Family Session Outfits | The 3 Key Elements to Designing a Creative Look You'll Love

October 10, 2017  •  1 Comment

Hey ya’ll! So it's officially that time of year...the time when you're panicking because the days are getting shorter, the weather is getting cooler, and your window to capture this stage of your family's life is officially getting smaller and smaller.  

So maybe you've already booked your session and maybe you haven't.  BTW, if you' haven't we still have a few spots in the Styled Sessions with Everyday Beauty Co. on October 21st and it is going to SO. MUCH. FUN.  You can find more details about those sessions here. Anyway, so you have your session booked, and now you realize you have the perhaps overwhelming task of figuring out what in the world everyone's going to wear.  I usually get questions about what to wear so I *finally* sat down and thought about what makes a great look for family photos.  And because I'm not a big fan of micro-managing and telling people exactly what to wear because I think fashion is such a fun extension of personal style (and I don't want to tread on yours and make it just like mine because it's part of what makes you YOU), I broke it down into concepts and tips and elements to think about as you create your look rather than "wear this and this and this." So here is what you need know about putting together outfits for your family, whether your kids are two and four or you have five kids in their teens and twenties, or you're doing a session with your grandbabies (how fun is it that one of our Styled Session was booked by grandparents for photos with their grandbabies!) .  ANYWAY...There are three major components to creating a collective look that you’ll love:  






Let me break it down for you and explain each of the different elements in detail.



Let’s start with color palette.  I recommend choosing at least two or three base colors to use as your foundation.  Start with one person’s outfit and begin building your color palette there.  It’s a good idea to just pay attention to what colors you love when you start.  Don’t overcomplicate it and think too much about the big picture when you’re choosing your color palette.  Nail down what you love about the colors of that one outfit, and build from there.  After you’ve picked your two to three base colors, I recommend branching off into complimentary tones for the rest of your outfits.  Think about paint swatches and how you often have a lot of colors in the same family.  Don’t try to match your base tones exactly.  Instead go for complimentary tones that are in the same family as your base colors, but perhaps a lot lighter or darker than your actual base color.  The goal is to have a lot of tonal diversity within a fairly tight color palette of two to four base colors.  One tiny diversion I highly recommend: It can be fun to add one well-coordinated "wild color" into the mix to add interest.  This can work without being overwhelming when you use great textures to balance it out, which brings me to my next component of creating your look...



Well chosen textures, patterns, and fabrics are truly what will take your outfit choices and color palette from good to great.  Fabric texture and pattern are a big deal.  

Let’s start with texture.  Here are a couple of examples to explain what I mean about fabric texture: soft flowy dresses; highly structured suits; a lace tunic; thick, comfy oversized sweaters; semi-structured button down shirts; fluffy faux-fur vests; soft and thick plaid button-down shirts; dark and fitted classic jeans; worn-in style jeans with knee rips; a tweed jacket with arm patches …the list could go on and on.  The point is, these fabrics all evoke a different feeling.  A suit instantly brings the class to a portrait, while a flowy floral dress makes a portrait feel inviting and accessible.  You want a combination of fabric textures to make your collective family look interesting and engaging.  Mixing soft or flowing fabrics with structured and stronger fabrics photographs fantastically, and I highly recommend it.  I do not recommend putting everyone in a similar texture (for instance, everyone wears a button down shirt).  Even if the colors are perfect, it’s a bit boring because there’s no textural interest.


Now let’s talk about pattern!  I LOVE to see a great splash of bold pattern within a family’s outfit choice.  Here’s an idea for how to incorporate pattern without feeling too overwhelmed: When you’re choosing your first outfit from which to build the rest of the family’s look, make it a strong pattern and pull the colors from the pattern as your base colors.  If you’re the only female in your family, or you’re even one of two of the only females in your family, it’s a great idea for this pattern to be your outfit (but not a must of course).  I’m loving the current floral craze (or is it just me who’s obsessed?! ;p) so picking out a floral dress or skirt for yourself can be a fun way to start building outfits for the rest of your tribe.  Don’t be afraid to incorporate more than just one pattern into your family’s look.  Bring in a second and third more understated pattern to compliment the look.  If you feel like the secondary patterns might be a touch bold, throw a solid colored jacket or vest over it so you just have a bit of pattern peeking out to add interest.  Which brings me to my third category for creating a collective look for your family that you’ll love...



Accessories.  Ya’ll, accessories are the bomb dot com.  Statement heels, suspenders, hats, bold necklaces, vests, bowties, headbands, scarves, big earrings, you-name-it.  Accessories add interest and are a great way to bring more texture into your look.  I have yet to see an over-accesorized family so please feel free to go crazy.  Maybe don’t all wear hats or the exact same accessories, but incorporating one or two fun things into every person’s outfit isn’t overkill.   Add that jacket, cardigan, or belt to layer, and you’ll be good to go.




One simple thing to stay away from when dressing the fam is tennis shoes (think shoes that look like they belong on a runner or athlete or someone about to do a workout).  I know they’re comfy and everyone’s favorite, but it’s usually best if they aren’t invited to your photo shoot.  It won’t hurt their feelings if it’s just this once. ;)  The one exception I’d make for this is if you’re going for a sort of urban grunge feel and a leather jacket is involved.  Or if, you know, you own your own tennis shoe line.  Then you get a pass. 


Another tip, especially if you have older kids that are similarly sized, is to make sure not every single person wears jeans, or if you do at least try to break it up with colors/washes/wears/styles that coordinate well.  Or just be sure to add lots of layers and accessories to keep the collective look engaging.


And because visuals are the best help of all, I threw together a quick Pinterest board of family session outfits done well to get your creative juices flowing and to help inspire you to create a look that you love for your family!  




One other note that’s specifically for those who’ve signed up for the styled session that Everyday Beauty Co and I are holding on October 21st is this:  Be thoughtful of the space when you’re planning your outfits.  It is GORGEOUS and so many looks will photograph splendidly here, but there’s a couple of things that might not look quite right in the space because of it’s aesthetic:  Bold and rich colors are fantastic, but stay away from fluorescents and overly bright fresh colors and styles…things like lime green, bright aqua blues, hot fluorescent pinks, etc won’t look great in the space.  Instead go for deep forest greens, soft and muted light blues, deep wine colors or soft vintage colored pinks.   Pastels will look great.  Jewel tones will be stunning.  Fall colors will look fantastic.  Darks tones and light neutrals will be gorgeous.  Mainly just nothing that looks like it belongs in a fluorescent and balmy 'welcome spring' catalog.


Very helpful for this truly fashion-challenged individual! Thank you!
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