Engagement Sessions: What to Wear

Feb 11, 2010 | Engagements, Tips for Clients

Many of my couples ask me for advice on clothing for their engagement session.  There are no hard or fast rules, and whenever I reply it sounds a bit stuffy.  So I figured a visual guide to successful outfits would be a neat idea … a collection of photos of some really cute couples I’ve photographed over the last year and a bit, in some really great outfits.  I’ve tried to concentrate on outfits that would work well for all sorts of shapes and sizes, and things that are fairly mainstream and replicable.  The only real “rule” when it comes to choosing your outfits is to make sure you look like you’re both dressed for the same occasion.

To start us off, Karrie and Ryan.  They both wore classic button-down shirts in neutral colors and timeless styles – and then funked them up by leaving them untucked and pairing them with awesome jeans in nice dark, distressed washes.  And notice Karrie’s hair – she went to her stylist the afternoon of the shoot and had it styled in an extra-cute version of her regular style.  Perfect!

classic button down shirts

Bailey and Joe were both classy and sensible for their cool but sunny New York City engagement session – they dug out their very favorite coats.  Bailey dressed up her gorgeous patterned coat with pearls, while Joe kept his look simple with a luxurious zip-neck sweater underneath.  You look a lot happier in photographs when you’re dressed for the weather!

classic coats are cute too

Sunshine and Zandro looked great in their casual-dressy look.  Zandro’s neutral layers allow Sunshine’s bright blue silk dress to pop, and his leather jacket adds personality to a look that is otherwise fairly formal.  Sunshine’s neutral cardigan ties the whole look together.

neutrals with a pop of color

Sonia and Tony coordinated their colors without matching – and they looked fab.  It’s important that you’re both dressed for the same kind of event, and these guys hit the nail on the head.  Sonia’s dress is flirty and fun, just like her personality, and the pink shoes are a cute surprise.

fun and flirty sun dress

Sara and Tom went casual for their park-based session, but paid attention to their color palatte (jewel tones are great for adding some sparkle) and the matching white under-layer.  Dark jeans look cute and are super practical (I had them sitting on and leaning against various mucky surfaces!)

casual jewel tones + dark jeans

Amanda and Christian looked awesome in their distressed jeans and neutrals and reds color palette.  I adore Amanda’s jacket (cute little jackets like this always look fabulous!) and her carefully-chosen statement bangle is a very nice touch.

reds and neutrals color palette

Elisa and Max made great color choices for their pale skin tones – darker colors would have been distracting.  I love the cream/beige palette with Elisa’s fair, freckly skin, and Max’s pale blue shirt added pop without overwhelming her outfit.

beige and cream and blue

Kaitlin and Aldo dressed the part for their fun and relaxed session at Fenway Park – they could totally be at a game in these outfits.  What I really love, though, is the great attention to detail that raised game-day casual up a notch: fancy shoes, subtle, classy jewelry on Kaitlin, and a killer watch on Aldo.  Nice!

red sox engagement session

My last couple, Hang and Hai, really worked it for their session.  The first image shows a neutral color palette of grays and dark blues with the focus on texture and subtle patterns.  Hang’s bright scarf is a fantastic contrast to the otherwise muted tones.

muted grays and blues

The second set of images shows that contrasting colors can work great together when anchored by more neutral colors, especially when the overall feel of the two outfits is similar (I definitely get a “preppy” feel here).  I also love Hang’s accessories with this outfit – she loves long gloves and statement jewelry, and she really played it up here.  Totally cute!

preppy contrasting colors

I hope this helps someone out there … and of course I’d love to know what you think!


  1. SUCH a great idea for a blog post, clients are always asking me about this! I am now going to send them your blog when they ask!!!!

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE the black stripes & the floral dress. LOVE.

  2. Ha, thanks Corey! I am actually amazed that you haven’t already done a post like this ;D

  3. Kate, visuals are always a great tool in helping people get their questions answered. And what better visuals, then Kate McElwee originals! I’m honored to be included in your tips. 😉 I liked your write-up too. Fantastic work as always, Kate! *two thumbs up*

  4. Awww, thank you Tony! You and Sonia are such cutie-pies!

  5. Such cute couples! Glad I can be a fashion plus. I will make sure to save the link to pass along to others asking what to wear. Thanks for the props!

  6. Love it! What a great idea, and I’m honored that we made the list.

  7. These are such helpful tips, and I’m super flattered to be included in this blog. I love my pink shoes, heehee! You are one of the most talented people I know, and to this day I am so grateful Tony and I found you to capture our special day. You’ll always be my favorite vendor. I will definitely pass this along to my newly engaged friends :o)

    We miss you!

  8. Hey, thank you all! 😀

  9. Thank you for featuring us Kate! What a great blog post 🙂 We are still so honored that you photographed us!

  10. Thanks Kate! I’m taking credit for both of our outfits, so I’ll make sure Max knows my good taste has been validated 🙂

  11. such a fun post + a great idea! i get asked that all the time and always think it’s tricky to find the right answer.



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