Even though I don’t watch any awards shows, my mom will frequently send me pictures of beautiful dresses that stars wore on the red carpet. If the images are high resolution, I am able to zoom in and see a lot of the details, but if that isn’t the case, I ask my mom to describe the dresses and what they look like. Over time, I’ve learned that there are seven different characteristics that my mom mentions when describing an outfit, and today I will be sharing how to describe high fashion red carpet outfits for people with vision impairments, and how to write image descriptions for black-tie formal outfits in honor of the 2019 Met Gala.
What are image descriptions?
Image descriptions are detailed text-based descriptions of images that are helpful for the blind and vision impaired. It can be used as a substitute for or in addition to alt text, which is usually a short description that mentions general details for an image. Image descriptions can also be printed as captions underneath an image.
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Who is wearing it?
While I’m not very good with identifying celebrities, the first thing my mom will mention is who is wearing the outfit in question, so I can imagine what they look like. If my mom knows that I have no idea who the celebrity is or if they are a model, she will describe their general appearance with details such as hair color/style, skin tone, and build. When writing image descriptions for high fashion dresses on the red carpet, it’s sufficient to just write the celebrity’s name.
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The next detail that is mentioned when describing red carpet outfits is the color, or colors. Since my mom knows that I love hearing about colors, she will use precise shade names such as sage green, lavender, and cobalt blue. Image descriptions can contain precise shade names like these, or use more general color names such as light green, pastel purple, and bright blue. There’s no reason to describe what a color looks like, just the color name is fine.
Solid colored dresses and suits are common, but many dresses have additional patterns or textures. If the colors are arranged in a specific way, make sure to make a note of that as well. For outfits that have multiple shades of the same color, use specific shade names. A star might decide to wear a yellow dress with blue floral pattern, or a dress with mint, pink, and black vertical stripes. Alternatively, I might describe my high school prom dress by sharing that it has a navy blue, deep purple, and silver gradient effect on the bottom of the skirt.
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Many of the dresses on the red carpet are made with interesting fabrics and textures. My mom will describe the silky fabrics that drape to the floor, the ruffles on a chiffon dress, or the lace that covers the skirt of a dress. She also might mention the shiny silver or gold fabrics that many celebrities like to wear.
How does the outfit look on the person wearing it? Many of the dresses are long with a train that extends behind the wearer, though I have seen some that cut off at the knee or higher. Many designers will add unique details such as large shoulder details, creative sleeves, or cut-outs. These details should be included when creating image descriptions because they truly are what makes an outfit special.
Celebrities often add interesting jewelry or accessories to their red carpet outfits, which are helpful to include in image descriptions. For creative galas such as the Met Gala, I recommend including details about every aspect of the outfit, including props, hats, and other additions to the outfit.
While many stars tend to choose similar hairstyles for the red carpet, sometimes my mom will mention how a specific artist wore their hair if it’s particularly special. Using simple terms like half-up, updo, or bob is more than enough for me to understand what their hair looks like. If the star dyed their hair a different color than normal, feel free to mention that as well.
Bonus- should I include the designer’s name?
If you are writing image descriptions for an article or social media, I strongly recommend including the designer’s name in the description, since they worked hard on creating different outfits. However, if you are describing a dress for someone verbally, don’t worry if you can’t remember who the designer is unless you are at a fashion show.
Here are some examples of helpful descriptions for describing red carpet dresses and high fashion outfits
Taylor Swift is wearing a solid orange and magenta two-piece dress. There is an orange band of fabric that stretches across her chest, leaving her shoulders and stomach exposed. She wears a long magenta skirt with a cutout that extends to her hip, and is wearing simple silver wrap-around heels and a diamond necklace.
Chris Evans wears a tailored blue corduroy suit jacket paired with a white shirt, black bow tie, and black dress pants.
An African-American female model wears a yellow gown with a large flared skirt and yellow-colored floral embroidery on the bodice. She wears long diamond earrings that dangle to her shoulders, and her hair is in an updo.
I appreciate that my mom is so willing to describe different dresses for me, especially since the rapid camera flashes on the red carpet can be disorienting due to my photosensitivity. I hope that this post is helpful for people learning how to describe red carpet outfits and describing high fashion dresses for people with blindness and low vision.