Professional. Stylish. Comfortable.

A style consultant shares tips on how to present yourself better at virtual meetings.

We’re all spending more time at home. Some of us are even converting quiet corners to work-from-home spaces. And it’s been all too easy over these last past few months to let sweatpants become work attire.

But then you have a Zoom call with your boss, and you catch a glimpse of your “office,” which is currently decked out in a cup of instant ramen stacked on top of the book you’re been meaning to read. Scattered remains of your child’s LEGO kingdom sprinkle the floor; a sloppy T-shirt decorated with memories of last night’s meal sits nearby.

Let’s cut to the chase — if it wasn’t kosher in the office, it probably shouldn’t be happening when you are working from home.

Cue Bruce Pflaumer, founder of and style expert at Michael Bruce Image Consulting, a style consulting group based in Issaquah.

Typically, his company’s consulting process begins with an in-person meeting to assess clients’ needs. Since COVID-19, Pflaumer said these appointments have gone virtual. If people are wanting help with their virtual presence, clients show Pflaumer their wardrobe and their workspace so he can evaluate both.

One takeaway from Pflaumer’s WFH routine we could all use: Get fully dressed for work, even if your coworkers are only going to see you from the waist up.

“It prepares me,” Pflaumer said of putting on what he would if he were heading into the office, instead of just heading upstairs.

And apparently black is out for video calling. “It is the worst color to wear on a video call because it literally absorbs all the light,” Pflaumer said. He prefers to wear truer colors, which reflect light better.

Like any photo shoot, background and lighting are key. Pflaumer himself has been doing a lot more work from home and has revamped his space as a result. He repainted his office to a more neutral tone and has two pieces of simple art displayed to not distract from the business of the call. A lamp on his desk reflects off the wall to keep him illuminated without creating unwanted shadows.

Pflaumer recommends taking a screenshot to see what your space looks like to others. “If people took more screenshots of what their background was, they probably would not have those backgrounds,” Pflaumer said.

And what about those built-in conference call virtual backgrounds? He says those are no-go for an important meeting — they’re too distracting.

While you might be slipping more into the casual side of business casual while at home, Pflaumer has a different philosophy.

“There’s this notion that everyone says, ‘Oh, I’m just going to be business casual, I’m business casual, my look is business casual.’ And I get it. I have another perspective on that. You don’t do business casually. So, business casual is really not an apparel choice,” Pflaumer said.

But what about comfort? “You can wear clothes that are comfortable, that are super dressy and for business. If they have stretch in them, if they fit you really well, if you feel really good in them, that means it’s comfortable,” Pflaumer said.

Comfort while still looking professional is the goal, especially when we’re essentially bringing our coworkers into our homes. “There’s something about the spaces that’s actually even more vulnerable.” It’s time to spruce yourself and your spaces up because it seems like video calls are becoming a new normal.

“Video calling is here to stay. Embrace it, and make the best of it,” he advised.

The fashion industry might be moving to embrace it, too. “I think that’s going to be very interesting to see if clothing becomes a little bit more minimal and simple with very clean lines,” Pflaumer said.

As far as general advice for what to wear on calls, Pflaumer said, “Textural interest is really important for me when I get dressed, as far as my style goes. If you’re a guy that, you know, doesn’t wear jackets or something like that, it’s got to be a color choice, that’s something that’s new and fresh for you.

“For women, I think patterns are great, you know, not super tight micro patterns, but challenging themselves to wear some new, interesting patterns, even bolder patterns in clothing.”

Sitting in front of a screen, your coworkers see only your top half, so Pflaumer said, “Anything that’s over the top — now on video is accentuated.”

If this all seems overwhelming Pflaumer always says, “Less is more. Keep it as simple as possible.”

And with the WFH acronym becoming a part of professional vernacular, a final reminder from Pflaumer: “People don’t expect you to be less professional because you’re virtual.”


LIGHT AND BRIGHT

Be seen with LUME CUBE store lighting — adjust the color temperature and brightness, and get that professional glow.

amazon.com | $70

SIMPLE SIMON

Choose simple art for your conference-call backgrounds that doesn’t distract from meetings, like these bohemian mirrors from KimistyDesigns.

etsy.com | $45

COMFORTABLE AND COOL

Be comfortable and look professional with this Ted Baker London Samika Suit Jacket.

nordstrom.com | $175 on sale

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