What’s the accepted professional dress and grooming code if remote video chat is your daily routine? Six stylish creatives on what translates best

By Lane Florsheim. Culled from wsj.com

Credits: Photo by Dayne Topkin on Unsplash


As going into the office has become holing up in the home office, one early challenge emerges: looking professional for video calls and conferences, the etiquette for which seems more challenging than dressing for a day at work.

What looks good waist up on Zoom but doesn’t broadcast that you’re trying very hard for a 30-minute call? (And what if, God forbid, you have to stand up and you’re wearing pajama pants or, even worse, boxers?) Does being professionally dressed make you more productive? Is it worth brushing your hair or slapping on makeup for a Google Hangout—or is that off-putting when everyone knows you’re not leaving your living room?

Six ways to deal with the new normal, when your only contact with your coworkers (and boss) is through your screen:

How professional—and complete—should my wardrobe be?

If getting dressed up makes you happy, stick to it. “People have to do things that bring them a bit of joy,” says fashion designer Rachel Comey. “Getting dressed is part of that—part of keeping our positivity and looking forward.” Comey recommends knitwear, particularly in calming, neutral colors, or sweatshirts—her brand has sold more of these in the past two weeks—as well as sweaters with varying necklines.

“When the time comes, people might start wanting to experiment further,” she says. “I don’t think we’re there yet but I feel like there might be interest in exploration and creativity and trying things you never thought you’d try.”

Alexandra O’Neill, the designer of womenswear label Markarian, says a crisp white button-down is her go-to though she’s mostly been wearing sweatshirts and sweatpants so far. “I think it’s important even just for your mental health to get out of bed in the morning and treat it as though you’re going to the office,” she says. “Put yourself together and get out of PJs, even if it’s just into a sweatsuit.”

Fashion designer Sandy Liang, who’s known for her cozy pile fleeces, says she’s taken to throwing a sweater over whatever she wakes up in while also making sure to switch it up. “It all really goes back to staying positive and wearing what makes you happy…for me, that means [wearing] something different every day,” she says. “I went into my studio the other day to grab one of our new spring T-shirts just so I’ve got something new. I felt like I was looking at the same clothes over and over again.”

What’s the right amount of personal clutter in the background?

Looking for a white wall or other neutral space to settle into ahead of a video call might be a natural impulse, but Sarah Hoover, a director at Gagosian, doesn’t agree.

“I’ve kind of given up caring about that,” she says. “I’ve started to really let my freak flag fly and be in my most brightly wallpapered, girly room of my house and let my full identity, my non-work identity, show.” Still, she adds, “The one thing that I think matters is your space should look clean.”

As to what not to show in the frame, Hoover finds herself in a unique predicament. “My husband [Tom Sachs] is an artist and we’re staying in our little surf shack right now. He was making a movie here and as a prop for the movie, they—don’t f—ing ask me why— have a fake horse penis [that’s used to] inseminate other horses,” she says. “Disgusting! Apparently they’re very hard to get … so maybe not that in the background.”

To that end, make sure there isn’t anything too personal in sight, like the hair vitamins Hoover keeps by her bed—and “back lighting is not your friend, ever.”

How do I avoid glasses glaring or looking fogged in Web-cam light?

Many brands offer anti-reflective coating on lenses, which reduces glasses glare. Clean lenses, of course, are key. “Eyewear is such a part of your character, it goes on your face,” says Garrett Leight, founder and CEO of his eponymous sunglasses and prescription glasses brand. “Be yourself, the same person you always were before all this. I wouldn’t start wearing glasses … in the middle of the coronavirus.”

Eyeglass wearers who have multiple pairs might consider opting for the frames that contrast most with their skin color; if you have lighter skin, for example, darker tortoise or black frames will likely show up better on video than transparent ones. Leight also recommends considering glasses with a blue light filter since they help absorb the blue light devices emit that’s been found to disrupt our sleep patterns.

Is a full face of makeup trying too hard?

“When you’re experiencing stress, it does translate into the skin, of course,” says Gucci Westman, celebrity makeup artist and the founder of beauty line Westman Atelier. To combat this sort of strain, Westman alternates calming oils—marula oil, rose hip oil and camellia oil— she presses into her skin with a derma roller twice a week. And she says yes to putting on makeup for video calls.

“You might have some color, some mascara, a little bit of lift,” she says. “I think all those things are nice and they don’t look overdone. You want to portray an element of yourself—and that you’re not falling apart because the world is in dire straits. You still feel good about yourself.”

Cover photo credits: Photo by PICHA Stock from Pexels

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