What to Wear to Work If You’re Not Going Back to the Office

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With vaccine rollouts well underway and warmer weather just around the corner, there’s been much discussion about what, exactly, we’ll wear when we can stop wearing our work-from-home clothes and step out into a post-pandemic world. While some are excited to slip back into their workplace finery, thousands of others—myself included—have taken their employers up on the chance to skip the commute and work from home, permanently.

So what do reemergence essentials look like when you’re not, well, reemerging? After a year of working from my dining room table, it’s just not realistic to think I might suddenly start getting “dressed” every day as I might have done when heading into the office. But having spent the last several months wearing some variation of an oversized tracksuit as my main work-from-home clothes, I can admit my pajama-adjacent quarantine wardrobe is in desperate need of an overhaul (especially now that I know it’s not temporary).

I’ve taken the opportunity to find and wear pieces I genuinely love, donate or repurpose items I long considered “work clothes,” and most importantly, figure out what my style looks like when there’s nobody to impress. While I’ll absolutely miss the parade of style inspo my Vogue colleagues provided, this new iteration of my wardrobe is a decidedly more utilitarian, comfortable expression of who I am when I’m dressing entirely for myself.

Who among us hasn’t, at one time or another, aspired to the laid-back sartorial ease of a Nancy Meyers heroine? As my trips to the dry cleaner become less frequent, I’m swapping my crisp poplin shirts for more relaxed fabrics that I can easily run through the wash. This cotton shirt from Aritzia wears wrinkles well and looks like something Meryl Streep’s character would wear while making pastries in It’s Complicated. Did I mention it’s machine washable?

Even the most intentionally selected T-shirt has trouble holding its own on a teeny-tiny Zoom screen. Without the context of the rest of your outfit, a basic tee can end up giving people the impression that you didn’t put much thought into your appearance. I’ve been leaning on super-comfy knits to help level-up my Zoom square; they’re cozy enough to wear all day but let people know I didn’t just roll out of bed.

I can’t be the only one whose pants are fitting somewhat less comfortable than they did a year ago. These drapey Everlane pants are just as comfortable as leggings or sweats but look more pulled together than your standard loungewear fare. Perhaps most importantly, they have an elastic waistband.

Speaking of waistbands, there’s no denying that my stiffer jeans aren’t, er, buttoning as easily as they used to. After months of trying to shove myself into pants that are no longer comfortable, I can’t tell you what a relief it was to put the snuggest pairs into storage and just order a size up.

It’s hard to feel “dressed” with no shoes on, but with nowhere to go, I’m not about to zip myself into a pair of heeled boots for a day spent almost entirely in my apartment. These slides are the perfect indoor shoe—not quite a slipper, but not so clunky as to risk my downstairs neighbors petitioning to have me evicted.

Time may never heal the back problems inflicted by years of hauling my laptop to and from the office, but I’m doing my best to prevent any further damage with teeny-tiny cross bodies.

While I love blazers, I can’t help but feel ridiculous whenever I wear one while working from home. When tees feel too bare and sweatshirts too sloppy, I’ve been rotating through my collection of soft, semi-structured shackets.

As much as it pains me to see some of my prettier shoes continue to gather dust, I think my feet might revolt were I to shove them back into a pair of heels. Now that my sneakers are getting twice as much wear, I figure I need twice as many pairs. That’s how that works, right?

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