Zoom Style Diary – Tips and Etiquette

Hello Fellowship of the Digital Nomads,

As a professional stylist, working from home has me revealing some style secrets from my personal collection.  I will dive right into it and hope your online meetings are full of charm and success.

I have witnessed that one of the most effective ways to express ourselves and create lasting expressions in the otherwise impersonal Zoom/online meetings is by having fun through the way we dress.  It gives us the opportunity to define and communicate our professional goals through personal branding and does not have to take hours if we plan ahead and select a few key pieces.

Additionally, picking an appropriate dress code will help you avoid any accidental design fiascos.  These include unintentional yet self-defining incidents such as taking only the upper half of your body to work, logging in with a visibly unbrushed head full of dreams, or sending inconsiderate messages through thoughtless attire.  Always remember that the way you dress shows your values and helps people treat you the way you want to be treated.

Knowing how crucial it is to treat ourselves with kindness and provide structure to our day, we must invest some time to pick our professional wardrobe.  The benefits go far beyond saving us from the obvious fails – you might even feel more productive by preserving a sense of professionalism in an otherwise formless environment.

Even subconsciously, we associate putting on formal clothing with going to work.  It is strongly correlated with confidence and productivity.  So I have decided that it is critical to maintain a version of your office attire even when working from home.  In essence, when we dress professionally, we raise our own opinion of ourselves and our behaviour follows suit by matching our clothes.  This self-assurance reflects in our work productivity and demeanour.

What is a Zoom-appropriate business wardrobe?

Business casual is the new normal.  I’d even dare to say that if you are wearing a suit while working from home, you can just hang it up in the back of your closet for the foreseeable future.  Even if you previously worked at an office that required you to wear a suit every day, rules are generally relaxing across the board now.  It might not be the most comfortable attire to be in at home while working like you are at the office, and your discomfort is even more visibly distracting on digital platforms. 

In an online meeting, elements of physical discomfort or distracting clothing are magnified as other aspects of non-verbal communication are removed.  Consequently, people are inclined to form first impressions based on the outfits you wear, and this is more applicable if they are seeing or meeting you after a long time.  If you want to make a good impression, you not only have to communicate professionally, but should also look like you mean it. 

Now begins the fun part!

Listed below are certain guidelines to follow for Zoom/online meetings:

1) Select the Right Colours

Always take your environment into consideration.  As you navigate the online world, remember that digital cameras are mostly low resolution.  This results in certain colours registering with less clarity than others.  When it comes to selecting the most impactful Zoom outfit, paying attention to colour choice is the most important variable.

When in doubt, go for more neutrals.

White and light blue are the go-to colours for men, with warmer colours working best for women.  It is also a good idea to ensure the colours you choose work well with your complexion and do not blend into the background.  You do not want it to look like your head is hovering in mid-air!

Neutrals such as blue, grey, charcoal, off-white/ivory, and khaki are your best choices for on-screen colours as they consistently register with the camera and ensure you look professional, dependable, and skillful.

Here are some interesting things to know about how people perceive colour:

Blue: shows that you are a self-assured and reliable team player
Black: implies classic professionalism, sophistication, and distinctiveness
Grey: suggests an independent, logical, and analytical thinker

2) Avoid Patterns

Avoid wearing patterns or prints as they can create a strobing effect on camera.  This is experienced most with stripes, where there is a loss of continuity in the line.  This causes the camera to create a dizzying effect for the viewer. That said, solids are always the safest on-screen option, but if you do choose a pattern, be sure it is one that is very subtle and with minimal contrast.  Try to keep things as simple as possible by avoiding bold prints and colours.  Just like stripes and dots, animal print and plaid can be very distracting.  Sophisticated and subtle prints are best in this case. 

Remember that your garment should not distract your audience from what you are saying, and that its role is to highlight your professional image without stealing center stage.  Your garments define you and should appear to be a part of you instead of overshadowing your personality and taking the focus away from your work and word.

3) Find the Company Dress Code

If you are invited for a Zoom interview, it is important to dress for the company you are interviewing for.  It is a great idea to do some research and find out the company’s different dress codes and standards that should be respected.  Researching the company beforehand will let you know what a good fit for you and the company is.  You might be surprised to know that you can learn a lot about the company’s culture through its dress code.  It will give you the edge we keep talking about so you can focus on your strengths, knowing you exude confidence and reliability.  Also, showing respect and regard for the company through careful background research will encourage others to honour you..

4) Always Put Comfort First

The focus is mainly on your face during video calls.  This increases the chances of people picking up on your mood and discomfort through your attire.  Any awkwardness can take away from your strengths.  Try not to wear outfits that are too restrictive so that you are relaxed enough to visibly look comfortable and in charge of the situation.  In short, be the calming effect you seek and dress for your personality.

