Work from home (WFH) style is one of the newest and hottest trends in fashion.
If that seems ridiculous to you then don’t worry, you’re not alone, but in all sincerity, what you wear when you work at home really does matter.
For a bit of background, we probably all know what many more of us are working from home currently and may well continue to do so. Forbes estimates that some 74% of companies are looking to relocate jobs to permanent work from home setups.
But working from home has its perks and challenges.
Many people launch into WHF expecting it to be easy, you roll out of bed with a coffee and sit in front of the PC in your dressing gown eating biscuits, right?!
For the lucky ones, WFH will come naturally, but for many of us, it isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. Maintaining your motivation, focus, morale and concentration can be tough!
The problem is, WFH breaks all your standard work habits, and dressing for work is one of them.
That’s why considering how to dress for working from home matters!
How to dress for working from home was the fashion trend the fashion world didn’t plan for.
But, now, since 2020, nearly every major fashion publication has covered this story in some way. There have even been psychological studies on how to dress when working from home.
For example, an article in the Wall Street Journal followed the story of IT consultant Mina Khan who ditched her casual home clothes for work clothes with an aim to improve her focus and productivity.
This story isn’t unique by any means, thousands of women around the world agreed that they now realise how important their work clothes are to their work enjoyment, wellbeing and performance.
Researchers have now studied the links between clothes and work-from-home performance and found that dress up to stay in and work would actually improve your focus, performance and morale.
The Science Behind Work Clothes
This begs the question, why are work clothes even work clothes? What makes clothes suitable for work anyway?
Today, work clothes cover a much wide spectrum of fashion than ever and there’s generally a lot more choice available for women than ultra-corporate suits.
The phrase “dress for success” springs to mind here.
There are many other fashion quotes that tie in with that such as Edith Heath’s “you can have anything you want in life if you dress for it” and Rachel Zoe’s “style is a way to say who you are without having to speak”.
Clearly, fashion and our working behaviour are related.
In fact, studies published in the Scientific American found that what we wear to work affects our performance massively, altering our negotiating skills, hormone levels and even our heartbeat.
So, the point isn’t that you’re working from home, the point is you’re working!
And that’s why work-from-home (WHF) fashion matters.
Dressing for Working From Home
There are three broad approaches you can take when it comes to dressing for working from home:
Those who are used to super-sharp and smart corporate environments will probably find it weird turning up to board meetings in their tracksuit bottoms, even if it is still company policy to dress smartly for Zoom meetings!
The classy-at-home look:
Regardless of whether or not the idea of dressing up smart for working at home appeals to you, it could still be worth a go if you find yourself slacking or demotivated.
It also provides you with some excellent opportunities to adapt your smart look to make it more comfortable.
Who What Wear asked several professional women who have worked from home in the long-term about their WFH dress habits.
Beauty Editor Giselle La Pompe-Moore said she likes to remain more-or-less smart with printed wrap dresses and shirtdresses. Giselle says this really helps her focus and keep her stuff together when she’s hitting tight or stressful deadlines.
Florencia Cavallo, the cofounder of Golden Edit opts for white linen and denim saying it “feels polished yet casual”. She points out that combining comfort with professionalism is the ultimate goal. It also gives you the opportunity to roll out of your home to a cafe or similar if you want to work out in public.
If you want to combine elements of smart and casual without literally sitting in your pyjama trousers and suit jacket then a smart casual look is the way to go.
The (pretty much) smart-but-casual look.
It might be that you just need to slide out of your pyjamas into something borderline smart without quite getting there. You wouldn’t be alone here. Emily Dawes, Freelance Editor told WhoWhatWear “I like to feel comfy but like I've still changed out of my pyjamas”.
Harriet Davey, Freelance Fashion Editor similarly said “the novelty of staying in your PJs all day soon wears off.”
