Veronica With Four Eyes

How To Create Image Descriptions For Red Carpet Looks

I started following the Met Gala and a few other fashion events a few years ago when vibrant colors started to make a comeback on red carpet outfits. I love getting to see all of the bold fabrics, patterns, and unique silhouettes from different designers and celebrities, and use a combination of screen magnification, verbal descriptions, and written image descriptions to learn more about an outfit as a person with low vision and normal color vision. Here are my favorite tips for how to create image descriptions for red carpet looks, celebrity outfits, and black tie/white tie formalwear.

What is an image description? Is it different than alt text?

Image descriptions are text-based descriptions of visual details in an image written primarily for people who are visually impaired (inclusive of blind/low vision). Image descriptions are similar to alt text descriptions that are used by screen readers to recognize images, though there are a few key differences between alt text and image descriptions:

  • Location. Alt text is typically attached to an image metadata or added in the “alt text” box on social media. Image descriptions may be in the image caption, in a text post, or otherwise incorporated into a social media post
  • Visibility. Alt text is usually only visible to screen readers, which read the alt text out loud or display it on a braille display. Image descriptions are “exposed” and can be read by anyone
  • Length of text. While alt text is typically limited to 100-250 characters, image descriptions can be the same length or even longer, since they are included in the photo caption, in a text post, or text link.
  • Level of detail. Image descriptions tend to go more in-depth about visual details than alt text due to the larger character limit.

I recommend including both alt text and image descriptions when posting content on social media so that everyone can read descriptions of images, not just screen reader users- especially since many users with low vision do not use screen readers when browsing social media.

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How to share image descriptions on social media

Trying to figure out where to put an image description for the visually impaired? Some websites have a dedicated image description section that is next to the alt text field, so screen reader users can easily find the description. However, since many people who benefit from image descriptions do not use screen readers, it’s better to include the image description in the caption of the image so that it is easier to locate. This is recommended by many journalists and media outlets, including NPR and National Geographic.

On social media, I recommend adding the description to the caption of the post if space allows, though adding it in the comment section is also a common practice. If the image description is in the comment section, make note of this within the caption. I also recommend writing the phrase “Image Description:” or “ID:” in front of the description so that users know what it is, and if space allows, mentioning that there is additional image description available for an image in the alt text field.

Image descriptions vs visual descriptions

Visual descriptions are used by people presenting at events or conferences to describe their own appearance. These descriptions are voluntary but can help with eliminating unconscious bias and with navigating social situations, since people may feel uncomfortable asking for details on what a person looks like. Visual descriptions specifically benefit people who are blind, that have low vision, or that otherwise have vision loss. I acknowledge that there are people living with vision loss that do not care for visual descriptions or believe that visual descriptions are part of a broader social or political agenda. However, I find them personally helpful, and so do many other people with vision loss, and I encourage speakers to provide this information whenever possible to help make events and conversations even more inclusive.

Visual descriptions are constructed in a similar way to image descriptions, but are typically written or provided verbally by the subject, while image descriptions are usually written by someone else/a third party. I’d love to see a trend of people providing their own visual descriptions at events when asked what they are wearing- that would be amazing as a viewer with low vision!

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Things to include in image descriptions for red carpet looks

When writing image descriptions for red carpet outfits, I include the following information in the following approximate order, though I may change the order if a given item is the focus of an outfit- for example, if a simple dress is paired with statement shoes, I would describe the shoes before the dress. Most image descriptions I encounter are 3-5 sentences long.

Who is in the photo

A lot of the people featured at red carpet events are celebrities and other figures with name recognition. If it is a person with their own Wikipedia page, it’s okay to just write the person’s name at the beginning of the description and not provide any additional descriptive information, unless their appearance is drastically different. For example, some celebrities dye their hair at the Met Gala, so it would make sense to mention this change in appearance, i.e “Cara Delevigne wearing a short gray wig.”

In situations where the model is unknown or their name is unavailable, I recommend providing information such as race/ethnicity, gender, hair color, and an optional age/age range. It can also be helpful to include information about their body type/build when it comes to red carpet descriptions, though I would refrain from mentioning specific clothing sizes unless the event is a fashion show or modeling event where clothing size is relevant.

Color(s) of the outfit

When describing colors of an outfit, use shade names such as cobalt blue, periwinkle, burgundy, lime green, metallic gold, or similar names- there’s no need to describe what the color red looks like, shade names are perfect for image descriptions. If there are multiple colors in a pattern, start by mentioning the base color and then mention the color(s) of pattern elements- for example, today I am wearing a vintage purple colored dress with white stripes (vintage purple is the shade name).


