So How Are We Going to Dress When We Go Back to the Office?

You know the story: When the world felt like it was crumbling around us in March 2020, those of us who had been familiar with "open floor plans vs. cubicles" slipped off our version of office attire and gleefully pulled on sweatpants. The ensuing weeks of working from home brought with them questions and sometimes insight into the absurdity of our old routines — why did I wake up so early downing coffee as I threw half my closet to the floor looking for the perfect button-up when I could have been walking straight to the couch? Did I really wear mascara and lipstick every day? Who are these blazers for? 

As the idea of going back to the office got further and further in the rearview, anything with a pleat, cuff, or heel began collecting dust. Sure, working in pajamas was a source of comfort in an unknowable time, but there was also the relief of not having to choose an outfit every morning. Personally, I began rotating the same few items that made me feel comforted and stylish during moments of body changes and cabin fever. Now, as we return to a life that is more reminiscent of the past, the one thing that can stay the same is the way we uncomplicated our wardrobes in order to find relief from what was going on. 

No matter your office MO, jewelry is the easiest way to complete the look. Whether you’re more of a stacking-rings kind of person or you like to keep the charms on your keychain or bag, you can find accessories to suit your style at Pandora. 

On the runways, there were plenty of examples of how this can work. Stella McCartney, Celine, and Marc Jacobs prioritized loose comfort through wide-leg pants and oversized sweaters and tops, while brands like Jacquemus and Valentino showed that dressing monochromatically can make putting an outfit together simple. Others, like Fendi, created a sexier version of traditional work attire with cardigans and skirts that left out restrictive staples like your bra. 

If the pandemic has taught us anything it's that we need to focus on the important things in life — and that can take up a lot of brain space, so getting dressed needs to take up less of it. That's doable when you've got clothing that is not only special to you and exciting to put on, but makes your life easier (the term "no-brainer" is a cliché for a reason.). As we face our returns to the workplace, we have an opportunity to change the traditional office wardrobe into something that is not only more casual (tech companies have been trying to force that on us for a decade) but more personal, less excessive and still bearing all of the comforts we've come accustomed to in our drawstring pants. Read on for some specific ways this might look for you.

The Pajamas and Slippers to Loose Suit and Sneakers Pipeline 

No need to reinvent the wheel, especially when your office is more traditional. A suit that's a little boxier can be just as comfortable as your pajamas. Swap the heels for a pair of sneakers, close your eyes and reminisce about the days spent working from your mattress. Models like Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner opted for a more literal take on the trend wearing suit pants with large breaks and big blazers. 

Go braless to break traditional office rules.

While some dress codes are rooted in patriarchal standards requiring women to hide their shoulders and wear bras, others have relaxed quite a bit over the years. So where it's possible and safe to push the arbitrary boundaries and continue living a bra-free life why not try it – nipple covers do exist; because where your boobs sit certainly couldn't be the issue, right? 

The “Life Is Short, Wear What You Want” Aesthetic

One thing that happened when I looked in my closet with pandemic eyes was I saw so many items I was scared to wear. Life is too short to fear patterns and textures or save something for a special occasion that's never coming. Is there a pair of platform Mary Janes that you bought pre-pandemic that have never seen the light of day? Wear them with patterned tights. Sure, it might be a little Alice In Wonderland but let's be honest, she looked cute. How about a striped shirt that you only thought you could pull off with plain black pants or jeans? That's the perfect time to mix patterns and wear the top with checkered or gingham pants. If the silhouettes and fabrics feel office-apropos, let yourself live a little with the style points.

Make casual Friday happen on a Tuesday. 

This is something some workers have been doing pre-pandemic but there are ways to incorporate casual Friday into the rest of the week. The key is keeping one item easy and dressing up the rest. Take Ashley Graham or Diane Keaton for example. Ashley pairs biker shorts (comfortable, ready for bed) with a button-down and heels. Diane pairs her jeans with a classic striped shirt and loafers. Other ways to accomplish this might be to look at the trends we embraced during the pandemic and make them office-ready. A matching pajama set might work when paired with loafers or heels, and that cute tie-dye hoodie would look great over a silk skirt. 

Fall back in love with your closet. 

One of the biggest lessons to come out of the pandemic is that we are buying way too many new things and it's hurting the planet and the people who make our clothes. Old things are just as exciting as new ones most of the time (or moreso, in the case of Olivia Rodrigo wearing vintage Chanel to the White House). So as we come back to the office, loving what you already have in your closet — Chanel or otherwise — is probably one of the easiest ways to uncomplicate your wardrobe.

The pandemic made us different people in a lot of ways, and that gives us an opportunity to look at all of our clothing with fresh eyes and make outfits for the world we live in now. Besides, in the last year and a half, trends have changed and Y2K is back in full force. If you still have that baguette bag and pleated skirt in your closet, it's time to breathe new life into them — just as your regular life is coming back to you.

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