Starting with dress down Fridays, attire in the workplace has become more and more casual throughout the years. In most industries, employees are not expected to wear a suit and tie every day.
Obviously what we wear to work depends on the industry we work in, but it’s safe to say that a majority of companies are embracing the business causal attire, if not allowing casual attire in the workplace.
In the era of working remotely during the coronavirus pandemic, are we still expected to wear business casual attire? Is a t-shirt acceptable to wear on a video call with your boss? What do you wear during a virtual team bonding video call? Ladders spoke with three experts to find the answers to all your working remotely outfit questions.
What is business casual for women and men?
Before we get into how to dress business casual on a video call, we should probably dress what exactly business attire is.
“What we wear to work often depends on the industry we work in,” said Professor Carolyn Mair, consultant and author of The Psychology of Fashion. “So the idea of business casual depends on the business.”
Generally, the term business casual is a slightly relaxed version of a suit, suggesting trousers (as opposed to jeans) a fairly conservative skirt, a shirt or blouse, dress. A jacket to complement the trousers or skirt is optional.
“I feel that business casual is that great middle space between a t-shirt and joggers style of comfort with the elevation and professionalism that formal workwear presents,” said Mitali Saxena, founder and CEO of FASHOM, an AI enhanced styling platform. “Business casual also brings in an element of pulled-togetherness that so many people have a hard time achieving in jeans, a chic top, and a denim jacket. It is a bit different to every single person and their office, but to me, it is a perfect marriage of ease and elevation all in one look.”
How should you dress for a Zoom video call meeting?
Just like a typical day at the office, dressing for a Zoom video call depends on what kind of meeting you have that day, who it is with, and what the goal of the call is.
Hollywood Costume Designer and private stylist Leesa Evans recommends keeping your style simple and solid-colored during the time of COVID-19 video calls.
“Many people are going through huge transitions as well as possible health and economic fall out so it’s a time to really support one another in any way we can,” Evans said. “Our attire can create the confidence and calm people need now to know we are here to help.”
At the same time, you should be sure to stay true to your style, as dressing for video calls is an important form of self-expression during this time at home. As always, there are ways that you can incorporate different trends and new elements into your style without completely disregarding your own unique aesthetic.
“I usually wear a jacket with a bright color top with a little make-up,” Saxena said. “This is an easy way to still get what you need done from a professional presentation perspective while also helping to keep yourself in a semi-consistent routine of getting dressed for work without sacrificing comfort.”
From a psychology standpoint, Mair reminds people that you should choose to dress for a video call in a way that makes you feel good because when we feel good, we are able to project a more confident image and focus on achieving our goals.
“In terms of today’s situation where there is so many things we have can’t take control, I recommend people take control of what they can. One of these aspects is choosing what to wear,” Mair said. “Many people are loving the freedom working from home gives them and they decided to throw away the previous ‘rules’ of workwear that they used to follow.”
If you are one of those people, that’s great. But Mair also says that it’s okay if you enjoy the structure of dressing as if still going to the office and changing out of work clothes at the end of the working day. Your clothes set your mood, and if changing clothes helps you set yourself into a more productive mindset, you should embrace that. There’s nothing wrong with compartmentalizing your day to give it a little more structure.
Make sure to keep in mind the person on the other end of the video call when you are getting dressed for your meeting.
“Given people make a judgement on whether they like us or not in under a second based on our appearance alone, we can’t deny appearance matters,” Mair said. “Fortunately, the longer we know someone, the less we are influenced by their appearance alone.”
For those who want to maintain of a sense of normalcy, Mair suggests dressing their top half as they would for face-to-face meetings, and as they wish for their bottom half. But make sure to remember your bottom half choice if you need to get up for any reason during the Zoom meeting.
Examples of business casual outfits for a Zoom video call
“In today’s stay at home work environment I think it’s important to be equally professional yet connected to all the other people confronting this unprecedented new situation, so business casual feels more relevant now than ever,” Evans said.
When it comes to dressing business casual for a video meeting, Evans recommends a suit jacket and shirt without a tie, a shirt and sweater combo, a simple dress or solid colored professional top. Depending on your job, any slightly more casual version of your regular everyday work attire should work for a video meeting.
“If you have a more creative position, it might be a good time to wear your ‘client meeting’ attire to give confidence that despite our all being at home we are able to be productive and inspired,” Evans said.
For a video call, Saxena recommends a tailored blouse in a bold hue with a pair of tapered joggers underneath (again, keeping in mind your bottom half choice if you will have to stand) or a comfortable wrap dress that you can even wear with slippers under your desk.
“There are smaller things like a great pair of hoops or a fun eyeshadow you can pair with either of these to help make yourself feel a little more pulled together,” Saxena said. “However, my number one tip in any case of a work call is to try to bring in bright colors because they look great on camera, especially if your space is a little darker.”
Why is it important to dress business casual for video calls made from home?
“Clothing says who we are even before the first ‘hello,’ using our video call looks to both stay professional and to inspire others that we can adapt to this new way of working,” Evans said.
While our clothing projects messages to others, it can also help us feel normal, productive, and more positive during this uncertain time.
“A fair majority of people in the world are facing circumstances no one has ever had to deal with before on so many levels, and in times of consistent change, having a routine that helps you keep some level of normalcy can be incredibly helpful,” Saxena said. “Not only does this help you present yourself as a solid professional to the other people you’re speaking with but it also helps to give you a sense of grounding in the familiarity of getting dressed to go to work, even if the view from your office has changed.”
Before the coronavirus pandemic, many of us had successful morning routines that would help us wake up, getting our minds and bodies ready for the day. It’s different for all, but that morning routine has likely changed a bit during your time at home. Preparing for a work video call by giving yourself time to pick out an outfit and get yourself ready also prepares you for the day mentally.
“It’s more important that we feel comfortable and confident and that we contribute well,” Mair said. “For many, dressing well or in their usual type of workwear may be helpful as we make associations between our work wear and our role, responsibilities and authority in that role.”
For others, dress may be less important to their work life.
“In the end, anyone can ‘dress well’, but if their contribution is lacking, then they haven’t done a good job,” Mair said.
Jennifer Fabiano is an SEO reporter at Ladders.