This is a guest post from Jenn Bates. Jenn has been the morning anchor at KWCH since November 2014 and was a sports anchor/reporter for 8.5 years in Wichita and Tri-Cities, WA before that. Jenn studied telecommunications-news at the University of Florida from 2002-2006.
Recently we had a new female traffic anchor start working on our team. She is 100% fantastic. She is very kind and smart and, as you might guess of a former beauty queen, drop dead gorgeous. One of her biggest issues so far is not the technology, it’s not that she’s doing traffic in a market like ours which rarely has many traffic issues, no, in fact it’s that she’s dealing with wardrobe issues! Not like, Janet Jackson wardrobe issues (I hope you’re all old enough to understand that reference) but more finding things that work on TV.
This can be a struggle for a lot of women especially in sports. Every single consultant and news director will tell you to wear bright colors. Blues and reds and purples but just make it bright! Like most things consultants say, that will get annoying.
Inherently the difference between women in sports and women in news is the level of ‘conservative’ nature we’re expected to have. In sports ladies can get a way with a lot more skin showing. Short sleeves and tank tops, tighter dresses (think Hannah Storm, Cari Champion) and overall more prints etc. I’ll get back to those topics in just a minute but I want to start with women in news.
When I started on the morning news desk I got a really strange email about my clothes. Strange and mean emails are normal in this business but this one struck me a little differently. The viewer said that the fact I was wearing suits and blazers made me look less feminine. I didn’t realize that wearing a navy suit with a hot pink tie-front blouse was masculine but alas it got me thinking. I started buying a whole lot more dresses after that email and looking for more ways to incorporate skirts. Biggest tip for ladies in news? Yes, those bright colors are awesome but you’ll need to get a lot of separate pieces so you can mix and match. Clothing allowances are so wonderful to have but I also work to stretch my dollar as far as it can go. TJ Maxx, Marshalls and Ross are my go-to’s for Ralph Lauren jersey faux wrap dresses that look perfect on every body. If it looks good I get it in a ton of colors. You can also grab cardigans and blouses on sale at plenty of spots that will make it easier to vary your choices without breaking the bank.
The issue my traffic anchor has is that multiple viewers have written in talking about the clothing she wears being too tight or too low cut. Are they too tight or too low cut? Not at all, she looks great in them. However, we live in a very conservative area and women are more modest here. It’s best to show as little cleavage as possible (I put tanks or bra-lettes on with deeper cut dresses) and cover up as much as you can. The hard part is, v-necks are the best for women on-air! Bottom line, do what you can and don’t give viewers any fuel for their already raging complaint fire!
Ladies in sports you have a much different obstacle: team colors. Mandy and I always joke about this phenomenon but it’s a real thing! Mandy and I own a lot of black and shades of pink because those are what I call our ‘neutral gang colors.’ Whenever I covered Kansas vs. Kansas State I never wore red, blue or purple. I usually wore pink, green or black. Why? Well for some reason fans actually care about that stuff. You wouldn’t believe some of the tweets and emails I got about the colors I was wearing while covering a game. People actually thought me wearing blue blouse meant I was rooting for the Jayhawks when really I just like blue!
Another bugaboo of mine and Mandy’s is reporters intentionally wearing the colors of the team they’re covering. Kentucky basketball reporters may be the biggest violators of this; I’ve even seen a reporter wearing a UK logo tie while covering the team! You should avoid coming across as a cheerleader for the team you’re covering. That’s another topic for another blog, though.
Something that affects both ladies in sports and ladies in news is that you need to be taken seriously and your clothing plays a huge part in dictating that. How many times have you looked at the FOX news anchors or even the ESPN women and immediately started talking about their clothing instead of listening to what they are saying? I’m not saying you should make yourself plain and unattractive but you need to not be distracting, there’s a big difference there.
Jewelry is one of the biggest topics for my GM. I love a good chunky necklace but they’re not really the best for TV. That’s not to say I don’t wear them but they’re best in moderation. A lot of your clothing and jewelry choices will be dictated by your News Director and maybe even your GM if they are as involved as mine is.