Book a Space
Book a Tour
Book a Space
Book a Tour
Working in Style

What Are the Real Looks of Working From Home?

by Liana Satenstein

April 5, 2024

Can the cozy sweatpants look decrease productivity?

When I first transitioned from working at an office full time at a fashion publication for almost nine years to taking the plunge into going fully freelance, my wardrobe was out of whack. The change was drastic. I had been going into the office in carefully considered outfits in the best vintage I could find. A great pair of python print Gucci pants that I got for a major deal; a leopard print Blumarine top from a downtown vintage shop; the most charming, clickity-clack Italian thong heels from eBay. Everyday walking into the office felt like the look was injecting a lifeforce into me; a form of inspiration. As for this new life freelancing at home? Squished into the corner of my couch? Well, my wardrobe became a sad tornado of schmattas. I broiled in old sweats and ratty T-shirts, glued to a laptop screen while spooning Greek yogurt from its plastic tub into my mouth. Sad!

During this time period, which lasted about a month or two after leaving my job, I physically felt exhausted by my wardrobe. Uninspired. My sad WFH looks correlated with how disengaged I felt from my former life where I once spent full days analyzing the rise of the Yves Saint Laurent Mombasa bag or the industry’s obsession with Crocs.

I was not alone. Plenty of people I knew had been in their creative-corporate jobs and had gone from expressing themselves with flair to succumbing to the comfort of their boxers. I called up Aemilia Madden, an editorial consultant and writer, who held a longtime position of Senior Fashion Editor at The Zoe Report. Madden makes comfort at home chic–not schlubby–and opts for the likes of cashmere sweaters. “It kind of goes both ways. When I am working from home on something, like writing a piece, I want to be comfortable,” says Madden, adding, “I don’t want to be distracted by pants that are too tight or fussy.”

Emilia Petrarca, formerly of The Cut, went freelance back in January of 2023 and has written for The New York Times and Vogue, while launching the rabidly followed Substack, “Shop Rat“. Venturing into the world of pajamas wasn’t new for Petrarca: She had dabbled in wearing bedtime pants to churn out content. But Petrarca, like Madden, notes that her bedtime wear wasn’t lazy but rather, quality-minded. “I wear really nice pajamas. I go from Cosa Bella to Eileen Fisher,” she says.

Ok, fine. I get it. I was wearing rags to sleep–and to work. But still, does comfort get in the way of how productive we are? Even if I’m banging out an article, swaddled in baby-soft sweatpants, am I writing the best I can? Why do I feel the sudden urge to curl up and watch, like, the 100th episode of Law and Order: SVU? Does even the mere notion of cozy wear allow us to fall into more slacksidasical habits? Despite loving pajamas–and even dressing them up–Petrarca noted that she still feels the urge to channel a slice of “working girl” in her wardrobe. “I bought blazers and pencil skirts,” she says, adding. “I upscaled my work-from-home uniform. Like I bought this big oversized Babaa turtleneck, which is my Zoom turtleneck.” Another must-have as a freelancer? She carries her iPad in an Armani briefcase. “I’m outside all the time and using it.”

Madden notes that she feels different when she wears a look to venture outside of her apartment. “When I have a good outfit on and I’m going out and meeting people; getting out of the house, I feel so much more confident,” she says, cheekily adding. “Like a business lady!”

Both Madden and Petrarca remarked how they felt more professional in certain looks and used terms like “business lady” or “working girl.” The duo’s statements are reminiscent of a 2012 study by psychologist Dr. Adam Galinsky who studied the effects that clothing had on human behavior and perception, which he termed “enclothed cognition”. Galinsky used the example of a white lab coat, symbolically associated with medical professionals, and tested a group wearing the coat. His findings were that the subjects were more attentive and detail-oriented. The clothes we wear–and what they associate them with–have a psychological impact on how we behave.

The palpable mind-body effect of dressing up to work even from the comfort of the home is also felt by James Harris, of the fashion bro-beloved podcast Throwing Fits. Harris notices an uptick in not only mood–but also productivity when he elevates his work-from-home look. The Throwing Fits founder, who previously held positions at Def Jam, Complex, and Snapchat, and had always had an outré flair to his style, had gone through the isolation of the pandemic, switching out dressing for an office to sweatpants. “I think there is an association with, ‘Okay, I’m in my do nothing pants,’” says Harris. “There has to be some sort of correlation psychological between, ‘Okay, I am readying myself for the day. I’m being productive.’ At least for me, I find that I’m less productive when I’m still lounging in the-evening, watching-TV-type clothes.” Now, Harris will add on a polished (and laundered!) sweater or button down to get his brain in the mode of rise-and-grind.

As for me? There’s no more slothing in sweatpants and I’ve tossed the hole-ridden T-shirts, trading them in for parts of the pieces I used to wear to work. A thong heel there. A pair of kicky cropped pants there. I not only look better–but I feel better. My readers may agree, too.

Check out Aemilia’s website here.
Read Emilia’s work here.
Listen to James’ podcast here.

Photography: Sean M. Robertson