What do you wear when you work from home?

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Caroline in her work-from-home uniform.
Caroline in her work-from-home uniform.
This might be silly, but I recently started freelancing from home. I’m enjoying the opportunity to work in my pajamas, but my wife posed the argument that I might be more productive — or at least feel better about myself — if I dress up for work, even though I’m just commuting down the hall.

She might be right, but I feel like it’s overkill to work in a button-down shirt. Still, I’m open to the idea. This isn’t really advice so much as that I’m new to this, so I thought I’d ask: what do other at-home workers wear, day to day? Does it make a difference what you wear? -Mark

Here I am! This is what I wear, every day. Except laundry day.
Yo! Good question. I’ve been working from home for over a year now, and I definitely prefer to wear Grown Up Clothes. Not so grown up as business casual, though. Every day I wear the same thing, unless I’m doing laundry: a white tee shirt and dark jeans. I have five such shirts and two such pairs of jeans.

The main reason I like to wear decent clothes is that if I find suddenly that I have to go out, I’m ready. I don’t have to dig through a pile of laundry to find something more suitable than sweatpants to wear. Also, I have a legit retort when a friend busts me for working in the basement in sweatpants all week, and that retort is, “NUH-UH!
The bonus: since I wear the same thing every day, I don’t have to think about clothes at all. Plus, the uniform is good enough to wear to a meeting and also not so precious that I need to change out of it to work in the garden. It’s fantastic. I wish I could have pulled this off at my last office job, but they would have frowned on so many days in jeans. Even nice jeans.

Other work-at-homers? Do you find eight hours of freedom from judgement every day is a good time to break out the gym shorts? Or are you wearing pantsuits? Or are you somewhere in between?

Comments on What do you wear when you work from home?

  1. Sweats, here. Some day I stay in my pjs and then about an hour before my wife gets home, I shower and put new, fresh sweats on so I am presentable for her. I feel totally like a 1950s wife getting spruced up for her spouse when I do that, but in my case sprucing up means wearing a bra and deodorant….. Not curled hair and makeup. LMAO!

  2. I’m a (grad) student, so maybe it’s a little different. I do spend time outside my home, but a good proportion of the week I’m at home. I do put clothes on in the morning, staying in my pj’s would be my excuse to do nothing that day! My style is definately casual: hoody sweater + jeans, t-shirt + pants etc.
    I’ve recently decided that I want to make my wardrobe more ‘ grown up’, so more business like, because I hope it will effect my working attitude. So I’m definately interested in what works for others!

  3. I work at an office and (for other business-related projects) from home. Whereas I really have to dress up for the office, I still like to at least get dressed when working from home – although I leave the blazers where they belong far away from me!).

  4. I do think that what you wear makes a difference and I never wear PJs for work, because I just don’t feel active (just feel… sleepy…). I don’t say I dress up either. My compromise is wearing some very casual clothes which I feel comfortable seating all day in, such as loose dresses in the summer and leggings/large sweaters in winter. As I try to go outside at least once a day after work, this is the perfect excuse to put on pretty, grown-up clothes so that my partner very seldom sees me actually wearing his sweaters!

    • I’m pretty much the same as Audrey. I wear dresses and leggings and t-shirts. I live in an overly heated nyc apartment, so in the winter I’m usually wearing a t-shirt, shorts, and leg-warmers around my ankles to block the draft next to my desk.
      And I like to get “dressed up” when I leave the house. I used to hate thinking about my clothes when I was going out in the evening, but now it seems like a fun reward/incentive to leave the house.
      random: I don’t really like wearing pants at all, so the shorts are a concession to the super knocking on the door and me having to hustle to put on pants. When my friends call me to do something I often say: Sure just give me 5 min to put some pants on.

  5. I don’t exactly work from home, I’m technically unemployed, but I do a lot of work-like activities (like running online communities), some of which I even get money for.

    I almost always wear jeans and a t-shirt, which as it happens has been my work uniform for some real out-of-the-house, with other people type jobs.

    Admittedly todays t-shirt is a size too big and has a hamster with butterfly wings and the slogan “the Flying Hamster of Doom rains coconuts on your pitiful city” on the front and came from Hot Topic so how presentable I actually am is debatable but it does make me feel better to be wearing actual clothes. That way if anyone comes to the door unexpectedly or I have to go out or whatever I feel less like I was being a jobless loser hanging around the house and more like I was being productive and just happened to be doing it at home.

