Home » What to Wear on Stage: 6 Essential Tips For Choosing The Right Public Speaking Outfit
Mar,2024

What to Wear on Stage: 6 Essential Tips For Choosing The Right Public Speaking Outfit

Are you preparing for an important speaking engagement and wondering what to wear on stage to make a lasting impression? We’ve got you covered.

Choosing what to wear on stage can be a difficult decision when you’re preparing for a public speaking opportunity. Not only are you nervous about delivering your message with clarity and impact, but the thought of hundreds of people staring at you is enough to make most people have stage fright

First impressions are everything, and while we’d like to think we don’t judge people based on outward appearances, the truth is – we do. That’s why dressing appropriately for the stage is crucial to establish credibility and connect with your listeners. But it’s not just about looking professional; it’s also about showcasing your unique style to your audience.

The key to choosing what to wear on stage is to find clothing and accessories that compliment your message, and reflect your personal brand.

In this article, we’ll provide you with essential tips on what to wear on stage that will help you stand out and leave a lasting impact on your audience, and your career.

#1 – Dress Professionally on Stage 

When deciding what to wear on stage, consider the type of event and audience you’ll be speaking to. Dress appropriately for the occasion, considering the dress code and cultural expectations of the organization you’re speaking for. By aligning your attire with the industry’s preferred dress, you can establish a connection with your audience from the start.

For example, imagine you’re about to give a presentation at a tech conference. As you step onto the stage, all eyes are on you. You’ve spent weeks perfecting your speech, but have you thought about what you’re wearing?

In this scenario, it’s crucial to dress appropriately for the occasion. Take hints from the tech industry’s dress code – typically smart casual or business attire. Opting for a polished yet approachable look can help you establish an immediate connection with your audience.

By aligning your attire with the cultural expectations of the organization or community, you show respect for the audience and demonstrate your understanding of industry norms. This simple yet powerful gesture sets the tone for your presentation, instantly building rapport and credibility with your listeners.

When considering what to wear on stage for your speaking gig, ask yourself a series of guiding questions.

Here are some helpful questions to consider:

  • What’s the Nature of the Event? Is it formal, semi-formal, casual, or themed?
  • What’s the Dress Code? Has the event specified a dress code (e.g., black-tie, business casual, cocktail attire)? What are the customary dress expectations for similar events in this context if not explicitly stated?
  • Who Will Attend? Who are the hosts and organizers of the event? What is the demographic makeup of the attendees? Is it strictly a conference for female entrepreneurs? Research the audience beforehand to understand their preferences and style. 
  • Where Will the Event Take Place? Is the event indoors or outdoors? Will there be any specific environmental factors to consider (e.g., weather conditions, temperature, terrain)?

#2 – Add a Touch of Your Brand Personality

While it’s essential to maintain a professional appearance, don’t be afraid to add some personality to your outfit. Your clothing choices can convey aspects of your personality, interests, and individual style. By incorporating elements that reflect who you are, you can create a more authentic and relatable presence on stage.

Adding a personal touch to your outfit doesn’t necessarily mean sacrificing professionalism. Instead, it allows you to balance looking polished and expressing your unique identity. Whether it’s a colorful accessory that reflects your vibrant personality, or a subtle nod to your favorite hobby or interest, these small details can make a big difference in how you’re perceived by your audience. When you feel comfortable and authentic in what you’re wearing, you’re more likely to project confidence and charisma, enhancing your overall stage presence.

Remember – your clothing is an extension of your personal brand. It should reflect your authenticity and professionalism. And this is important to keep in mind when considering what to wear on stage. 

Tasteful accessories or a pop of color can help you stand out and make a memorable impression on stage. However, it’s important to avoid distracting patterns, loud colors, and excessive accessories that may detract from your message. Keep the focus on your words and ideas by choosing clothing that complements your skin tone and aligns with your personal brand.

Ultimately, your goal when speaking on stage is to connect with your audience on a human level, and your clothing can play a significant role in achieving that goal. By infusing your outfit with a touch of personality, you can create a more engaging and memorable experience, setting the stage for a successful and impactful presentation.

Tips for injecting personality into your outfit when deciding what to wear on stage: 

  • Accessorize Creatively: Add statement accessories such as bold jewelry, funky scarves, or eye-catching belts to personalize your look and add interest to your outfit.
  • Customize Your Clothing: Add personal touches to your clothing, such as embroidery, patches, or DIY alterations.
  • Showcase Your Hobbies or Interests: Incorporate elements of your hobbies or interests into your outfit. For example, if you’re a mathematician giving a talk to graduate students, consider a fun shirt that incorporates math symbols.
  • Experiment with Silhouettes: Play with different silhouettes and shapes to express your personality through your clothing. Whether it’s oversized silhouettes for a relaxed vibe or tailored cuts for a polished look, choose styles that resonate with you.
  • Embrace Quirky Details: Look for clothing with unique or quirky details like asymmetrical cuts, unexpected embellishments, or whimsical prints. 
  • Express Yourself through Footwear: Don’t forget about your shoes! Opt for footwear that reflects your personality, whether it’s colorful sneakers, funky boots, or statement heels.
  • Layer Thoughtfully: Experiment with layering different pieces to add depth and dimension to your outfit. Mix textures, lengths, and styles.

