Actually, You Don't Have to Dress Up to Work from Home

Seattle fashion blogger Sahily McMillan drops advice for loving your quarantine look (even if your cat is the only one who sees it).

By Zoe Sayler April 7, 2020

You should probably get out of bed, though.

Seattleites are spending more time at home these days—a lot more time. According to a New York Times analysis of anonymous cell phone data, we traveled an average 61 feet on March 27. That's a testament to the effectiveness of Governor Inslee’s order to “Stay Home, Stay Safe” to mitigate the spread of the novel coronavirus. It's also a testament to how many of us are ignoring official permission to get outside and stay active—shine on, you lazy diamonds.

But there’s a debate among the stuck-at-home masses, especially those currently learning to work from an ergonomically unsound kitchen barstool: to dress, or not to dress?

Well-meaning (but extremely annoying) productivity mavens simply swear by putting on slacks and mascara to work from home. You’re a #boss everywhere, after all, even and especially on your futon hunched over an overheating MacBook. “A business-casual look will also keep you feeling productive while working from home,” assures Today, recommending jeans with a t-shirt and blazer (!!!). The Wall Street Journal suggested, in 2018, that women working remotely (“long the territory of slobby creatives”) should carry a $3,100 designer purse. Carry this purse where, exactly? I’m not sure my plants would fully appreciate it.

On the opposite end of the spectrum are those who are perfectly happy working in sweats. Maybe even pajamas. After all, Seattle’s typical work look is more casual than most of the country. Why should working from home be any different?

I called up Sahily McMillan, a Seattle-based fashion and (very Instagram-ready!) lifestyle blogger with a wardrobe colorful enough to cut through the gloomiest days of quarantine. Her expert advice: Do what you want. But here are some ways to make your shut-in look a little more joyful:

Experiment with different levels of “dressed up.”

McMillan says that she uses clothing—in particular, the colorful sort you’ll find in all her photos—as a mood booster: “If you need a pick-me-up, just getting dressed can really do that for you.” So stop eye rolling and put on some of your favorite jeans, or a dress. It might feel great! It might feel silly. You might just really wish you were wearing sweats. Good news—you’re home. If you don't like it, go change.

Remember: You can accessorize sweatpants.

If you’re a sweatpants loyalist, McMillan suggests extras to dress up your look while keeping it comfy: “One of the big things with athleisure, to take it from the yoga studio to streetwear, is to add the accessories in." Top sweats and a t-shirt with a knit cardigan; add some earrings, or hair accessories, or a hat. You’ll feel like you’re wearing an outfit without feeling like you’re wearing an outfit.

The video conference tie-with-sweats look is just weird. Switch it up.

There's no need to wear business casual on top and pajamas on the bottom. The desired effect of this clothing mullet—staying comfy while convincing your coworkers that you have your shit together—is fully accomplishable with an outfit that actually makes sense. I like the look and feel of a cozy sweater with sweatpants (and can reasonably go to the grocery store wearing them). Another option? Let your coworkers deal with how cute you look in a hoodie.

Use your rare outings as an opportunity to look hot.

One of the greatest pleasures in life is putting together a great look and showing it off to the public. The fact that you're exclusively leaving the house for necessities is all the more reason to make it a stunner. McMillan says she’s making her grocery store runs “a fashion show right now”; you can do the same while grabbing takeout, sunning yourself on your balcony, going for your state-sanctioned daily walk, or taking quarantine selfies. You’ll feel satisfied by the return to normalcy. (And the attention.)

McMillan wearing her magic suit at Cannon Beach. Better days.

Find loungewear that feels like real clothes. (And vice versa.)

Weird how rolling out of bed in your literal pajamas can make you feel, all day, like you haven’t quite woken up. You can be just as cozy while still giving yourself the requisite transition from sleep to work, and, if it’s your jam (or your boss's), you can look professionally presentable while doing it. One of McMillan’s favorite looks for this purpose is the Nooworks magic suit, a professional-looking jumpsuit that’s secretly cotton jersey (it’s usually sold at temporarily closed Seattle boutique Moorea Seal; if you can wait, grab a gift card). For a more casual take, Seattle-based Girlfriend Collective sells comfy, sustainable athleisure—these days, matching your sports bra with your bike shorts may be as close as you’re going to get to a pantsuit.

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