Hollywood Stylists Offer Tips on Nailing Work From Home Attire: Avoid Anything "Fussy or Too Detailed"

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The stylists behind Viola Davis, John Legend and Nicole Kidman weigh in on whether sweats can be chic enough for video conferencing.

As entertainment industry professionals continue to adjust to the transition from a corporate setting to working from home, a group of Hollywood stylists share with The Hollywood Reporter their advice on how to elevate WFH outfits during the coronavirus outbreak.

THR contributing editor and executive style consultant Andrew Weitz — who has worked with Elon Musk and Tom Brady — says there’s no need for a suit and tie for a Zoom business meeting. “Depending on your business and who you are speaking with, it’s a toned-down version from what you would wear to the office," says Weitz. He advises pairing a blazer with a button-up or a sweater to give the best mix of professional and casual. “No one needs to know that you are wearing sweatpants or shorts with these looks."

He says colors (especially blue) read well on camera, but make sure it’s not too harsh or bright. Also ditch shirts with loud patterns, images or text. "For men, you can never go wrong with a white button up and navy blazer or a navy sweater. Safe and fail-proof," adds Weitz, who is offering virtual closet cleanses to clients (either one-on-one or in small group Zoom workshops) during the pandemic.

John Legend's stylist David Thomas agrees that it's best to avoid anything "fussy or too detailed," especially around the collar and neck — as "this can be distracting." A cashmere tracksuit with a T-shirt would be his first choice. 

He tells THR, "While you don't want to appear overdressed and blind to the current state of the world, you also don't want to appear like you've let yourself go. A jacket is too much, but simple knitwear, or a nice fitted shirt worn casually, can work."

Thomas points to Legend's outfit during his #Togetherathome performance as one model for actors hosting Instagram live videos. At home at his piano, the musician donned a gray robe. "The message was clear, 'We are in this together and I'm just like you,'" he adds. "Anything else could have appeared tone deaf. However, for the purposes of a virtual meeting, that's a definite no." (For an Instagram live on Tuesday, Big Little Lies actress Kathryn Newton appeared in black sweats and said, "Don’t be crazy. Don’t put on real clothes — no way.")  

More important for men, Thomas says, is grooming. "For guys that are used to getting a haircut every few weeks, this is going to be challenging," he says. "Resist the urge to buzz it all off. Slick it back and understand we are all in the same boat. Us men need to also watch out for that darn ear hair, not to mention the eyebrows the barber would normally take care of."

Nicole Kidman’s stylist, Julia von Boehm, has been giving quarantine fashion tips over video chat to raise money for three charities benefiting coronavirus relief efforts: World Kitchen Center, World Health Organization Covid-19 Response Fund or Center for Disaster Philanthropy Covid-19 Response Fund. Services range from $300 to $600. She believes it’s important to stay away from "very casual" attire and notes that a typical full sweatsuit is off-limits. "If you absolutely insist, dress them [to] the max — wear a silk scarf and dressy shoes, which may be difficult to show on the video call, but more for your own mental fashion health,” she tells THR.

She explains that women should wear either work pants or a suit jacket, and limit themselves to one sweat or comfy item per outfit. "For example, a slip dress with a blazer or a cute sweatshirt with menswear-inspired pants. A good barometer is to ask yourself if someone were to suddenly present themselves at the door, would I feel great about what I'm wearing? If not, switch it up," von Boehm says. 

Since video chats are focused on the waist up, von Boehm says a shirt collar or thin pearl necklace can be key to accessorizing.

A collared shirt worn under a bright sweater — sans bold patterns — should do the trick, says Elizabeth Stewart, the stylist to Julia Roberts, Cate Blanchett and Viola Davis. Her fail-proof work-from-home piece is a jacket.

"The shoulders look nice and sharp on screen. I go for a bright color like pink, over a solid contrasting-color shirt,” she tells THR. "Turtlenecks are great, solid colors and a bit of structure so you don’t look schlumpy. Find your spot in advance to check the background and make sure it’s clean and has flattering light as well."

Shonda Rhimes' stylist Dana Asher Levine stresses that the same wardrobe rules apply whether it's in the office or over video chat. That means pressing clothes properly and wearing a clean, crisp shirt or sweater to play it safe: "No one wants to see you in your pajamas or wearing a tube top — use common sense."