#3 – Opt for Comfortable Yet Polished Attire

Make sure you prioritize comfort and professionalism when choosing what to wear on stage as a speaker. It’s important to balance feeling at ease and presenting yourself in a polished manner.

When it comes to comfort, opt for clothing that allows you to move freely and confidently on stage. Avoid tight or restrictive outfits that may hinder your movement or make you uncomfortable throughout your presentation. When you feel relaxed and confident in what you’re wearing, it will shine through in your delivery and overall presence.

At the same time, it’s crucial to maintain a professional appearance. Choose high-quality, well-fitted attire that flatters your body type. This will make you look good, establish your credibility, and enhance your trustworthiness as a speaker. 

Here are some ideas for comfortable yet professional attire when choosing what to wear on stage:

  • Tailored Blazers or Jackets: Opt for well-fitted blazers or jackets made from comfortable, breathable fabrics like cotton or lightweight wool. 
  • Blouses or Button-Down Shirts: Pair your blazer with a tailored blouse or button-down shirt in a soft, wrinkle-resistant fabric. Look for materials like cotton or silk blends that offer breathability and ease of movement.
  • Slacks or Trousers: Choose tailored slacks or trousers in a neutral color such as black, navy, or charcoal gray. Look for styles with a hint of stretch or elastic waistbands for added comfort during long periods of standing or sitting.
  • Tailored Dresses or Skirts: If dresses or skirts are your style, opt for tailored silhouettes that fall just above or below the knee. Look for dresses with a slight A-line or fit-and-flare cut for ease of movement.
  • Comfortable Shoes: Select closed-toe shoes with a low to moderate heel height for comfort and stability. Choose styles with cushioned insoles and arch support to minimize discomfort during extended periods of standing.
  • Layering Pieces: Add versatility to your outfit with layering pieces like cardigans or lightweight sweaters. These can be easily added or removed depending on the temperature of the venue.
  • Wrinkle-Resistant Fabrics: Opt for clothing made from wrinkle-resistant fabrics that maintain their shape and appearance throughout the day. This ensures you look fresh and polished, even after hours of speaking.

By incorporating these ideas into your wardrobe, you can strike the perfect balance between comfort and professionalism when speaking in public. Remember, the goal is to feel confident and at ease, allowing you to focus on delivering an impactful presentation.

#4 – Pay Attention to Colors and Patterns

By being mindful of the colors and patterns you choose for your attire, you can enhance your presence on stage as a speaker. When selecting the right colors for what to wear on stage, choosing shades that suit and flatter you is essential. Avoid colors that clash with your complexion or blend in with the background. Instead, choose colors that make you stand out and capture the audience’s attention.

Busy or complicated patterns can be distracting and take the focus away from your message. To keep the spotlight on you, opt for clothing with simple patterns or, better yet, solid block colors. This will help ensure that the audience’s attention remains on your presentation and not on your outfit.

While black is a classic choice for many occasions, wearing an all-black outfit on stage can make it difficult for the audience to see you. Instead, pair a colored top with black pants or a skirt to maintain visibility while still looking polished.

Another important consideration is how your chosen colors appear on stage or camera. Specific colors can enhance your presence, while others may wash you out. Pay attention to the color palette and select shades that complement your complexion.

Here are some ideas for colors and patterns that work well on stage and on camera:

  • Solid Neutrals: Opt for solid neutral colors such as black, navy, charcoal gray, and beige. These colors convey professionalism and are less likely to distract viewers on camera.
  • Soft Pastels: Soft pastel colors like light blue, blush pink, and mint green are flattering and add a subtle pop of color without overpowering. They can help soften your appearance on camera and create a friendly, approachable vibe.
  • Rich Jewel Tones: Jewel tones such as emerald green, sapphire blue, and plum add depth and richness to your look on camera. These colors can make a bold statement without being too distracting.
  • Subtle Patterns: Choose subtle patterns like pinstripes, micro-checks, or small polka dots that add visual interest without overwhelming your appearance. Avoid large, busy patterns or bold stripes that can appear distorted or distracting on camera.
  • Classic Stripes: Vertical stripes are flattering and elongating, making them a great choice for public speaking and being on camera. Stick to thin or medium-width stripes in classic color combinations for a timeless look.
  • Textured Fabrics: Incorporate textured fabrics like tweed, herringbone, or subtle knits to add dimension to your outfit without relying on bold colors or patterns. These fabrics add visual interest and depth to your appearance on camera.
  • Color Blocking: Experiment with color blocking by pairing complementary or contrasting colors in bold, clean lines.
  • Avoid Neon or Fluorescent Colors: While bright colors can be eye-catching, they can also appear harsh or overly saturated on camera. Avoid neon or fluorescent hues that may be distracting on screen.

