When it comes to what to wear when returning to the office, there’s a new buzz phrase on retailers’ lips: work leisure. After more than a year of working from home in sweatpants and hoodies, women are reluctant to dig out the skirt suits, snug sheath dresses, and high heels. Instead, workers are now leaning toward keeping their comfy clothes and wearing them to the office. Work leisure is similar to athleisure but with a little more polish. Read on to learn how to make your work leisure clothing look professional.
In this new reality of comfy work clothes, you absolutely can wear women’s yoga pants to the office. However, while funky tie-dye patterns and mesh cutouts may work for going from the gym to the coffee shop to the supermarket and then back to your couch, they won’t do for in-office wear. Instead, opt for neutral colors: black, navy, tan, gray, and olive. If you must wear a pattern, look for one that you would typically find in dress pants, such as a hounds tooth check, pinstripe, or muted plaid. Neutral animal prints are also an acceptable choice but avoid loud neon background colors. You’ll also want to avoid overly shiny fabrics, such as sateen and anything with sparkles. Instead, save those patterns and fabrics for a night out clubbing with your gal pals.
Also, pay attention to the style of the leg. Look for pants that are wide or straight leg. Even before working from home became a necessity, properly styled leggings, which are more tapered at the ankle, were considered acceptable office wear.
Sneakers and athleisure go together, but if you’re converting your workout gear to office garb, you’ll need to up your footwear game. Unless you want to look like you’re on your way to or from the gym, avoid running shoes altogether. Instead, wear flats, such as ballet slippers or slip-ons, with your yoga pants. Boots and ankle booties are also great choices, especially with leggings. For a clean line from hip to toe, opt for a boot the same color as your legging. Or, strut your stuff in a fun pair of ankle booties. In other words, go ahead and treat yourself to that purple suede pair you’ve been coveting!
If you need to wear socks, consider the length of your pants. If they are ankle length or cropped, opt for a no-show cut. For regular, full-length pants or under boots, trousers or crew socks will be fine, so express your personality with the fun, patterned socks you’ve been saving but haven’t yet worn.
While most athleisure clothing is deliberately snug on the body, in part to make it easier to wick moisture away, work leisure calls for a looser fit. You may need to go up a size — and that’s okay. The important thing is to focus on the fit, not the size number. Pick what is flattering in the here and now, not what you think will look good in a month or two. You will look more professional and project more confidence if your clothing is not straining at the seams.
Given the way athleisure bottoms tend to hug one’s curves (even if you do size up), choose tops that are longer and will cover your rear end for a more professional look. Tunic tops are perfect for this, and they come in a variety of styles, patterns, and colors. If you want extra coverage, go with a hi-lo top, which, while tunic length in front, is even longer in back. Depending on the length and look you want to achieve, you can add a belt to give some shape to your waist area.
Long cardigan sweaters offer yet another coverage option. You can layer one over a tank top, T-shirt, or even a turtleneck top during cooler months. You can also match the material to the season. Wear open-knit or cotton cardigans during spring or summer, and wool or wool blends during fall and winter. Choose a sweater that’s the same color as your pants or, if you’re wearing a patterned shirt, opt for a cardigan that picks up a shade from your top.
We’ve gotten used to sitting cross-legged or with one leg curled under, computer in our lap, and a coffee mug or water bottle at hand. Sitting that way is hard to do if you’re wearing a sheath or shift dress. Work leisure dresses are more forgiving. Look for women's work dresses in easy-to-wear materials, such as cotton knits or jersey. Not only will you be more comfortable, but you’ll also save on dry cleaning expenses. Unlike such fabrics as silk or linen, most knits are machine washable and dryable; just be sure to follow the manufacturer’s fabric care instructions.
In addition, choose looser styles, such as fit and flare dresses. Pair your dresses with casual scarves, a statement necklace, and bangles. If you must wear heels, opt for shoes low in height. The rest of you won’t be work-leisure comfy if your feet are killing you.
While your duffel bag or backpack might be fine for the gym, pair your work leisurewear with a more professional-looking handbag. Choose a handbag or satchel purse in leather. Transport your laptop in a nice case or tote bag. The same goes for jewelry — wear classic pieces with your work leisure clothing for a clean look. Save the funky pieces, which will dress down your outfit, for out of the office.
Comfy clothes have made their way to the office setting. By choosing the appropriate work leisure, you will look professional while turning your work-from-home clothing into work-at-the-office wear.