Wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett: 9 do's and don'ts of dressing during quarantine

"Sure, if you need to take a few days to stay cozy during these stressful times, do it. But also know getting dressed for a work-from-home environment doesn't have to be complicated," says Barnett.
Wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett.
Wardrobe stylist Monica Barnett.Courtesy of Monica Barnett

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By Monica Barnett

Just a few months ago, getting ready for work was based on factors like the weather, what was on your to-do list, meeting location, and if you had a chance to go the dry cleaner. COVID-19, of course, changed all that.

And while your first instinct may be to stay in pajamas or sweats all day, you may want to think again. What we wear can affect our mood and productivity.

Sure, if you need to take a few days to stay cozy during these stressful times, do it. But also know getting dressed for a work-from-home environment doesn't have to be complicated. Focus on small wardrobe tweaks because six months from now (fingers crossed!) you’ll be back to some semblance of normalcy.

Check out my guidelines below:

1. DO create a uniform.

The best first step is to create a uniform for yourself, not unlike how you did pre-quarantine. Pre-quarantine, my standard uniform was vintage tees, jeans and a blazer. However, now I have updated that look to remove the blazer (I’m home!) and go with solid, brightly-colored button down shirts and jeans. Creating three versions of your uniform will provide variety but also reduce the need to scramble when it’s time for your Zoom call.

2. DO focus on flexible pieces.

As you create what you want your uniform to be, make sure you are also focused on flexibility. Having a crisp, white Victorian-collar, cinched-waist top will not feel good after several hours. Rather, let spandex, lyocell and elastane become your closest friends! These are fabrics that stretch with you as you shift around in your chair and go from call to call without a break. In addition, think about key athleisure pieces like these pants to get your through the day. Your new work-from-home schedule may also provide time for a midday walk or lunch so flexibility also means looking for pieces that can go from a Zoom call to a midday walk with the dog or kids back to an afternoon of more calls.

3. DO create a dedicated workspace.

The existence of the teleconferencing existed before quarantine, but was not so heavily relied upon until now. Address the mental aspect of working from home by creating a dedicated space that is properly equipped with a comfy chair and lighting so you can “go to work” in your space and adapt a more business-focused mindset.

4. DO rethink beauty and makeup essentials.

Also think about beauty and makeup essentials. With Zoom, you’re forced to do more close-ups than you may like. Spend a little time rethinking your beauty routine because your face is now the center of attention. As a wardrobe stylist and personal branding expert, I get a lot of questions about makeup. I’ve researched and collaborated with several well-known beauty bloggers and experts, and the main takeaway has always been to keep it simple. Plan to keep your face moisturized (and hydrated), and have your blush, mascara and lipstick at-the-ready. Every Zoom call doesn’t require a full face but a little color to add life and dimension on camera is a must!

5. DO lean toward lighter (versus darker) pieces.

Indeed, the camera is a piece of technology you have to use to your advantage during work-from-home scenarios. Although some say you should stick to wearing darker colors for a more slimming effect, the opposite is true here. First – on 90 percent of your Zoom calls, only your top half is on display. Focusing on lighter pieces especially on your top half creates better framing on video.

6. DON’T go too casual.

You are working from home and, frankly, so is everyone else so there’s no need to “hide” it. The uniform and key pieces you put into your rotation should not only be flexible and lighter but should also not be too casual Balance is key: you are home so no one expects a three-piece suit but you are working so no one wants to see you in pajamas either! Opt for pieces that say “I’m comfortable enough to lean back in my chair but still ready to talk business.” I remind all of my clients to avoid full-on workout gear but a grown-up sweatshirt + nice necklace and earrings still looks like you have your business-brain intact.

7. DON’T be overly formal or rigid

No need to be too formal either. My other favorite is this white button down which looks airy but curated from the torso up.

Leggings for every occasion

March 9, 202003:56

8. DON’T worry about footwear

You are at home so footwear is whatever works for you. I am a fan of going barefoot in the house or using shoes specifically for the house. During your calls, no camera should be accessing the floor, so whatever you choose to wear or not wear works. A quick suggestion: for proper posture during your calls, sitting up straight usually means you have your feet on the floor or perhaps cross-legged which means barefoot or socks is the most flexible!

9. DON’T go overly ornate

You only have a little bit of visual real estate and if it’s bombarded with that extra-loud, oversized top, it’s doing too much. You now have nothing to counter or balance the boldness because the Zoom call participants only see your top half. Save the festive, oversized prints for your Friday night cocktail hours! In front of the camera, solids translate the best and you’ll actually find them easier to re-use as well since your Zoom call schedule is probably packed.

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. Her soon-to-be-released book is tentatively called, "The Creatives Closet: a style guidebook for female side hustlers, entrepreneurs, and empire builders!"