Having established that different clothes influence our moods differently, if you want that personal edge, invest time to choose an image consultant who would guide you toward wearing clothes that make your unique values truly shine and that bring your best attributes to light (literally).  If you are a welcoming, sociable person, a polished and comfortable look will get that across effortlessly and meaningfully.  On the other hand, if the situation demands the alternative, the silhouette you choose to wear will be helpful in communicating a more formal or reserved demeanour.

Trying a variety of colours and cuts before the meeting will help you determine what works best for you.  Here is where working with a professional stylist can exponentially accelerate the process. 

5) Pretend You Are Going to the Office

Most organisations have policies against distracting or offensive attire.  These rules should also be carried over to Zoom meetings.  Some basic guidelines would include choosing befitting necklines that show off your tasteful jewellery and staying away from shiny fabrics which might be distracting on video.

6) Accessorise

Accessorising is important because it shows that you put thought in the way you present yourself.  Try keeping your accessories limited to a few stylish pieces.  This can go a long way in completing your outfit and make you look organized and put together, which will translate into a professional, polished image to the person on the other end of your Zoom call. 

The secret here is to ensure the accessories you wear do not take over and become the main point of focus.  You want others to focus on you and what you are saying and not on your accessories.  Try making any items you purposefully invested in easily visible. 

A standout watch, a delicate necklace, or earrings which compliment your unique features will accessorise your message more impressively.   A personal shopper can help you determine the most impactful key pieces for the customized look you are going for.  You will be delighted to see the difference having a tailored approach to your outfits and work situations can make in the way people react to you both in person and on video.

Guidelines for Men:

A collared shirt minus the jacket and tie perfectly combines professional and casual.  Layer it with a sweater to add more interest or opt for a nice polo in a neutral colour.  Avoid T-shirts and sleeveless tops as they are better left for off-duty hours.  Even if you work for a more casual company, these types of shirts convey that you did not consider the company dress code.  Keep in mind that most of the cues people pick up on are subconsciously fed to them by us through the way we dress.  This will help you prevent any potential employer or client from making the false assumption that the quality of your work is less than spectacular.

You can effectively achieve a polished, high-end look by opting for a carefully selected shirt handpicked by your personal stylist.  This will ensure the right fit and cut for you.  Other Zoom staples are cardigans and lightweight jackets.  These are the new blazer.  A sport coat may feel a touch too try-hard now, but an alternative layering-piece will elegantly complete your look while maintaining comfort.

There is a time and place for your suit and tie.  If it’s standard protocol with certain clients or when speaking on online panels, in board meetings, or to investors, then the rules of formality remain the same.  Over here the classic customized suit will help you appear poised and professional.

Also, do take out time for grooming your beard and styling your hair.  Plan for a haircut or simply comb your hair to appear as impressive and confident as you feel inside.

Guidelines for Women:

Blouses or sweaters are perfect on-camera options for maintaining your professional image while still feeling comfortable at your home office.  If you have opted for styles that would usually be tucked into trousers, do the same and tuck them in even if it would not be visible in the camera.  Keeping the previous suggestions in mind, pretend that you are at the office and wear trousers, pants, or a skirt that compliments your body shape.  The extra confidence you get from looking your best will help you.  Having a loose-cut, untucked shirt creates a distorted silhouette on-screen and leaves an accompanying, uninspiring impression. While dressing for body shape, I would suggest considering a structured blazer as a good addition to the outfit.  V-neck tops are very flattering as they elongate your torso, especially when the bottom half of your body is not able to create visual balance in the frame.  However, for professional online meetings, do make sure that the cut is not too low and revealing. 

Your hair and makeup can remain clean and simple but should never be overlooked.  As your features appear differently on a computer screen than they do in person, some concealer and mascara plus a light blush may be all you need to be camera-ready and will help you feel your best as your face takes center stage.  Make sure to look awake, well-rested and fresh.  A more natural look will appear warm and welcoming.

Once again, I hope you enjoy the process.  Dressing up for work each day is an almost ceremonial act of loyalty.  As you would with a regular day of conquering the world, tackle your online calendar with a little self-love and have a great time!  In my experience, it always resonates well with people looking to invest in you when you celebrate yourself and put thought and consideration into simple things such as choosing the perfect accessory to the more complicated aspects of your meeting.  Consider asking for suggestions from personal stylists and invest the time to educate yourself on your physical and professional strengths.  Leaving behind any self-doubt and focusing solely on your goals while your image is taken care of would help realign your perspective and create harmony in everything the world brings your way. 

Here’s to a more successful future you!

With Style,