By incorporating these colors and patterns into your outfit when selecting what to wear on stage, you can ensure that your appearance translates well in person and on camera, allowing you to make a confident and professional impression during public speaking engagements.

#5 – Don’t Skip the Details

Sometimes it’s easy to overlook the details of what to wear on stage, but details do matter! Consider the details of your public speaking outfit, such as accessories and grooming elements.

Accessories and grooming are crucial to consider when planning your stage attire as a speaker. They can significantly impact your overall look and help you create a polished and professional image. Here are four key tips to keep in mind:

  • Choose the Right Accessories: Select accessories that complement your outfit without overpowering it. A well-chosen accessory, such as a statement necklace or a sleek watch, can add a touch of personality and style.
  • Pay Attention to Grooming: Grooming is essential for your stage appearance. Make sure your hair is neat and polished, your nails are well-maintained, and your overall appearance is well-groomed. These details may seem small, but they can make a big difference in how you’re perceived by the audience.
  • Consider your Personal Style: While it’s important to dress appropriately for the occasion, don’t be afraid to let your personal style shine through. Choose accessories that reflect your personality and make you feel confident on stage.
  • Don’t Forget about Facial Hair: If you have facial hair, make sure it’s well-maintained. A neatly trimmed beard or mustache can enhance your overall look and add a touch of sophistication. If you prefer a clean-shaven look, shave properly before your presentation.

#6 – Consider Your Message When Choosing What to Wear on Stage

When stepping onto the stage as a public speaker, every aspect of your appearance communicates a message to your audience, including your outfit choice. Think about how your clothing reflects and reinforces the message of your speech, as it can impact the audience’s perception and engagement during your talk.

As you select what to wear on stage, think about the tone, theme, and purpose of your speech, and choose an outfit that exudes the essence of your message.

For instance, if you’re a motivational speaker delivering a speech to inspire creativity and innovation, your outfit should reflect these qualities. Opt for free-flowing, vibrant, and expressive clothing, such as a colorful maxi dress or a tailored suit with a subtle pattern. Incorporating accessories like statement jewelry or artistic scarves can further enhance your look and convey a sense of creativity and individuality. 

Similarly, if you’ve become a keynote speaker and your speech focuses on professionalism, authority, and expertise, your attire should reflect these qualities. Choose tailored suits or dresses in classic colors like black, navy, or charcoal gray to convey professionalism and sophistication. Pay attention to details such as fit, fabric quality, and grooming to project an image of credibility.

By aligning your outfit with the message of your speech, you demonstrate authenticity and intentionality, strengthening the impact of your words and fostering a deeper connection with your audience.

Frequently Asked Questions: What to Wear on Stage

What Should I Wear on Stage When Speaking?

You should dress appropriately for the occasion, considering the dress code and culture of the organization you’re speaking to. Connect with the audience by dressing in a way that aligns with their expectations and the industry’s preferred attire.

What Clothes Look Best on Stage?

Wear clothing that looks best on stage by considering the occasion, audience, and industry norms. Prioritize comfort and confidence, and avoid distracting patterns or monochrome outfits.

What Colors Show Up Best on Stage?

Bright, vivid colors like red, blue, or green show up best on stage. But if you’re speaking at a TEDx event, you’ll be standing in a bright red circle, so choose wisely. Generally, avoid wearing all white or all black, as they can either blend in with the background or hinder visibility. 

What Should I Wear on Stage as a Panel Speaker?

You should wear professional attire that aligns with the occasion and audience expectations. Dress to appear credible and trustworthy, considering the event’s formality. Keep it simple, elegant, and comfortable.

Conclusion

So there you have it, speaker! Dressing for a speaking engagement is all about finding the perfect balance between professionalism and personal style.

You’ll make a lasting impression on your audience by considering the occasion, aligning with industry standards, and paying attention to your comfort.

Remember to choose clothing that makes you feel confident and relaxed, and don’t forget about the power of color and patterns.

With these tips in mind, you’re ready to rock the stage and make a memorable impact!

Free Public Speaker Training, hosted by TEDx speaker Taylor Conroy, click here to save your free spot

Author

Angelica
Angelica is a multi-passionate creative who loves dabbling in a little bit of this and that. She's always chasing her curiosities, whether that means jetting off to explore somewhere new or diving into a new technology she's eager to learn.

Top Posts

Check out more great articles from the Thought-Leader Blog covering TEDx Talks, success mindsets, and everything else in between

How to Get
a TED Talk

How to Prepare
a TED Talk

How to Market
Yourself Effectively

How to Become
a Keynote Speaker

How to Speak
Professionally