Excited to dress for the office again? Woman in elegant black suit, leaning against pink wall, reading a Vogue magazine

Your Post-Pandemic Style – Are You Ready?

It’s time to dress your whole body again! Still remember how?

Excited to dress for the office again? Woman in elegant black suit, leaning against pink wall, reading a Vogue magazine

An elegant black suit that can be dressed up or down.

Did your personal brand survive the pandemic? Have you thought about a post-pandemic style?

If we haven’t already, it’s clear that most of us are likely to “re-enter society” during and just after this holiday season.

That is how the Victorians used to refer to the start of their social season. In our context today, that means getting back to in-person jobs and businesses — post-pandemic. And, of course, parties.

There weren’t a lot of parties these past couple of years. 

In the world of style, stocks went wild during the pandemic. The sales of leggings surged, while make-up sales dropped sharply in 2020. It is noteworthy that as we started getting used to virtual meetings — eye make-up stocks rebounded. 

But in 2022, two years later, the time has come to get back in the face-to-face game. 

How are you feeling? 

Let’s address the questions many of my clients (professional women over 45) have been asking themselves:

  1. On the question of going back to “normal,” am I ready? Did I prefer the solitude and convenience of life at home? Did my personal brand survive the pandemic – or am I a new person?
  2. Dressing my whole self again: the challenge and the opportunity – is it worth it?
  3. How do I maintain my personal brand in any and all circumstances?

Back Into The Office? Are You an Oh No? Or a Hell, Yeah!

I’ve been amused to learn that I have two types of clients. From the standpoint of their personal style, they are contemplating the return to in-person business in one of two ways: 

  1. Dreading it! (I can’t bear the thought of having to wear anything less comfortable than my leggings all day long at work! )
  2. Can’t wait! (I’m excited to dress again! And to get some of my favorite clothes out of mothballs, so to speak, after all these many months.)

Client #1 quickly got used to “everyday casual.” She’s one of the women who helped boost the sales of leggings and sweat pants, and she’s not happy to give them up. Even stretchy jeans will feel like an imposition and the mention of heels puts her in a cold sweat

Client #2 is ready to go shopping. Though we’ve worked together and she loves most of her clothes, her weight did shift during the pandemic – either up or down. Her post-pandemic style may look a little different. But she’s excited to get some new pieces that she feels great in, now, today. She will happily release (resell or donate) the pieces that no longer work!

I’m Sick of Being Home: Beam Me Up, Scotty!

Woman working on the computer from home, sitting on carpeted floor, leaning back on white couch.

The ease of leggings and sweats will be hard to give up!

It’s the extroverts who are raring to go back! How dearly they have missed the interaction with warm human bodies! They may have submitted to the public health guidance — to protect the elderly and the vulnerable — but they’ve felt shut in, constrained, denied a vital means of self expression!

But some of us are ready to go back for all kinds of other reasons, too. 

Sick of home-schooling? I know that’s been an adventure for many – and not always great.  Wendy says: “I love my family but during this pandemic it’s been just… Too. Much. Togetherness. Beam me up, Scotty! There’s got to be more intelligent life out there.” Wendy longs to go out at night with her husband, and without the kids! She misses happy hour with colleagues and friends — even those professional pseudo-events that used to feel obligatory and tedious.  

Post-Pandemic Style??? I Finally Got Used to Zoom!

Becca, on the other hand, is doing just fine at home. The shift to online meetings was not easy, at first. But by now, a year and a half later, she can’t imagine going back to that two-hour commute! What a waste of time.

And she is just fine with dressing only the top part of her body. What’s wrong with that? She thinks leggings are “delicious” — and why not work wrapped in comfort all day? By now, there are a bunch of lopsided “Zoom” outfits in her wardrobe – because she’s thrown away some things, but has bought nothing new. She’s saved a fortune on dry cleaning! She has no interest in defining a post-pandemic style.

New Yorker Cover Art by Adrian Tomine, Dec. 2020

Did You Nurture Your Personal Brand During the Pandemic?

Obviously, there is no right answer. We are all different! And all our circumstances are different. Some who want to stay home will be forced to go back out to jobs at offices. While some who can’t wait to get out will be kept home by various circumstances — family constraints, health constraints, job losses, or workplaces that are never going back to in-person.

What is important for our purposes is whether, during this long period of disruption, you have managed to maintain — and even develop — your personal brand.

Now that we’re “going back,” whatever that means to you, this question becomes especially important.

Add to the equation the fact that the holiday season has already begun. Most of us are already getting out a bit again, gathering with family, and even having a semblance of a normal social life. Soon, in-person is going to be for reals! 

Have you preserved and nurtured your intentional personal brand during the pandemic? Or just surrendered to leggings and sweats, (and maybe gave up on some panache and self-confidence)?

Did your business (or personal!) brand initially take a hit? Did you take to virtual meetings easily? Or not? Some of us realized months into the lockdowns that we weren’t showing up all that great on Zoom (or — what’s that other thing?– Google Meet? MS Teams? Whatever.) 

Many of us gave up on make-up, and perhaps didn’t realize that the image of our rumpled bed in the background might not make the best impression. And as it turns out, all those early errors became part of our reputation, thus brand, which we probably will have to work to compensate for as we cultivate a post-pandemic style.

So my question is…

Did you stay present to the image you projected into the world during the past (almost) two years? 

And, did you take responsibility for that image — making sure it reflected your intentions? That’s what I call nurturing your personal brand. If not, your brand is not a one-and-done.  You are constantly changing and evolving.  If you lost your mojo during the pandemic, maybe now is the time to get it back again.  

Does your business communication style sync with your personal brand?

Whether personal or corporate – the term “brand” is a catch-all phrase describing the experience we provide to other people. 

  • Are we easy to be with? 
  • As a professional or a company, are we easy to engage with — for example, to get quick information from, to buy from, or to solve ordering problems and make returns?
  • Are we clear in our communication, so that other people understand what we want from them? 
  • Finally, does our communications’ substance, tone, and style reflect our values? I mean everything from our business website to our individual skill with effective email communication — and our ability to work with groups and teams in a completely virtual environment. 

So, be honest. When all our meetings went online, how did other people experience you in those meetings? How did you maintain channels of communication and accountability outside of meetings? Did your ways of “being” leave the people around you encouraged and empowered? Or were you quick to anger when the tech would not work? How long did it take before you were able to navigate the new world effectively, efficiently — successfully? 

All that is now a significant part of your personal brand.

And, did you grow your brand? (Yes, some of you rose to the challenge and actually strengthened our personal brands.) Did you make the effort to get trained, and to acquire new skills in this area? In other words, did you nurture your personal brand?

In-Person Is Back: Are You “Being” Your Personal Brand?

Even if you are not being pulled back into an employer’s office, you’ve probably started sometimes meeting face-to-face with people again. You may meet at cafes with outdoor seating. One-on-one or in groups. Every family, business, and club is handling things differently.

So…Are you taking your personal brand into those meetings? Not in a self-conscious way, but an intentional one. 

After all, personal branding is about being 100% yourself. But more than that, it’s about projecting yourself (your self), and showing up intentionally

For me, it’s about defining the experience I want people to have with me — at work, at play, — all the time!

All that to say…

Ready to go back? Ready or not, here we go! 

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