Wondering what to wear for your engagement photos? You're not alone. Brides spend plenty of time planning the looks that will show up on everything from their save-the-dates to the walls of their first house. Before you scan your closet or hit the mall, consider these top tips from stylists and photographers on what to wear for your engagement shoot.
1. Wear Clothes That Make You Feel Like You
Now's not the time to pull out a beaded ball gown if you're a T-shirt and jeans kind of girl. "The bride should feel comfortable in the outfit she chooses," says Jessica D'Onofrio of Jessica D'Onofrio Photography in Los Angeles. "She should still look like herself, but at her best. Wardrobe choices that are extremely outside a bride's level of comfort will make her look and feel awkward in photos, which isn't pretty for anyone."
2. Complement Each Other, But Don't Match
Complementing your man's look is one thing. But "matching outfits and patterned prints aren't ideal for portrait sessions," explains Michelle Cross of Michelle Cross Photography in Oregon. "When deciding how you and your partner will dress, look for complementary colors and solid prints. Try to stay away from anything too busy, as it can be an unnecessary distraction in photos."
3. Choose Pastels, Cool Colors, and Neutral Tones
You'll want to avoid anything neon, lest you look like a hot, blinking sign, warns Jillian Requeima of Jillian Tree Photography in Miami. "I also find orange is the least photogenic color, while red is the color your eye is drawn to immediately—and you don't necessarily want your shirt or skirt to be the focus of your photograph. You want your faces and the love between you to stand out." So consider wearing pastels, cool hues, or neutral tones, then add a pop of bright color with your accessories, Requeima suggests.
4. Be Mindful of How Your Color Scheme Will Flow Through the Collection of Photos
Once you have an idea of what colors you'll be wearing in your engagement photos, consider how that color will translate throughout the entire collection of photos. You want to create synergy, rather than have the final result look like a random collection of images. "For example, if you love light blue, you can wear this as a dress or a jumpsuit," says NYC-based celebrity fashion stylist Kimmie Smith. Then have him incorporate the same hue (think a blue tie or accessory) in a later look during the shoot to tie things together without it being too matchy-matchy.
5. Incorporate at Least One Accessory
Accessories, such as a stylish scarf or chunky necklace, add serious "wow" factor no matter what you're wearing. Plus, they're easy to slip on and off, which means you'll have a variety of looks with a single outfit. "Adding in at least one accessory per outfit for the ladies and wearing layers of clothing for the guys are two things that photograph well because it adds more visual interest to their looks and, as a result, to the images we create together," explains Kelsy McCartney of the McCartneys in Wausau, Wisconsin.
6. Choose Classic Rather Than Trendy Looks
You may love that black-and-white maxidress now, but next year you may only picture a referee or jailbird when you see yourself in head-to-toe stripes. "I always recommend looks that will remain timeless, rather than outfits that could make your images feel dated a few years down the road," says D'Onofrio. Plus, "overly contrived looks can feel awkward and clunky in photos—and you want to look effortless, not like you're trying too hard."
7. Stick With Two Outfits
Don't fall victim to treating your engagement session as a fashion photo shoot. "You're going to have a million wedding photos where you're all dolled up and looking gorgeous," says Cross. "But these? These are the pictures where you get to remember who you are at the end of the day when it's only the two of you! Two outfits is more than enough to reflect this in couples, and it insures you won't spend your entire engagement session in a rush to change into the next set of clothes."
Smith agrees. "Opt for an outfit or two that accurately depicts your style on an average day and one for a night out on the town." And do let him have some say. "For instance, if you're the ultimate glam girl and your partner is more country chic, these aesthetics should be within the pictures, as this is what people see you as." Love over-the-top jewelry, but he's a minimalist? Talk to your photographer to brainstorm ways to marry the two aesthetics.
8. Flatter Your Body Type
Clothing looks best if it fits properly and accentuates your assets. "When selecting outfits for clients, I first and foremost pay attention to their body type," explains Martini, "then I check their questionnaire to figure out what areas of their body they like to accentuate." Her go-to tips are below:
Pear-Shaped: To show off your curves, focus on cinching the waist with an A-line design that flares at the bottom.
Apple-Shaped: An A-line style with a gradual flow from the waist to the legs is always flattering. This shape is also great for a dress with texture and/or a deep V-neck.
Busty: Scoop and sweetheart necklines offer support and open up the décolletage so the focus is on the face rather than the bust.
Small Chest: Look for textured or ruched styles to create fullness in the chest area.
Plus Size: Engagement photos featuring an empire-waist dress are Martini's go-to. They're super flattering and emphasize the smallest portion under the bust, creating the effect of a slender silhouette from top to bottom.
9. Garner Inspiration from Throwback Photos
Take a trip down memory lane and browse through old photos of you and your partner together, as well as individually. Now pick out the absolute best parts of those pictures (perhaps it's a pose you love or a gorgeous backdrop), and create a mood board on Pinterest to start planning the direction of your engagement shoot, suggests Smith. "Seeing what makes sense and what you're into will help give you some guidance."
10. Create Visual Interest With Striking Fabrics and Unexpected Pairings
Smith loves incorporating striking fabrics (think lace, fur, leather, etc.). into a couple's engagement-shoot outfits. "These elements add a ton of visual texture, which in turn brings more warmth to your images," explains Smith. "Plus, they'll work well with whatever scenery you decide on." For example, fur on a beach is a really cool contrast!
11. Use a Rental Subscription for a Designer Wardrobe on a Budget
If you want to splurge on designer looks for this special photo shoot, we get it. These photos really are meant to last a lifetime, and it's an occasion where you might want to go all in on and incorporate a gorgeous designer piece. If you're really just buying the piece for the photo shoot, however, you might consider renting your outfit rather than buying it. Sites like Rent the Runway and Le Tote have many options that make it easy (and more affordable) to access designer looks.
12. Make Use of the Season
Bikinis don't work for a winter engagement shoot, and vice versa, of course. Take advantage of the season you're in and create an on-theme outfit.
Winter and Fall: Don't be afraid to bundle up. Living in Maine, photographer Emily Delamater knows this firsthand. "My favorite tip is to wear fleece-lined tights under jeans or pants!" she says. She advises her clients to layer cozy knits, like a sweater or a cowl scarf, grab a bright winter coat, and put on a pair of fingerless gloves. "Winter accessories can be really cute. Plus, it makes more sense visually to be dressed for winter if you're being photographed in the snow!" Not in the Rockies or Adirondacks? Winter sessions downtown can be just as stunning. "City and holiday lights will add some beautiful bokeh [out-of-focus, blurry light spots] in the background. Paired with a chic winter outfit, an urban setting can really highlight the season," says Rachel Nielsen, a Utah-based wedding photographer.
Summer and Spring: Wondering what to wear for engagement pictures in warmer weather? Bring summer vibes to life by going barefoot on the beach or sharing a cone on the pier in sandals and shorts with your sweetie! Pair a maxidress with a statement necklace, or a summer dress with a denim jacket for a sweet look. As for spring, you've got flowers in bloom and love in the air; you can't go wrong with subtle floral prints and pastel hues.
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