What to Wear for Video Conferences

What to wear for video conferences is a request I’ve been getting a lot lately, as so many more people are finding themselves working remotely as we navigate this new reality of living with a pandemic.

One reader wrote in: “As many of us now start to work from home, joining conference calls, and for me, teaching from home, can you give us ideas on what to wear? Do colors matter? Do we wear jewelry? Can you recommend outfits?”

Why, yes. Yes, I can!

What to Wear for Video Conferences

My husband has been working from home for the past two weeks, hosting many conference calls throughout the day, and he’s got himself fixed up quite nicely in our basement. He has some general tips for looking your best on video calls. (HINT: Lighting is KEY!)

And then I’ve done some Google-research to make sure I’m giving you the best advice for what to wear for video conferences.

5 Tips for Looking Your Best on Video

#1. Good Lighting Trumps All

Out of all of these tips, good lighting is the most important part to looking good on video. You want to be well lit, but from the right direction.

Try not to sit with a window directly behind you — unless you have enough light in front, you will be backlit, which makes your face look dark on screen. Also avoid fluorescent lights and overhead lights, as they create dark under-eye shadows.

Instead, you want be sure to get some flattering light on your face. Daylight can be great, if you have the set-up for it, but don’t rule out lamps or other lights you may have sitting around the house.

You can always set up two lights, one on either the side of your computer. They should be just above your eye line and about 3 feet apart.

Or, if you will be doing a lot of video calls over the next few months, you may want to invest in a proper light. I have a DivaRing Light that I purchased from Amazon a few years ago that I use for my Facebook Lives.

How to Look Your Best for Video Conferences

(I am using my smartphone as my camera here, not my laptop, which I have on my lap to refer to during my video presentation.)

Even though it appears that I have a window behind me, I always position myself so that the camera is angled towards the bookcase and the wall behind me, not the window. Because I have the light of the DivaRing Light to balance the light coming in the windows, it works.

You don’t have to place your camera (in my case, a smartphone) inside the ring either. I have used this light beside my desk to shine more light on my face when using my iMac for video calls.

#2. Position Your Camera

Position your camera (or the camera lens of your computer) so that it’s just above your eye line, so it’s pointing down at you, ever so slightly — don’t go overboard, that looks awkward too.

My iMac is situated this way already, but if you’re using a laptop, you may need to set it up on a bunch of books or a box to raise the height of the camera to just above eye level.

Just be sure the camera is not below you, pointing up at your chin. It’s not flattering, and it’s unprofessional too.

(I can see in my pictures that I could probably elevate my smartphone camera a bit more. Fortunately it’s on a stand that can be raised up a little higher. I’ll try that for my next Facebook Live.)

Also, make sure your face and body take up the space on the screen, not the background. So basically, you want to sit close enough that you fill the screen, but not so close that it’s uncomfortable for those watching you.

How to Look Your Best for Video Conferences

Your head should be at the top of the frame, not in the middle with a bunch of space above your head.

And beware of slouching. The tendency is to sit up nice and tall when testing out your position on the camera, but when you get to talking and looking down at notes during the call, you will end up reverting to your normal posture, so you want to account for that when positioning your camera.

The image above is a screenshot from one of my Facebook Lives, and I’m positioned pretty well in that frame.

#3. Be Aware Of Your Background

Whether you have a home office or you’re setting up your laptop in a communal living space, try to situate yourself with a personal but professional background such as a bookcase or simple wall.

Clean up any clutter or visuals that may detract from your professional appearance, and pay attention to what is (or could be) happening behind you that may be distracting to the other members on the call.

How to Look Your Best for Video Conferences

We’ve all seen the videos circulating the Web of men (or women) on a conference call while the kids are opening the door behind them and causing a ruckus. Our goal here is NOT to go viral.

For example, my husband had to adjust his setup in our basement when he realized the kids were visible coming down the steps. He had it set up that way so he could take advantage of the natural light coming in our sliding doors. (It’s a walk-out basement.)

He ended up turning around and using some studio lights to create the environment he wanted.

It’s a good idea to do a test run before your call so you can make any necessary adjustments.