Comfy cotton trousers combined with a cardigan or knitted jumper will probably do the trick here. Keep it comfy enough to not be annoyed at your clothes when you’re sitting around at your desk - ditch the tight, cutting trousers and tops and go for something looser but also professional.
Not convinced by dressing smartly to sit in your own home?
Talia Lakritz from Insider tried to spend a week dressed smartly for her work from home routine. By the end, she confessed that whilst she did feel a boost to her productivity at the start, this wore off.
By the end, she was looking forward to returning to her loungewear!
Similarly, Beauty editor Shannon Lawlor also says she opts for the comfiest loungewear possible when working from home, but also admits it’s become a sort of obsession to find the very comfiest clothes.
The comfort look:
This is the crux of the issue, combining a smarter look with comfy clothes is the equilibrium many women are looking for.
It’s not all about clothes, but footwear too. Editor Maxine Eggenberger told Who What Wear “I don’t know what it is, but if I wear slippers, it’s like being in slow motion.”
She says that by donning her ballet flats, she instantly ups her work game for the day and whilst she tends to combine this with a fairly smart all-round look, it’s the shoes that do the trick.
It just goes to show that dressing for working from home is a pretty personal thing, but everyone has their secret weapon!
The Clothes to Look For
Feel inspired to shop for your new work from home outfit? Great!
Here are some clothes to get you started:
Cardigans are soft, smart and warm. They tick all the boxes for WFH style.
Senior social media manager Madeline Hirsch told Glamour that crop cardigans are her go-to. They’re cosy but also lightweight enough to be very comfortable to wear when working from home.
Cardigans can be layered or worn on their own, so you can always throw on extra layers when it’s colder.
The classic crewneck sweater pretty much always looks smart enough for working from home. They’re also super-warm if you choose thick fleece, wool or cashmere.
Media manager Brionna Jimerson told Glamour that her crewneck sweater was always 100% “Zoom-ready” whilst remaining totally comfortable all day long.
Leggings and Bike Shorts
Leggings are some of the loungiest loungewear around but they’re also flexible if you want to pop out, do some exercise, etc. Leggings are easily combined with jumpers and other semi-smart tops.
Bike shorts are a superb alternative to thicker leggings in hotter weather. They’re designed for wearing when seated on a bicycle, so are ideal for wearing at the desk. Super-soft, breathable fabric ensures comfort throughout the day.
Waist/Ribcage Cut Jeans
Ribcage or waist-cut jeans are the ultimate in denim comfort. They don’t cut around the middle, perfect for remaining seated for long periods throughout the day.
Commerce editor Shanna Shipin told Glamour that her Levi’s ribcage-cut jeans were “my business-casual (emphasis on casual) equivalent of sweatpants”.
Ugg boots are world-renowned for their comfort. They’re so tough to beat in that department and for colder days, they’re a work-from-home dream.
Commerce writer Erin Parker told Glamour “they always deliver the same signature comfort they were known for in the early aughts (2000s)”.
As if we could miss tracksuit bottoms from the list!
Ok, tracksuit bottoms sit firmly at the foot of the causal end of smart casual, but they’re number one when it comes to loungewear and offer superb flexibility.
From thinner, cotton tracksuit bottoms and tracksuit shorts for summer use to thicker, fleece tracksuit bottoms for winter, there’s no shortage of options.
Shirt dresses are a smart-casual staple.
From elegant soft white linen to colourful patterns, shirt dresses offer an excellent fusion between ‘proper’ clothes and something that is comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
WFH fashion is a thing, and it’s definitely not all about style and looks.
Dressing to work from home is about your working wellbeing, motivation, morale and performance.
There’s no real right or wrong here, no faux-pas or rules to break (aside from company policy!)
Instead, it’s best to focus on what makes you feel good - and feel focused on the job.
That could mean dressing up in smart, corporate clothing. It could mean a smart-casual hybrid.
Or, it could mean wearing straight loungewear from head to toe.
You might also be one of the lucky ones that can work like an absolute machine from your pyjamas!