In this New Normal, executives, leaders and entrepreneurs are all working remotely outside the office where professional dress codes are not required. But professional style and presentation still remain integral to achieving your business and personal goals. It can — and should — be used strategically to reinforce the reputation you want to establish, amplify, or reset.
How you dress and present yourself, even on Zoom, signals the strength of your value to your present and prospective audience, clients, and partners. This balancing act is more challenging now.
With this in mind, we consulted Aliya Thomas, a nationally-known executive image manager, and founder and director of the consulting firm, Elevated Style By Aliya.
Elevated Style specializes in creating high-impact wardrobes for thought leaders, high-level and rising entrepreneurs, and ambitious powerhouse professionals through a simplified and personal approach. In addition to virtually consultingpersonal clients, Aliya Thomas presents to many organizations and corporations via educational style workshops. Examples include Google, The Network of Women NYC, Philip Lim, Urby, Luminary, and Signature Leaders.
“As a professional powerhouse making bold moves, you not only need to play the part, you need to look the part,” she says “When you elevate your style, you elevate your life. This is true more than ever now that we are all online.”
On Zoom and other virtual meeting platforms, we see everything. What mistakes do you see many of us making?
A common mistake I see virtually is wearing colors that are dull and washed out. I encourage clients to work with their “signature power colors”. Power colors are different for each person, depending on personality and complexion. When I help clients identify their signature style, color is a big part of that. The use of color and color placement can speak volumes. The right color can be a powerful expression of personality and presence.
Also, virtual presence is not only about what you are wearing, but it’s also about your set- up. You could look great, but if your background is too distracting, if your lighting is dark and creating shadows, or if your computer is not at eye level, it all affects your professional virtual presence.
What should we be doing?
Just like anything else in life, creating a signature wardrobe starts with a plan. Create at least five options from the waist up, that you feel your best in. Don’t forget jewelry, color, and layering pieces to add contrast and interest. Rotate these options to create variety. However, simply creating these options and your wardrobe plan is not always easy for most. I help clients discover their signature style by helping you start with discovering “Your 3 Words.” These are the three words that best describe who you are, and what you want your image to “say” about you.
You are often called upon by major organizations, to brief their employees on using style to build and expand careers. What is your most common advice?
We have all heard it before. You have to dress the part to BE the part. The challenge is, even though a lot of my clients are extremely successful and great at what they do, when it comes to image and style, some lack confidence in their choices and are stuck with “the how”. When it comes to elevating your image in an authentic way with impact, outsourcing a qualified personal stylist can make a positive difference. Not only will you elevate your image confidence, but you’ll also do the same for your personal brand image. We have less than seven seconds to make a great first impression. Make them count.
What are your top tips for men and women who want to reboot their image to present themselves now more effectively?
When creating your signature professional look, you always want to stay true to yourself and be authentic. However, no matter your age, body type, or career level, both men and women should consider these top three tips when you are rebooting your wardrobe.
1. Focus on “The 3 F’s” … fit, fabric, and function.
Time and time again I see many wearing clothes that are simply too big or too small, especially men. Finding a go-to tailor is key for that polished look. Tailoring is not just for suits. A good tailor is one of the most valuable tools you can have in your arsenal. Invest in great quality fabrics that are natural and breathable. Not only will they be more comfortable: they will last longer and naturally look more put together. As far as function, think about how you spend the majority of your time. If you spend 75% of your time in professional clothing, 75% of your wardrobe should represent that.
2. Shoes matter.
When it comes to shoes, it’s all about quality over quantity. You only need a few pair of great shoes that are purposeful to various occasions. It’s important to rotate them to keep your shoes in good condition. Invest in quality materials and pay attention to comfort, or you won’t wear them. Always keep your shoes clean, unscuffed and modern. An outdated shoe can make or break a look.
3. Don’t forget the face!
With more business being conducted virtually, the face is even more important. This is more of an image tip as opposed to style. Gentlemen, find a modern haircut for your face shape. This is huge. This also goes for eyewear. The right glasses and haircut make a world of difference. Ladies, the same goes for you. Women also need to consider make up and jewelry. I always suggest playing up your eyes OR your lips, not both at the same time. And don’t be afraid of a little color on your lips. It brightens your face and brings attention to your words. The same goes with earrings and necklaces. Choose one or the other to highlight. Professionally, a delicate or statement necklace, with low-profile earrings work best. Wearing bold earrings virtually tend to be more distracting. Those work best for nights out or casual weekend looks.