Wardrobe Choices for Young Actors

What clothing to bring to your child’s headshot session

     “What should I wear in my headshots?”  It’s the most common question we get.  And depending who you ask, you’re likely to get a a variety of answers.    Wardrobe can really make or break a shoot, so do yourself and your child actor a favor and plan ahead. With a little preparation, you can give your child the edge—successful photoshoots begin long before you arrive at the studio.  If you assemble and bring the right clothing, your photos will be a step above the competition resulting in more auditions, more opportunity, and ultimately more work.

     As I’ve said in previous blog posts like Submission Specificsa great way to start preparing for your photoshoot is to talk to your child’s agent.  Your agent will have a very clear idea of how your child fits into the industry and what kinds of looks and styling will be most useful in getting them called in to meet casting directors.  Before you book your photo session, talk with your agents and managers.  If you don’t have the right clothing in your closet, you may need to make a trip to the mall to get just the right styles to fit into Hollywood.

     There are two types of agencies/managers in Los Angeles.  Usually the largest agencies with huge client rosters are less specific with your child’s submissions.  These agencies usually want one catch-all commercial shot and one catch-all theatrical shot.  So the goal is two complimentary outfits—one shot that is more commercial in tone and one shot that is more theatrical or serious in tone.  In some ways, this might make your job as your child’s stylist a lot easier, but sometimes a smaller target is harder to hit. What constitutes the perfect clothing choice for headshots?

     Generally speaking, a catch-all commercial shot, should be bright and “pop” off the casting website.  Bright colors that compliment your child’s coloring is ideal.  When choosing colors, think about what colors would bring out your child’s eyes, or what colors compliment highlights or hair color.  Skin tone (and undertones like lip color and eyelid tone) might also be a consideration when choosing colors.  Solid color tops are a safe bet, but texture can also be great.  The shirts should never be distracting, but some detail or small low contrast pattern can help create the illusion of depth and help to pull a viewers eyes to your photos.  Lace and knitted materials as well as textured low contrast prints can be interesting without being distracting.  

     Theatrical shots tend to be more muted in emotional tone, so muted colors usually enhance and amplify theatrical impact.  Darker colors can sometimes help bring about a more dramatic energy, so be sure to bring those choices as well.

     If your agent or manager prefers more specific photos for submission, you’ll want to take some time to think about the types of roles you’ll be submitted for.  By styling yourself to look like the roles you want to play, you’re literally using the law of attraction to help the casting director see you in their films and television shows.  If you’re agent wants specificity, consider bringing clothes to your photoshoot that fit into one of the following categories:

(See Gallery Below for Pictures)

The kid next door.  Think of this as the friend or neighbor on one of your favorite network sitcoms.  In fact, you can use the kids on those shows for inspiration.  A colorful T-shirt with a light hoodie or sweater looks great.  Or maybe try a low contrast plaid or denim shirt over a brighter tee.

The popular kid.  This is sometimes the mean girl, sometimes the jock.  Typically styles conservatively, girls can wear trendy sweaters or letterman-type sports jackets.  Think intense gender conformity—where girls are really catty and guys are playfully belligerent and everyone is congratulating each other for creating the mold that others want to fit into.   

The edgy tough kid.  These characters are the lost children of CSI or the junior crime fighters on the CW.  Leather jackets or army drab can give the your child the look of the terminator franchise or the school yard bully. Distressed thermals or hoodies also are great for this look.  The tough kid is often overlooked by parents, because they don't necessarily think of their children this way—take a moment to reconsider.        

The nerd/class president.  There's one in every class, and your kid might be the perfect choice for casting.  If your child wears glasses, bring them to the shoot.  Conservative outfits work best for this.  Little suits for the boys can be appropriate with both straight ties and bow ties, or maybe a v-neck sweater over the shirt and tie or a vest.  For the girls, go with cardigan sweaters over peter pan collars or school uniforms.  You can also mismatch plaids and sweaters for a more goofy version, but in general you want casting to see the photo and believe this is an authentic version of your child.                                                                                                                   

The Disney/Nickelodeon kid.  Do some homework and watch a few of the most popular shows on Disney and Nickelodeon.  Pre-teens and teen girls often wear small floral patterns with simple but trendy accessories.  Younger kids sometimes wear overalls.  Small stripes and low contrast patterns are also a great way to bring out the broader, brighter, younger side of your child actor.   

Midwestern/Southern. Denim and plaids over plain white tees will help with your fly-over state castings.  There are so many shows and films that are looking for blue collar kids.  Western and work shirts also are great choices.  Again, this might not be parents first thought when they are pulling clothes, but it’s worth considering


Goth/Loner/Skater while this is a much more specific look that isn't in the breakdowns daily, it might be worth shooting, if your child has a more dramatic edgy look.  If the photo looks authentic, you'll have a much better chance of being seen for the role.  Girls can have a little fun with the darker makeup and both guys can rock messy hair with a more grungy clothing.  Accessories are a plus here as well

Regarding accessories:  In general accessories should be avoided unless it helps tell the story of the photo.  Maybe the goth girl wears a plastic lace choker or the nerd wears glasses, but in general, if the accessories aren’t helping to tell the actor’s story, then they can only be distracting from it. Girls under 12 should remove earrings and any other jewelry.  Hair ties should be nearly invisible.  Bobby pins and clear or simple bands are all you need.

     Another general rule is to dress your child for youth.  You always want your child to look younger than they are.  Older kids can work longer than younger children and often times are more mature and able to handle the stress and structure of a film or television set.  So when you are dressing your child for a headshot, consider clothes that keep them looking young.  Any hairstyle or shirt that can help to shorten the face will keep your child looking on the young side of his age.  When hair and wardrobe help to lengthen the face, you are essentially aging your child up.  For example a crewneck and bangs will make a kid look a couple of years younger than a v-neck and pompadour.  Stripes, overalls, and brighter colors can also help de-age your child.

     Remember it’s a good thing to bring too many clothing choices to a shoot than not enough choices.  Bring two or three options for each look you’re trying to achieve.  The photographer will help you choose the best choice with consideration to his style of shooting, your child’s complexion, and lighting choices.

     Also remember this should be fun.  Carve out some time in your schedule to really assemble the right clothing for your kiddo.  It will enhance your child’s shoot in a really beautiful and subtle way.  You’re helping to create your marketing tools for at least the next year, so put in the energy now to reap the rewards of a higher audition rate afterward.