The dilemma of the home working wardrobe

What do you need in your home working wardrobe?

Home working wardrobeOne of the best things about blogging has got to be how people’s comments constantly generate new ideas when I feel I’ve run out of inspiration. John Hamelink’s comment on Rosie Slosek’s recent interview Home Working Boundaries has raised another subject ripe for home worker discussion – that of the home working wardrobe.

John said ‘I’ve heard many home-workers speak of the need to wear the same or similar clothes they’d wear to work in order to get their mindset into that of the workplace when they first started out home-working. What do you think of that?’

I have come across one or two examples of that, although only through hearsay. It seems likely to me that it’s a phase a new home worker might go through as they adapt to the new freedoms they have in working from home. Much like gradually realising you have complete control over your time and can ditch the 9-5.

I imagine that as you get used to the less constrained ways of home working you’re able to get into work mode without the props, as it were. Although some people do like to feel they are ‘going to work’, as beautifully demonstrated by Emma Windsor on the Home Working Style page.

Perhaps it depends on whether you work closely with clients or not. I spend a lot of time writing and most of my communication is by this site and email, rather than by phone. So my home working wardrobe consists of a rather lazy combination of jeans and layers of T shirts and jumpers. Which usually means a panic if I’m working away from home, and a hasty makeover if I have a Skype call planned!

Every so often (like now) I decide I need to smarten up and plan a shopping trip. Any tips on best buys for home workers who want to look stylish and stay comfortable?

26 Comments on "The dilemma of the home working wardrobe"

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  1. I do a combination depending on what I’m doing. Generally it’s casual, not sloppy. If I am writing a presentation or proposal, I wear similar clothes to what I will be presenting in or the potential clients will be wearing.

    For buying option – layers and natural fibres. read the washing labels, anything that needs dry cleaning, special treatment or an iron is out. Casual fitted style is a good balance of comfortable and work mode.

    One question for people, do you change into different clothes for your home time if you work during the day? I found that if I do, I can relax much more easily.

    • Judy says:

      I check care labels too, but sometimes it’s marked ‘dry clean only’ just because the fabric hasn’t been tested for washing. So if I think it’s washable eg cotton, I’ll buy it. The only things I seem to shrink are jumpers – the machine does them much better then me regardless of the label!

  2. John Hamelink says:

    At the office I currently work at, we have a very relaxed dress code (we’re creatives, not squares, as one of my colleagues so colourfully put it to me once).

    I’ve found that when I work from home I find myself dressing more formally – with a shirt and more formal trousers, for example – than when I’m at work. It’s very much a semi-conscious thing, but I do find that the formal dress plus the peace & quiet helps me really concentrate on what needs to get done.

    • Judy says:

      Interesting, isn’t it? Whatever works for you. I like the creatives v squares definition – but don’t get your home & office clothes mixed up or you may never live it down!

  3. Kaitlyn says:

    I love smart casual. I know it’s a term that baffles people but I see it as neat, presentable clothes that are also comfortable. I go formal for first impressions and gradually introduce smart casual as I get a feel for who I’m working for/with.

  4. Emma Windsor says:

    It is a big debate isn’t it about what we wear for home working.

    The picture of me made me giggle – very different hair these days.

    Hope you and Andy are well.

  5. Jonathan says:

    I am very much very casual, shorts and shirt all year, I do put long trousers on for meeting a client, unless I meet them on a beach. #plantmanjrw

    • Judy says:

      You are a very brave man, Jonathan! The wind this morning is biting and I’m still in my sheepskin boots, which will have to be surgically removed if summer ever starts.

  6. Ming Cheng says:

    I am an architect who has been working from home for the past 6 months. As one of the comment above, since we are the ‘creative’ type, I do tends to dress smart casual and I always make an effort to put on jeans / sweater to get myself in ‘work’ mode.

    I found myself in relax mode if I don’t make an effort and the day will just slip away. As in meeting clients (most are residential homeowners), I think they will be quite worried if I turned up in a suit!

    • Judy says:

      I find it so interesting that clothes convey strong messages, and that your clients probably wouldn’t have much faith in your designing skills if you turned up in a suit. I found a very funny code of dress for architects the other day, but I can’t remember the site. All about sticking to black and acting superior!

  7. I’ve yet to establish a working from home wardrobe, but determined it won’t be the same as what I used to wear to ‘work’!

    • Judy says:

      I was just the same all those years ago, Katie. My ‘office’ clothes made me feel like that corporate worker but I felt I was someone quite different now I was self-employed and working from home. We look forward to hearing whether you can solve the dilemma!

  8. Corrina Gordon-Barnes says:

    It’s so tempting to lounge around in yoga trousers and sloppy tops but I do feel more professional and focused when I’m in that “smart casual” category – like today, black leggings, cream tunic top from Mango and black wrap.

