When the pandemic disrupted commutes to work, it challenged us to rethink our wardrobes. Offices shut down and people with desk jobs found themselves working from home in pajamas, yoga wear, or “half-and-half” fashion styles.
So what’s half-and-half? If you’ve attended a virtual meeting, you’ll know what I mean by half-and-half styles. You’re wearing a blazer, shirt, or office casual sweater on top, with leggings, jogging pants and bare feet, socks or slippers where the camera can’t see. Business casual on top, and casual on the bottom.
A year later, after dressing down, people have started to dress back up again. People who still work from home (WFH) aren’t wearing heels and dress shoes yet, but they are raising the bar on work from home fashion. It’s one way to mentally separate your weekend self from your work self, especially if your office and home are the same place.
Here are some fashion trends from the work from home world.
When people started to hold meetings at home last year, they were looking for a temporary solution. Those who were new to working from home attended virtual meetings from dining tables or their couches. Room lighting was sometimes dim and their background was the mess of everyday living.
During the second year of work from home, fashion became business casual. People wore sweaters, shirts, scarves, and quality T-shirts. Many had well-positioned cameras and lighting, and virtual backgrounds of offices or a virtual wall with their company information on it.
People had become accustomed to virtual meetings and their routines. Some business owners even had their contact information and company description pre-typed and ready to paste in the chat after they introduced themselves.
If we return to in-person networking meetings, it will be an adjustment not to see company names projected behind people. It will also be jarring to see people from head to foot – and notice that they have a height.
Coworker, Client, and Team Meetings
The height difference is one factor that’s disappeared as a result of remote work. In this new world of entire companies working from home, you may never experience that moment of walking by as a coworker changes from flats to heels, or grabs a suit jacket as you both walk to the meeting room.
In the summer this year, fashion was more casual for team meetings – T-shirts and tank tops, especially if the team is entirely female. When winter arrived, people attended team meetings in sweaters, polo shirts, and shirts. They dressed like they used to when people worked in offices. Or perhaps they did a wardrobe change… we won’t know.
I prefer to dress more casually when working and do a quick clothing change for team meetings. Coworkers and clients I’ve never met in person will forever think that I dress more formally than I usually do. If they ever see me wearing what I really wear while typing away at a project, they may be surprised. Perhaps the surprise might even go both ways. I’m not 100% sure the CEO stays dressed up after a virtual meeting is over. Maybe she exchanges her lovely scarf and fancy sweater for a hoodie. We will never know.
If introverts dislike one thing, it’s last-minute notice that you’ll be seeing people. Back in the days when people worked in offices, and the team suddenly called an impromptu meeting, your first thought wasn’t, “Uh uh. What should I wear?” You’re already at the office.
Your reaction may be different when you work from home. Maybe you got up late so you’re rushing to get an assignment done. You haven’t combed your hair and you’re wearing the grubby old hoodie that never leaves the house. Then you get a DM to meet online RIGHT NOW.
You panic about your appearance, and then you realize: you’ve got an excuse not to go on camera. Sorry, voice only today, you answer. I wasn’t prepared for a video call. Another alternative is to dim the lights so you look better than in real life. You can blame a bad internet connection. Or you say didn’t have time to set up your camera.
I once experienced a surprise at an impromptu meeting. The organizer asked to meet in a half hour. She always had a virtual background of a home office, so when her background had changed to a large designer kitchen, I assumed it was her new virtual background. Then she destroyed the illusion by saying it really was her kitchen and sorry for the mess. She should have said it was virtual kitchen.
Some people were already working from home before WFH and remote work became household words. In the second year of the pandemic, it seems that people have turned their home office into their professional work area, and dressing like they’re working in a traditional office. The biggest difference is, they are still dressed for comfort, but the look is more classy.
Perhaps the next step in WFH as technology advances is holographic images of ourselves whenever we attend virtual meetings. Our image could be dressed in a suit or sweater while our real self is wearing an old T-shirt. Why not? Work from home is continuously being redefined.
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