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How to repurpose your closet's summer staples for a work-from-home environment

"The trick is to upgrade the items to look sophisticated and put together, without being overly formal," says wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett.
Wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett.
Wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett.Courtesy of Monica Barnett

Working from home used to be considered a "benefit," but now with COVID-19,most employers are requiring it. In fact 52 percent of employees in some industries are going remote. That means video conferencing is now a way of life, the new "normal."

You will find a number of retailers and stores highlighting two items: masks and tops. The "Zoom top" is making its way into our lexicon - it's the top you can wear to look professional and put together on your video conference call, but can still rock once the call ends.

The good news is, you can repurpose many summer staples in your drawers that you may have dismissed as unworthy or inappropriate for Zoom. The trick is to upgrade the items to look sophisticated and put together (without being overly formal). Best of all, you’ll still be comfortable.


Tank tops & cardigans:

Tank tops by themselves are not considered ready-for-work wear. However, many of them have a neckline that creates a nice frame for your face. Now, all you have to do is grab a cotton cardigan and a nice necklace, and you’re ready for your next videoconference. The added benefit is built-in ventilation: You will stay and look cool the entire time.

Summer scarves

Chances are you haven’t been to a hair salon in ages, which means your locks may be on their last leg. Grab a brightly-colored oblong scarf, hit YouTube and create a headwrap. Waalah – the new focal point of your next call is your face and its crowning glory. Keep your top simple, a white polo is perfect.

If a headwrap is not your cup of tea, try taking the same scarf and simply wrapping it around your neck one time, loosely, to add a touch of glam to your button down. Alternatively, the little square scarf you’ve stashed in your drawer can work wonders as a “necklace” (in place of jewelry). Half of fashion is getting people to focus on something and, in these cases, it’s the scarf!


Part of the allure of sundresses is how light and airy they makes you feel, and that feeling translates into a more positive attitude, right?

While you may be saving your pretty dresses for the weekend or that one-off social distancing outing with your girlfriend, STOP! Focus on the top half of the dress – if it’s a boatneck, V-neck, scoopneck button front, strapless you’re good. Grab your cardigan (because sleeveless is never professional) and get ready for the call.

Monica Barnett founded Blueprint for Style in 2008. She is a wardrobe stylist and personal branding expert who works with individuals to solve personal styling conundrums but also conducts professional development seminars and training for businesses focused on 'the power of the first impression'. While based in Washington, D.C., Blueprint for Style works across the country and most recently has started an online school called, the style school. For more on getting Zoom-call ready, go here.