Learning to Live in an Upended World: Virtual Chic

Learning to Live in an Upended World: Virtual Chic

By Natalie Taylor


One recent morning I was on a Zoom call with an old friend. She sat in her living room with part of the kitchen visible on the screen. At one point her husband came down for coffee—shirtless, with just his undies—unaware of being in full view. When I said “Morning!” he quickly ducked behind the counter as we all laughed. 


Whether it’s Face Time with an old friend or a Zoom meeting, there is now new etiquette on videoconference appearance. We’ve become complacent in our solitude and we forget that these visual venues put us and our backgrounds in the spotlight. Here are some suggestions experts offer on how to put your best face forward (best foot is irrelevant in this context!) while videoconferencing.


Lighting: Natural light is best, but definitely do not sitting with your back to the light source unless what you intend is to show only your silhouette. Ideally, sit facing a large window or a place a good lamp behind the computer. 


Positioning: Nobody likes to be looking up someone’s nose, but that is exactly what you present if your laptop is on a coffee table and you are looking down. Or the top of your head if the camera is too high. The camera should be directed at you slightly from above—think of it “at my hairline pointing to my eyes.” You can place your computer on a box or several books to achieve this.


Background: Be aware (as my story above illustrates) that the viewer sees what is behind you. Consider a simple, uncluttered area to frame you.


Clothing: Now here is where the fun begins! Many who love to “dress up” welcome screen calls as social events to spiff themselves up and maybe put on an outfit that hasn’t left the closet for months. Since you’ll be sitting in front of your computer, the task has been cut by 50 percent—your only concern is from the waist up. Since your viewers can only see your face and torso, pajama bottoms or even going full commando (if that’s your comfort) below the waist, are perfectly acceptable. As long as you are aware of that when you get up!


The recommendation—for business meetings—is for “bright and solid” but businesslike. But here is where you can have some fun and use this virtual social occasion to indulge your “dress-up” itch. What about that beaded gown you wore for a wedding or the low décolletage silk jumpsuit? Why let these go to waste? Go ahead, dress to the hilt, it’s your chance to shine without going out! If it’s a business meeting, a scarf can cover up your over-exposed cleavage and a classic jacket will allow just a peek of that ball gown. My mother used to enjoin me to use good china every day—”what you gonna do, have tea in your coffin?” So go on, get dressed up, and live a little.