While our world has slowly been going towards a more casual work environment, 2020 has given us the quickest entrance into casual work attire than we've seen to date. Lyst, the global fashion search platform, recently noted in its quarterly ranking of the hottest brands that, for the very first time, Nike had come out on top rather than a luxury fashion brand — propelled by a 106 percent increase in demand for loungewear and activewear as consumers went all-in on comfortable clothes to wear at home.
Going casual (or au natural, as some undoubtedly have) while working from home has not only become acceptable, but preferred. Coupon Follow conducted a survey of 1,038 employees working remotely since the coronavirus arrived in the U.S. in February 2020. The survey showed that a quarter of female respondents said they most commonly work in loungewear, with 20% of men typically choosing athletic wear during the workday. And some preferred an even more casual preference: Sixteen percent of respondents indicated that they’ve worked in their pajamas during the pandemic. Another 29% said they have opted to go au naturel while working from home. Yep, you read that right... naked!!
Why have we felt the need to go so casual for work? Perhaps dressing down gave us a nice break from our normal requirements to dress up for a work environment, or maybe it was a subtle way of soothing ourselves during a particularly stressful, uncertain and tumultuous time in our lives.
Either way, casual dressing is here to stay - at least as long as we are working from home.
However, I can't help but wonder: Is dressing casual - or not getting dressed at all - helping, or hurting us?
This prompted me to do a little research. Starting with... me. In my personal experience, as an entrepreneur where my reality is permanently working from home, I have always been a believer in getting dressed for each day. Wearing something other than my PJ's or yoga pants or loungewear signals to my brain that it's time to get going, to get productive. It's an energy boost that helps me get in the right mindset to tackle whatever my to-do list. I've always felt this way... but why?
Beyond my own personal experiences and noticing a mood lift when I got dressed, there's quite a lot of science backing this belief up. What follows are 4 reasons why getting dressed - even during a pandemic - can be a game-changer for you.
Reason #1: I'm nicer when I like my outfit.
OK... be honest. Have you noticed this about yourself? You know I'm right on this one! And if you don't believe me, let's hear what science has to say. Brain science shows us that when we feel something, our brain activates and sends chemicals throughout our bodies. So how does this relate this to style and clothes? When we put on clothes, we naturally feel a certain way. When we put on things that make us feel good (say, a color we love or a shirt that makes you feel fierce, or jeans that hug you in just the right places!), the brain activates and sends good chemicals throughout our bodies.
Now, let's flip this and say you put on something you don't love. You feel frumpy, dumpy, lumpy... just meh. Your brain notices this feeling and activates, sending bad chemicals throughout your body. Yuck. Hence, why it's so important to put on things we love and rid out closets of things we don't love! I think it's safe to say we all want to get more of these good chemicals going through our bodies. The opposite (feeling meh in our clothes) can increase our chances of depression or anxiety. And after a year where we've had plenty of other reasons to feel depressed or anxious or sad or angry, let's give ourselves a fighting chance by putting on some clothes that we feel good in!
All of this to say that what we wear really does impact our behavior and interactions with others. For a moment, think back to a time when you put on an outfit you didn't love or feel good in. Got it in your mind? Now, reflect on these questions:
How did that affect your mood that day?
How was your personality impacted?
Your confidence on a zoom call?
Your interaction with others (think, your spouse, kids, or friends)?
Were you more on edge or crabbier or less patient than normal?
My guess is your answer to all or most of these questions is yes. So trust me on this one, you will be a nicer person when you wear what you love! (You can tell your spouse, your kids, your family and friends to thank me for this one!)
Reason #2: You are what you wear.
I know, I know.... are you cringing already? Whether we like it or not, and no matter how evolved we all are, we all judge others first by appearance, sometimes without even realizing it. Does that mean we have to dress for others? Absolutely not. In fact, I believe we should dress for none other than ourselves. Still, there is something to the fact that when you wear something that fits a vision of your highest self, you naturally start showing up as that woman.
There was a groundbreaking study published in 2012 on this effect that clothes has on the wearer by Northwestern University psychologists Hajo Adams and Adam Galinsky. The study was coined, "Enclothed Cognition." Enclothed cognition involves the co-occurrence of two independent factors—the symbolic meaning of the clothes and the physical experience of wearing them. In the study, they concluded that "clothes systematically influence wearers' psychological processes." In one test, they found that people wearing a white lab coat exhibited better attention and focus. Through this series of studies they found that the "wearer takes on the symbolic value of the clothes they wear."
What then, does this mean for our current workwear attire? If I'm taking on the symbolic value of the PJ's I'm wearing, in my opinion, that doesn't equal anything close to energetic or productive. It registers in my brain as sleepy and relaxing!
I love this quote from Rachel Zoe: "Style is a way to say who you are without having to speak." So let this be your call to consider the woman you want to be, and the woman you want to project into this world. What statement do you want to make? What do you want to convey to others through your clothes? As for me, I'm grabbing my superhero cape.... eh, my blazer and power pink shirt! And in Iris Apfel's words, "Take a chance and wear something that says, 'I am here!" today."
Reason #3: When you feel good, you can do anything.
It has been said, "Never underestimate the power of a good outfit on a bad day." Simply put, getting dressed in something you feel good in changes your energy and mood for the better. Plus, you're more productive!
According to a recent survey of 1,000 remote workers by CouponFollow, nearly half of people working from home said they don't adhere to a defined dress code for remote working. But business-professional, business-casual and smart-casual dressers all reported higher levels of productivity than those who dressed in gym clothes and pajamas, the survey found. Approximately 80 percent of the more formal dressers said they felt productive throughout the day, compared to just 70 percent of those in gym clothes and 50 percent of those in pajamas.
While I have had friends tell me personally during the pandemic that they feel perfectly productive working in their PJ's, it has me wondering how much more productive and energetic they could be feeling if they took it up a notch... Say, a zoom-worthy blouse with their sweats and slippers?
I say it's worth a shot to find out!
Reason #4: Getting dressed is an act of self-care.
Here's the bottom line: clothes are going to change your mood for the better or for the worse. Science has backed this up as I've mentioned above. If you have the power to alter your mood - simply by what you choose to put on for the day - why wouldn't you do it? It's one of the easiest self-care things you can do for yourself!
And while I know you could argue that wearing sweats and cozying up with your slippers on an zoom call is also a form of self-care, I wonder how long the allure of loungewear can last - and will it continue to be needed once we land in our post-pandemic world?
I loved this analogy in an article I recently read:
"While it once seemed alluring — and potentially salubrious — for one’s mental health to wear the garb that signaled relaxation to do daily battle with the grim news of the day, it has also lessened the enjoyment of slipping into them afterward. In the same way that smartphones have made it possible to work at all places and all times, just because you can wear your stretchy old workout gear in front of the computer, doesn’t always make it a good idea."
I'd love to hear from you: Where do you stand on getting dressed every day? Do you connect getting dressed with being more productive? Does it give you a boost of energy or self-confidence?
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World at Work, Will Dress Codes Survive the Pandemic.