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Image consultant gives her business a makeover for the Zoom era

Image consultant Melanie Lippman talks about how she pivoted her business because of the coronavirus and now focuses more on how people come across on Zoom.   Credit: Barry Sloan

These days style consultant Melanie Lippman helps Long Islanders suit up for Zoom.

When COVID-19 hit, Lippman, 37, halted her scheduled closet consultations. The Remsenburg resident reached out to clients — mostly woman lawyers and business leaders — about how to dress for video conferences.

Lippman is now virtually shopping and sorting through wardrobes. And she is catering to clients with a wider array of needs: Some have not been in the office for months; others are attending virtual court hearings or outdoor meetings.

"People have me on retainer," she said. "It's more of that model than that three-hours-in-your-closet situation."

Her services now cost about $3,000 to $5,000 for three to six months.

Lippman also noticed a growing interest in understanding the theories and psychology behind styling, rather than just focusing on the final outfits. So she launched a four-week course, where clients get instruction and peer support.

"I can’t even tell you the drastic change from Day One to the end," Lippman said. "They’re asking to be visible: … 'I want to be on your podcast; I want to speak on your panel because I feel good about myself.' "

She spoke with Newsday about Melanie Lippman Style Consulting's transition. The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

What happened when the pandemic hit?

I quickly reached out to all of my clients and got them set up to work virtually. … Our clothing really can set the tone for our day. If you don’t get out of your yoga clothes, you’re not going to get on that call and do the big ask. … The second thing that I did was really prepare my clients — and also other organizations that I was hired to speak at — [for] how to look good on Zoom.

How does style advice differ for video conferencing?

Your old tricks don’t really work anymore: a lot of my clients loved a statement shoe; they loved a pretty dress … and no one’s seeing that. … Black on Zoom makes you look like you got no sleep, and all dark under-eye circles, all wrinkles — they just come to the forefront. … So you really want to wear a color near your face on Zoom, and also [keep] in mind that you’re in a little box. You don’t want to take away from your message by wearing too much stuff, but you also don’t want to not wear enough stuff — you want to have something that could start a conversation, too.

Did you make other changes?

I created a course for a lot of my clients, which really empowered them to learn how to use their clothes themselves.

How has demand changed?

The women that I work with are more on this personal development journey. … When I started working with clients, for years, they just wanted the end product; they just wanted the outfits. … In the back of my head, [I thought] that it was more of a mindset thing that they needed. … They needed to know why they were hiding in their clothes; they needed to know why they wouldn’t try something new.

How has this impacted pricing?

I charge more. It’s just because when you work in person with someone, you go to someone’s house. It’s three hours, and it’s done. But now … they want to be able to text me a picture and be like, 'Someone just asked me to speak at this thing next week. What do I wear?'

How is business overall?

It was pretty crappy in March and in April, but now it's better than ever.

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