comfortable, and a lot more presentable, in a cute graphic tee. I also love patterned wrap tops, peplum tees, and striped knit sweaters, as they wash easily and are flattering on most of us.
Step 3: Ditch the Flip Flops
In San Diego, we wear flip flops with anything--even sweatshirts. I know because I did it too. My freshman year at Sand Diego State, my uniform was a pair of jeans, my grey and pink SDSU hoodie, and a pair of black rainbows. If you're ready to step up your style, trade those flip flops for chic sneakers or a pair of stylish booties (my personal favorite).
Step 4: Add Accessories
Once you start employing accessories in your daily wardrobe, you will not stop. They are great conversation starters and communicate to the world that you put in some effort. I am so happy to add my pendant necklaces back in my rotation since my 18 month old son is old enough now not to tug at them. In the case that your kids are still very young, you can combat their wardrobe tyranny with stud earrings, scarves, or chic hats. Stay away from dangling earrings and pendant necklaces though, because your little ones will most likely attempt to rip them off.
Step 5: Finish with a Completer Piece
Weather and personal motivation permitting, a final way to ensure you look instantly stylish is to add a "completer" piece to your outfit. which could be a cardigan, kimono, knit blazer, vest, or moto jacket. If you're thinking who wears a blazer to Target? The answer is me. I have a serious blazer addiction. You don't have to go that far, a cute utility vest or kimono will do.
In the first graphic, you see four examples of the classic frazzled Mom look. In the second graphic, you'll see women who are casual, comfortable, and confident in their clothing.
Ready to add some casual flair to your wardrobe? Shop my picks below.
I'm Jaquelyn Wahidi. I'm a personal fashion stylist, writer, and entrepreneur in San Diego. I help women organize their closets, define their style, and shop with intention. My style blog features practical fashion advice for women everywhere. Addicted to blazers since 2004.