Who’s Zooming You? Digital Dressing for Success

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Just a few months ago, dressing for success meant donning the best outfit, head to toe, to instill self-assurance in you and transition that confidence to others in your workplace. But with the pandemic forcing many of us to remain cloistered at home well into 2021, wearing the right threads enables us to present our best through virtual meetings. Now dressing for success focuses on how you appear on a video camera through the internet. In fact, it’s taken on its own meaning with the Zoom dress code.

Even Vogue Magazine is getting into the discussion on dressing for the virtual meeting. In the March 2020 edition, vogue.com fashion news writer Liana Satenstein points to the psychological prerequisite to dress the part when it comes to meetings over the internet. She shared her discussion with Professor Francis T. McAndrew, Knox College, Galesburg, Illinois. “If you look at how you are dressed, that signals something about what you are prepared to do. If you are dressed professionally and you’re dressed up, in some ways that raises your own opinion of yourself, and you want your behavior and demeanor to match the clothes,” he said. “So, if you’re dressed like a slob and you are in your sweat clothes, you’re either prepared to work out at the gym or clean out the basement, but you’re not doing anything professional or mentally challenging, and that spills over into your motivation and confidence.”

Tailoring the Virtual Look
Stylist Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen provides advice on how to achieve personal style and includes an entire segment on dressing to fit the part for virtual meetings. “If your job is requiring regular video conferencing, very likely Zoom dress code is more relaxed or you’re already relying on what you wore in the office,” noted Alison. “For everyone else, you likely only need two to four Zoom blouses, pieces you can put on with your joggers or leggings to look polished from the waist up without a lot of rigamarole.”

What does she recommend for the Zoom blouse? It should feature a neckline that isn’t too low—cleavage is definitely a no-no—but it should be wide and low enough to have sufficient spacing of the neck between the chin and blouse. She shies away from buttoned-up collared shirts, turtlenecks, mock necks and bowed blouses. All of these looks can conceal your neck, resulting in your head appearing to float on camera.

Focus on the Face
Alison is keen to offer suggestions that keep the emphasis on you, not your outfit. Consider a blouse with a sleeve or, at minimum, a cap sleeve, which brings the attention back to your face. Dump the shiny or sheer fabric because your webcam can pick up all of those looks and create an on-camera disaster for you. She points to crepe, matte jersey and polyester knits as looking good but also washing well and being wrinkle resistant. More than likely you’ll be sitting the entire time during your virtual meeting, so don’t select a top that’s too fitted or structured or has a button placket. Your shoulders and front may pull and roll or the buttons gape. She reminds us that a bright color and print can actually be pleasant distractions and can enhance your face.

While Alison recommends covering the upper part of your camera physique, other experts recommend dressing the entire body. Jessica Borushek, a clinical psychologist, favors wearing professional clothes, top to bottom, including shoes, for virtual work to reset the mind when you are on and off the time clock. “If you’re wearing non-sleep clothes and shoes while working, it highlights a very clear transition when you take off your shoes at the end of the workday and put on loungewear.”

Although you may be tempted to slacken on your hygiene, don’t! Nothing can get you ready for work or play better than a comforting shower and hair that’s presentable. Also, don’t forget to complete your on-camera look with a bit of makeup and even some simple jewelry.

While these suggestions can help you get ramped up for work, you also must ensure you cut the cord to your job and focus on yourself when the day is complete, especially during this very uncertain pandemic. According to health writer Ashley Abramson, experts say it’s important to implement clear transitions when you’re done working so that you can fully unwind in your home. “Establish rituals,” says Sharon Grossman, a psychologist and success coach. “When you’ve wrapped up for the day, turn off your computer, change your clothes and go for a walk outside or meditate for a few minutes. Whatever ritual you decide on, the goal is to signal to your mind that it’s time to relax and enjoy yourself, something that’s vital to maintain a high level of productivity.” ■

Sources: apartmenttherapy.com, wardrobeoxygen.com.