The long-awaited easing of lockdown restrictions is finally happening. For the first time it feels we have a way out of lockdown(s) and we’re soon meeting face2face again. A lot has changed in a dramatic way within a very short period of time: workplace/school and home became the same physical location, business calls with background noises of children and pets are now business-as-usual, loungewear (and for some PJ’s) are the new dress code.
It’s not yet clear how this phase has impacted or will impact work rules and practices, but one thing is for sure: we will be interacting face-to-face again. For some these are the best news in a long time. Others will have found a way of living and working that they may not want to swap for “what used to be”.
Fashion is a way to express oneself, but after a year of almost “reclusion” most people’s wardrobe changed significantly. What is the dress code these days? What’s acceptable to meeting customers face-to-face (or even colleagues and friends)? And more importantly: do the old business clothes still fit? Here are my top tips to help you plan your “post-lockdown face-to-face wardrobe”, which I’ll be discussing later today at the Edinburgh Connections event “Are you ready to face the face2face again?”.
Get into character
Although we are the same individual despite the circumstances, we dress differently depending on the occasion. This isn’t in vain. Fashion conveys messages and what we wear influences our state of mind. Several people kept the same routines during lockdown as they did before lockdown, the only change being no commute. The reason for prevailing routines was precisely to help with stepping out of the “at-home-me” to the “at-work-me” persona whilst in the same physical space.
Looking smart will inevitably make us feel smart. And what we wear is associated to our “brand”. With so much having changed over the past year you will bring some comfort to your customers and even friends if they can still identify your “brand” when they see you face2face. When they see what you’re wearing. Pull some of the business items you used to wear and pick out your favourites (if they still fit)!
Make yourself comfortable
One thing lockdown has done is expose our personal space to people who only knew the hard-working version of ourselves. Humans are not naturally receptive of change, so if you’re having to plan customer visits and business engagements it’s important not to get distracted with how you feel in your shoes – literally! Don’t cut abruptly with the comfort you experienced over the past months.
It’s acceptable to tone the style down which you can achieve by combining professional and informal attire. Go through your 10 essential items and I’m sure you’ll find something suitable! A smart casual style, can gradually help you adapt to more tailored clothing without removing comfort completely. Be comfortable so that your mind is making the most of the moment rather than focussing on how to get yourself back into your slippers.
Show your true colours
Reading the going out outfit plans from different people says a lot about where their minds are. From Met Gala dresses for the first Beer Garden outing to bringing PJ’s and pets to the office there’s a wide selection of suggestions. The thing is, when meeting someone we haven’t seen for a while it’s important to think about them too. Do you know if they lost a loved one? Is their mental health coping with so much change?
Colours convey emotions. Unless you’re a Zumba instructor or you have a very colourful and distinctive brand, a neutral colour or softer tones (like pastels) of your brand’s colours can be safer options. They’re less likely to take the focus from you and the person you’re with. Show that you care. Leave eccentricity for when everyone is more comfortable with the face2face again.
Pick a lucky charm
The prospect of opening the doors to customers after a long period of online interactions only (or no interactions at all) can result in anxiety. You may not even realise it or try to downplay it, but there’s no chance these changes out of lockdown will not result in some sort of emotion.
Pick a token that brings you good memories, or reminds you of someone special and take it with you. Serena Williams wears “lucky socks”, but it can be anything: a watch, a pendant, a handkerchief, a belt… Whatever boosts your confidence and gives you a sense of protection should do.
Your business fragrance
Lastly, it’ has been a while since anyone other than ourselves and our household have been exposed to our preferred perfume. It has been a while we’ve been exposed to any fragrances other than our own and nature’s! Similar to colours, fragrances can activate emotions, so wear a perfume that brings you positive & calm emotions. However, don’t overdo it! Choose softer fragrances or go easy on the amount. You want to feel good and confident, but not end up with a headache. Or worse, cause a headache to the ones you’re meeting face2face.
Bonus Pro Tip
Don’t just try the outfit on the day of your face2face meeting. Plan your outfit combination and try it in advance. Remember: we’re all in this together, but experiences impact people differently. Coming out of lockdown is seen by some with anxiety, by others with joy. Small actions to support everyone can make it a better experience for us and the ones around us.