If your closet consists of more sweatpants and streetwear and fewer slacks, you’re not alone. According to Edited, a retail analytics firm, T-shirts made up 64% of products in stock for menswear and 66% in womenswear between August and December.
Retail stores like Uniqlo and Target continue to highlight cozy attire with sections dedicated to “life at home” and “loungewear.” From fitted pastel sweatshirts to wide drape pants, you can find various items under $35 – making it easier to indulge in comfort and snug apparel. And though remote work isn’t going anywhere, employees are encouraged to be mindful about getting “too comfortable.”
Elena Romero, an assistant professor of advertising and marketing communications at the Fashion Institute of Technology, said physical presentation shouldn’t change just because we’re no longer in the office.
“Although people working from home have much more flexibility, an unofficial dress code still applies,” said Romero. “While loungewear is comfortable, you don’t want to give anyone the impression that you are not working. Unfortunately, like a book, you get judged by your cover. In this case, it’s your Zoom screen. Don’t give anyone ammunition to use against you. Dress comfortably without sacrificing style.”
How to tell it’s time to upgrade your work-from-home uniform
1. You wear the same style day after day
Start parting ways with your sweatpants. Yes, it can be gradual. “Choose silhouettes that are flattering to your particular body shape and size,” said Romero. “Don’t be afraid to mix novelty pieces with basics. Variety and versatility are key. Wear tops that vary in terms of collars, embroidery or embellishments. You can come to a happy medium and rely on more relaxed patterns depending on the meeting and occasion.”
2. None of your pants have zippers
Morgan A. Wider, style expert and author of The Worthy Wardrobe said if you forget what it’s like to wear pants with a zipper, it’s time for an upgrade. “Invest in polished joggers, leather leggings or slacks with elastic waistbands,” said Wider. “They’re just as comfy as sweatpants but way chicer.”
A solid color blouse or polo shirt that looks clean and polished can be considered a WFH essential. “So are sweater skirts for women and cargo pants or joggers for men,” said Wider. “That way, in case you stand up, your PJs (or underwear) aren’t on camera. For ladies, a statement necklace can dress up any top.”
A statement blazer is another required item regardless of gender. “It’s a staple that exudes professionalism across industries,” said FIT professor Romero. “The great thing about it is that it comes in a variety of fabrics (leather, twill, cotton), colors and styles. You can tailor a blazer to fit your personal style and comfort level.”
3. Your closet is full of black clothing
Consider adding color to your wardrobe for your on-camera Zoom or Teams meetings. “Move out of your own comfort zone,” said Romero. “Don’t be afraid to inject color into your wardrobe. Add pops of color, neutrals, and earth tones.”
She also encourages remote workers to change up their fabrics. It doesn’t always have to be all about cotton. “While I applaud people who embrace natural fibers, don’t be afraid of variety. Infuse silk, linen, and wool into your wardrobe.”
Looking good can even make you feel more productive while working from home. “Dress according to the industry you work in,” said Romero. “A business casual look is safe and preferred unless you work in a corporate environment. A suit and tie may still apply.”
And some bosses could be paying close attention to your on-camera style choices. “The reality is people are even more critical now because some [employees and colleagues] have let their guard down,” said Romero.
Style expert Wider said there are two reasons why what you wear from your home office is important. “First, it’s been scientifically proven that how we dress impacts our brain and our performance. When we get dressed in work clothes, our attention to detail and cognitive capabilities increase. Simply put, when we dress better, we feel better. We think better and we perform better.
“It’s also a matter of respect for our audience, even if we are remote,” said Wider. “By taking the time to invest in our image, we signal that we are investing in our work and in performance.”