Solid colored dresses and suits are common, but some of the most interesting dresses I’ve seen used patterns or alternating colors. I would describe the outfit from the top down, making sure to note if the colors were arranged in a specific way, or if the pattern is in a specific location- for example, some dresses have slogans written on the back at events.

Outfits that transform on the red carpet

One of my favorite Met Gala looks is Blake Lively’s Statue of Liberty dress, which was tied in an oversized copper bow that was undone to reveal a long turquoise-colored train to symbolize the oxidation of the Statue of Liberty statue over time. In another look, Zendaya wore a Cinderella dress that glowed when her stylist waved a wand in front of it.

If showing photos side-by-side of an outfit’s transformation, I recommend mentioning what is different in the second photo and how the effect was achieved. For example, “Zendaya’s stylist waves a magic wand in front of her dress, and vertical light blue lines appear along the body and skirt, creating a glowing effect.”

Outfit material/textures

I love that more suits and red carpet outfits are being made with interesting fabric types and textures, such as brocade, velvet, damask, lamé, and others. When writing an image description, mention the type of fabric or materials that is used for the outfit, or describe different fabrics in order of how they appear on the outfit- i.e lace top with a chiffon skirt.

I use the term “materials” because I know some red carpet outfits do not use fabric or traditional materials- the main example I thought of for this was Lady Gaga’s meat dress from 2010!


Some questions to think about when describing the silhouette of an outfit include:

  • What is the shape of the outfit?
  • Is it an oversized look, or does it use skintight fabric?
  • How does the neckline look?
  • Does it have statement sleeves, large embellishments, fabric cut-outs, a long train, or other items that make it interesting?

This is all helpful information to include in an image description for red carpet outfits, as these types of details can take a simple dress or tux to something over-the-top. For dresses, it can help to use silhouette names such as a-line, mermaid, ball gown, or similar, or use popular terms for necklines such as sweetheart, deep v, or mock neck- if the person reading the image description isn’t sure what a silhouette looks like based on the name, they can look it up.

Unexpected visible/invisible skin

I’m not surprised when someone’s neck, elbows, ankles, or similar skin is visible or covered in a red carpet outfit, but unexpected or statement details such as a fabric that covers the person’s entire body or a see-through dress would be worth mentioning in a description.


Like with dresses and necklines, the type of shoe should be mentioned, as well as its color and if it has an interesting texture/embellishments. The height of shoes can be hard to measure in a photo, so if the exact height isn’t available I would use give an approximation or use a term like “sky-high heels.” If shoes are not visible or do not stand out, I do not mention them in a description- people reading an image description would assume the shoes are not relevant to the outfit, and would not likely assume that the person is not wearing shoes.

Interesting jewelry/accessories

Earrings, necklaces, hats, purses, and similar jewelry/accessories should be mentioned when describing red carpet outfits, especially at events like the Met Gala where statement accessories are often coordinated with different looks.


A lot of celebrities will change up their hair for the red carpet, dyeing it a different color, cutting it, or choosing elaborate hairstyles. Unless the hair is the focus of the image, I would describe the hair’s appearance by mentioning the length, color, texture, and/or style, keeping the description to a sentence or less. For example, if I was writing an image description for my hair the night of my senior prom, I would describe it as “shoulder-length curled caramel brown hair in a braided half-up style, with the braid twisted to resemble a rose/flower.”

Bold makeup looks/nails

I don’t usually include makeup or nail looks when writing image descriptions for red carpet outfits unless it is an over-the-top statement look or looks different than what I imagine someone would be wearing on the red carpet. For example, bright metallic eye shadow that coordinates with the dress, nails with long dangling chains, or facial prosthetics would be something worth mentioning in a description.

Bonus- Designer’s name

Designers work hard to create these amazing red carpet outfits, and if designer information is available, I recommend mentioning the name in the description. This can be mentioned when describing the initial outfit or as a note at the end of the description. For example, if I was writing a description for Selma Blair’s dress from the 2019 Oscars, I would describe it either as a “Ralph & Russo gown” or mention at the end of the description “dress designed by Ralph & Russo.”

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More tips for writing image descriptions for red carpet outfits

  • Avoid providing an opinion on the outfit, instead allowing the reader to come to their own conclusion on how an outfit looks. If the content in question is a best dressed/worst dressed list where the photo is numbered as part of a list or has text added to it, it’s okay to write “Best dressed list, 9” before writing the rest of the description
  • It can be helpful to add the name of the red carpet event and year at the end of the description to provide location context, for example “taken at Met Gala 2022”
  • Visible piercings can also be mentioned by name, i.e septum piercing. If a person has multiple piercings in one place, such as the ear, it’s okay to write “multiple piercings” or “wearing several silver ball earrings”

How To Create Image Descriptions For Red Carpet Looks. Learn how to describe looks from red carpet awards shows and galas for people with vision loss (low vison/blind)