    Increasingly, I feel how I see myself when no-one else is around really DOES matter and affects how seriously I take my business.

    I’ve felt like quite a Cinderella in the past: there’s the smart, polished me that clients or workshop/talk participants see – and that’s been in conflict with the me that hides behind a computer at home. My current commitment is to close that gap, so there’s just one of me! – so it all feels more congruent.

    • Judy says:

      Interesting point, Corrina. I’m not sure I see it so much as a conflict as simply the various parts of me – alert and paying close attention to other people when I’m out and about, and more relaxed at home. My problem is that I get so cold at the computer that only lots of layers keep me warm, and that’s not a recipe for elegance. Which, by the way, your cream and black ensemble sounds 🙂

  9. Samantha Clarke says:

    Hello Judy, I feel there is a tendency as you suggested to adopt ‘new freedoms’ with how you dress once you start working from home. But I agree with Rosie that wearing clothes specific to the task at hand and the potential audience (ie preparing a proposal or a pitch) stands you in good stead to create the right working mindset. The clothes you wear have a big impact on how you feel and effect you subconsciously. I’m a style architect for female entrepreneurs/business owners helping them create a wardrobe so that they can be ‘visible’ for their business with pride. I’m a strong advocate for dressing the part and feeling ‘ready’ for business even if you are just calling clients from home. It creates a real ripple effect. Having the right wardrobe or ‘uniform’ for different areas of your life, helps you wear many hats with ease and enables you to really enjoy the casual times when you are not working and away from your computer.
    I think many women can identify with where Corinna is coming from with the divide between smart networking clothes and then the ‘behind the scenes’ clothes, but it shouldn’t have to be this way at all. Creating a holistic style ‘uniform’ that serves the space where your personal and business life overlaps is very useful. I’m working with lots of woman like yourself carrying out some research sessions to discover more about wardrobe woes, if any ladies would like to get in touch let me know. I’d be really happy to give you some tips and tricks 🙂

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Samantha, it’s good to hear from an expert and I like the idea of ‘wearing many hats with ease’! It certainly seems as though wardrobe woes are quite a common feature of home workers’ lives so I’m sure your sessions will be very popular.

  10. Gayle Turner says:

    I think we’re going to see a new fashion trend, with stretchy pants mixed with more business-like tops, so home workers can look presentable in video conferences but still be comfortable.

    • Judy says:

      I would love to see home workers setting fashion trends! Perhaps it will be led by a designer who works from home.

  11. Caradiaz says:

    A very interesting topic. Some people feel the need to ‘dress up’ in order to achieve the right frame of mind to tackle work, regardless of their office location. I used to know a City girl who, even on ‘dress down Friday’ when everybody else wore jeans, was incapable of turning up to work in anything other than a suit. She worried about not looking the part and therefore feared not being taken seriously by her co-workers.

    I’m more of a smart casual person myself. I like stylish yet comfortable, uncomplicated clothes that can be worn for both work and home life. Sometimes all it takes to make your clothes ‘rise up to the occasion’ is a statement piece of jewellery, a scarf or a swanky pair of shoes.

    • Judy says:

      This an an absolutely fascinating topic and just gets more so the more we discuss it! You’ve reminded me to tweet about The Thoughtful Dresser by Linda Grant, which I’ve read about three times and has been gobbled up by all the women I’ve recommended it to. I hope she writes another on a similar theme.

  12. Lisa Thompson says:

    Like you Judy, I dress for comfort at home – which almost always means thousands of layers and warm sturdy slippers (Danish felt Glerups – fantastic). I find the worst problem of meeting clients is footwear. The local farmers are curiously reluctant to sell shoes so most purchases are over the internet. The colours are never quite right and they look wierd with the few clothes I shake the moths out of for client meetings. More importantly, they hurt. I’m used to wearing wellies for 75% of the year, flipflops for the other 25% and not walking on tarmac in bound feet.

    • Judy says:

      🙂 I’ve just Googled Glerups – very cute. Since I spend all winter in sheepskin boots and summer in flat sandals, I can sympathise. It’s just about impossible to find good-looking shoes I can walk in and I often end up carrying a spare pair, one of the reasons for my bag lady look when I’m out and about. But on the other hand (foot?), since the weather improved I’ve noticed how many women have bunions. Men have it so easy!

  13. Tayler says:

    I am sooo embarrassed to say, but I totally stay in my PJ’s till about 3 pm, which is usually the end of my work day. Then, I get a shower, clean the house and make dinner before the hubby comes home from his work day. Life is hard 😉

    • Judy says:

      Thanks, Tayler, I’m pleased to meet someone who stays in pyjamas most of the day – always good to have plenty of anecdotes to share! One of the many joys of working from home is being able to do exactly what suits you.