Virtual World Fashion Citations: Enclothed Cognition Offers a Teleworking Edge

Problem: Not everyone was hired to work virtually. Recent research shows clothing choices can influence what and how we think, focus, and communicate virtually and it can negatively impact individual productivity and confidence.  Many teleworkers deprioritize their clothing choices as a perk that comes with working from home.

Solution: What you wear has power.  Know the audience.  Plan attire appropriate for the job.  Managers can provide guidance and of course issue fashion citations and fashion awards to raise awareness.

Many have been forced to telework with a gap in essential skillsets required for teleworking effectiveness.  The demands of the virtual workplace continue.  Keeping up with the pace and maximizing individual productivity is essential for the bottom line and individual morale.  Research shows your fashion choices in a virtual world matter to both.


“Researchers studying links between clothes, brain activity and productivity have long found that dressing up for work can improve your performance.”1 The considerations of wardrobe choices include the impacts to our audience and the impact on you at a psychological level.

Enclothed cognition, is the modern term used now to reference the significance wardrobe plays virtually at sending signals to the brain.   In 2012, researchers Hajo Adam and Adam Galinsky proved this in an experiment testing the impacts of clothing on our psychological processes – our cognitions, attention, behavior, and ability—using white lab coats.2

SOURCE:  Enclothed Cognition, David McRaney,


Galinsky asserted, the clothes we wear tend to have an even greater impact because we often see ourselves through the lens of what we are wearing.  This often draws a symbolic significance which we consciously act upon. 2 They make us feel a certain way and we project that sometimes unconsciously.

Planning what to wear with some level of deliberate direction will impact enclothed cognition, how you feel and perform.  It also impacts how others perceive and listen to us.



Thrust into this virtual workplace and being anchored at home could allow one to become complacent, distracted, disorganized, and perhaps disconnected.  We risk losing sight of unique details such as clothing and enclothed cognition can give us a cyber-edge in the modern virtual workplace.

Wearing my bunny slippers and sweats while sporting a dress shirt for a meeting has consequences.  And, yes, I have bunny slippers.

Some might consider, “Dressing casually relaxes me.  It is a benefit of working from home.” We often see funny video posts of people dressed inappropriately for meetings and caught wearing those bunny slippers, under garments, etc.

Keeping separate wardrobe choices for home and work will help keep the balance we need.  Dressing for work put us into a work frame of mind, serving as a mental trigger.  Likewise, at the end of my day, when I change into my bunny slippers and workout clothes, my brain is signaled it is the end of my day helping my brain shift out of work mode and into “relax” mode. So, the slippers have their place.  I am so glad!


The new habit I have created is self-assessing for the virtual environment before I go on camera.  I go back to the tried-and-true basics like the “newspaper test.”  I ask myself questions like…


  • Would I want my full attire on the front of a credible business journal?
  • Would I want my mom to see how I am dressed?
  • How does what I wear make me feel?
  • Am I over or under dressed for my audience(s)?
  • Will this attire build trust?
  • How does this appear visually over technology?


ELEVATE YOUR STYLE TO PROJECT CONFIDENCE AND GET WHAT YOU WANT affirms, making poor fashion choices can hurt how people perceive you. 3 It is quite tempting to be relaxed with these choices while working from home. Your brain likely will not take the task as serious. How about a nap?  Many in relaxed attire do just that, relax, and often work ethic suffers. We struggle to differentiate between work from home.

What people think matters in the virtual world.  I do not want to be perceived as being too relaxed.  It might signal I do not care, or I am not taking you seriously.  It impacts the perception of trust.

Avoid wearing:

  • T-shirts and tank tops4
  • Pajamas
  • Athletic attire, yoga pants
  • Same wardrobe 2 consecutive days
  • Sheer or see-through fabrics

SOURCE:  Dress Code for Virtual Meetings,



The general rule, wear what you would wear as if you were meeting in person.

Leadership can provide guidance about what is appropriate.  Virtual dress code standards typically vary from those in a physical work office space.  Many leaders have an opportunity to provide supportive guidance here to improve productivity and build a cohesive team culture.

Consider the culture, level of formality and what you want to project.  Related to your virtual environment, consider your background, and avoid clashing with appropriate color balance and contrast.5 Avoid green because of the auto balancing that occurs through the camera and a green screen.


Elevating performance for many of us that were propelled into this new world of teleworking can be daunting.  Confidence matters.  It links to trust, essential if you want to get things done.  What you wear has an impact on your confidence and the perceptions of others.  Details matter in a virtual world.

Consider the power of enclothed cognition on you and others.  Become your own fashion critic.  Be deliberate about your clothing choices.  The science is clear, your fashion sense matters to elevating your teleworking performance.  Consider what you want to project and where you want to be in your career.

Let us face it, what your virtual stakeholders think matters.  You do not want to be the next meme of the day. Now that you understand the psychology for yourself and others, you have choices.  I challenge you to take this to heart and consider how you feel in the clothing, what it says to you and others. Be confident.


  1. Adam, H., & Galinsky, A. D. (2012). Enclothed cognition. Journal of experimental social psychology48(4), 918-925
  5. Dress code for virtual meetings,


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