#4. Dress for Work

I’ll get into specifics about what to wear (and what NOT to wear) for video conferences in the next section, but your attire should be similar to what you’d wear to work or the office on any ordinary day.

What to Wear for Video Conferences

If you’re a teacher, dress as you would for the classroom. If you typically work in an office, dress as you normally would for an in-office meeting. You get the idea.

You can take advantage of the fact that the camera can’t see below your waist by wearing comfortable bottoms and shoes, but your top half should look professional and put-together.

#5. Wear Appropriate Makeup 

The camera tends to wash people out, so you may need more blush or foundation than you normally wear. Just don’t go overboard with it.

Again, it’s best to test it out before your call. Record yourself talking for a few minutes, and be sure you look alive, but not overdone.

How to Look Your Best for Video Conferences

Okay, so now that we know how to set up our computer/smartphone for video conferencing, let’s talk about what to wear!

What to Wear for Video Conferences

#1. Choose an outfit that is appropriate for your work environment.

This basically reiterates #4 from the list above, but you want to wear something appropriate for your typical office or work environment.

#2. Choose clothing that isn’t too tight or too oversized (or too revealing… duh!)

Make sure the clothes you’re wearing don’t bunch up, gape, or reveal too much cleavage once you sit down.

If a sweater is too tight, it will create unflattering lumps and bumps when sitting, but if it’s too loose and flowy, it will drape and add visual weight.

Instead, choose pieces that have some structure and skim the body without clinging.

And consider adding a completer piece — this will help you look polished and put together.

A structured jacket is always a good idea for more professional fields, or if you’re a teacher, consider a cardigan or denim jacket.

#3. Wear colors that flatter you.

This should probably go without saying, but avoid colors that tend to wash you out or don’t flatter your skin tone.

Also avoid colors that are pale or close to your natural skin tone, as they can wash you out on camera, and you run the risk of looking nekkid.

A medium shade of blue or green is almost always a safe bet, and I also like the light pink I was wearing in the Facebook Live screenshot below.

What to Wear for Video Conferences

Don’t rule out a flattering neutral. Just be sure, if wearing neutrals, that they don’t blend into the background.

The grey sweater I’m wearing in the photo with point #2 fits well, but it isn’t my best color, and it also blends into the wall behind me. A bolder color would be more flattering.

#4. Patterns can be tricky. 

There are more don’ts here than dos.

Stripes and checks, especially the smaller scale prints, can blur and be a distraction on-camera. Large patterns can also be distracting, as they tend to dominate and take attention away from your face.

In this Facebook Live screenshot from above, I’m wearing high contrast stripes, and you can see how they would be distracting.

What NOT to Wear for Video Conferences

When doing Facebook Lives, I wear tops that I want people to notice because I’m usually linking to them. But if your shirt is not the topic of your video conference, it’s best to wear something that isn’t as overwhelming in the screen.

If in doubt, wearing solids is best.

#5. Consider accessories carefully.

Wear jewelry that is simple and small or medium-sized, depending on your personal style.

Big, shiny statement jewelry can be distracting, but you definitely want to wear something that reflects your personality and helps complete your outfit.

Earrings and a necklace are probably all that will show, but if you’ll be wearing headphones, you can eliminate earrings altogether.

Make sure that whatever jewelry you choose does not reflect, jingle, or sparkle — that’s distracting too.

I hope that helps!

Outfit Inspiration for Video Calls

Here are some Nordstrom Looks I created with some examples of outfits for video conferences. I try to add to these weekly, so be sure to bookmark the page and check back on the regular.

#1. Comfy Cardigan

I’m envisioning this outfit for the teachers among us or those with a more casual work environment.

#2. Floral Blouse

Even though this is a print, it’s a nice medium scale print that shouldn’t be too distracting on video. See more of this blouse in yesterday’s Try-On Haul.

#3. Solids

I’m always saying how much I love this blouse for work wear, and it’s great for video conferencing, especially in this solid navy.

The cardigan comes in grey, pink, and black, and any would work well over the navy blouse, depending on your skintone… yes, even black!

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