As more and more workplaces begin reopen, Katie Wright looks at the pros and cons of relaxed office attire.
It’s the beginning of the end (we hope) as lockdown restrictions continue to be lifted, and at least some sense of normality resumes.
While there are elements of lockdown life we can’t wait to see the back of (namely being separated from family and friends, and doing the same loop around the same park every lunchtime for months on end), there are others we’re not quite so ready to leave behind.
Clothing is a big one. Sales of loungewear have soared during the pandemic as working from home became the norm for many, and now the thought of donning suits, shirts and shiny shoes for the return to the office has got people feeling rather worried.
According to new research, 45% of professionals feel anxious about their back-to-work wardrobe, with 76% saying wearing casual workwear could help reduce their anxiety.
The survey, from personal styling service Stitch Fix also found 39% of workers have vowed never to go back to their pre-lockdown attire, which got us thinking: would you really want to wear loungewear to the office?
Obviously, hoodies and joggers are about as comfy as clothing gets, and you’d certainly save time agonising over an outfit when all you have to do is find a T-shirt, tracksuit and pair of trainers that go together, before dashing out the door.
Plus, tracksuits are seriously fashionable right now. You can be totally on-trend in a streetwear-style pastel sweatshirt with matching track pants and a cross-body bag. No one’s denying you’d look cool on your commute, but once you saunter into the office, you might live to regret your trendy choice.
If everyone adopted the loungewear look it would be one thing, but chances are they won’t, and that’s when you could start to feel seriously underdressed compared to your colleagues or – even worse – clients.
It’s pretty much impossible to follow the old ‘dress for the job you want, not the job you have’ adage when your only options are soft, slouchy and come with an elasticated waistband.
Could you confidently lead a team meeting when you’re the only one wearing a faded grey hoodie and leggings? Would you really want to ask your boss for a pay rise while sporting a pastel pink Primark tracksuit and old Stan Smiths?
It very much depends on your job, of course. If your company has a strict dress code, you’ll likely have to obey it, or if you’ve got a customer-facing role, you’ll want to make sure you look presentable to visitors.
However, if there’s some leeway with what you wear to work, there’s no reason you can’t adapt your post-lockdown wardrobe to find a happy medium, with outfits that are comfortable but office-appropriate.
Can’t bear the thought of squeezing into restrictive jeans? Then try luxe joggers or formal trousers that have a drawstring waist.
Wondering how you ever managed to totter around in stilettos on a daily basis? Block-heeled boots or sandals are a way more practical option.
Guys, try swapping your usual shirt and tie for a smart jumper or open-collar shirt. Mix it up with tailoring – a hoodie and blazer can actually look very cool – or invest in a pair of minimalist leather trainers that are sharp enough to wear with a suit.
It’s about finding a balance and what works for you. Because, ultimately, fashion should be fun, not a source of stress.