    Also my PC is right by a window that opens onto the street and I normally sleep naked so it’s probably a good idea to put something on between getting up and getting online.

    (I have to admit though I sometimes don’t brush my hair until about 1pm, or at all.)

  6. I currently work from my home but as a journalist, I may have to leave to cover something at any second. It’s much easier to just run and go cover stories when I’m already fully clothed. I tend to wear business casual – things I wouldn’t mind if the elected officials saw me wearing around town, you know, but not something too dressy. However, because I happen to LOVE getting dressed up and fancy, I have been known to work around my house, never leaving to see anyone, in a pretty dress, jewelry and makeup, just because it’s what’s going to make me happy that day.
    While saying that, I have to say that one of the coolest parts of my job is the opportunity to occasionally work…nekkid. In my room where I don’t freak anyone out. But yeah, during the heat of the summer, that can be nice!

  7. I’m a writer with a day job in sales, and this issue was definitely a big one for me. I work at my sales job four days a week and we are required to wear a “uniform” of solid black work-out gear. The other three days I’ve been stuck in front of my computer, usually in PJ pants and a ratty t-shirt. Jeans are very uncomfortable when you sit on your butt all day, but I started to feel like I NEVER really got dressed!

    My mother suggested I go back to wearing dresses, which I used to do most of the time, and that I make them more comfortable with leggings or tights underneath. This has been the perfect solution. I wear comfortable cotton sundresses every day with leggings underneath– it feels like pajamas, but I don’t have to change if I decide I need to run to the drugstore. I’m not embarrassed to run into anyone. Also, I feel “dressed for work” and that makes my writing work feel legitimized.

    I’d just suggest adapting what you used to wear before you started to stay-at-home. Because you still need to feel like “you.”

  8. I’m looking forward to seeing more of the responses-I just accepted my first full time, work-from-home position, and while I’ve freelanced in the past, it’s always been in the middle of the night writing, or sitting slamming coffee in shops. I know I feel better when I’m dressed for work, so I won’t be wearing PJ’s or sweats, but I won’t be wearing business clothes either. Likely leggings, dresses, sweaters and other cute tops. Comfortable, easy to pop out at lunch and walk the dogs, but not sloppy.

    I’ve always worked in in-office jobs that didn’t have a dress code, and I always feel more professional when I don’t dress like a slob.

    • Seconded on the dressing professionally when you don’t have a dress code. I interned at a newspaper where basically all the other interns (and some of the full-time employees) wore jeans and t-shirts – sometimes even belly shirts! Ech. I wore pretty dresses and heels pretty much every day because I had just gotten back from living abroad with a really limited wardrobe. I was just having fun playing with clothes, but it definitely left an excellent impression on my boss. He’s told me that if I ever need a job, I can come to him in the future. Standing out from the crowd (in a good way!) is the way to go.

  9. There was a news story recently about parents taking their kids to school in pyjamas – school principals have requested they get dressed. While this comment is absolutely not a judgement on that I find it hard to understand. Whatever you’re doing, staying in pjs all day is bad for the spirit.

    • My university had a rule that you could not wear PJ’s, a dressing gown or just underwear to class. At first I thought it was amusing that they felt the need to say so but apparently the rule was brought in because many people did exactly that and they felt it was inappropriate and did not exactly give the best impression for visitors to the campus.

      I don’t understand it personally. PJ’s around the house is one thing but even my most informal classes never felt like somewhere I’d be comfortable in them.

      • Sweats and a hoodie was practically a uniform for some in college….and I’ll admit, I went to a few morning classes dressed like that. Hey, it was comfy, and acceptable!!

  10. Me and my BF are both comic artists who work from home, and until not too long ago we used to hang out many, many days just in pyjamas. At some point we felt we really needed to get AT LEAST dressed in order not to be totally unattractive to one another. πŸ˜‰

    Now we just get dressed “normally” him with jeans and t-shirt, and me with nice-looking pants and shirts, whatever looks good on me but’s comfy. I do like to feel pretty though, and almost every day I like to do my hair and put on fitting earrings. With warm weather I also sometimes put on skirts or dresses, with or without leggins underneath.
    Which reminds me, it’s the perfect skirt + leggins weather right now, I think that’s what I’ll wear tomorrow!

    I do NOT wear a bra though unless I’m going out, it’s just wayyyy too uncomfortable. I don’t have much to hold up there anyway so it’s not much of a problem. But if some day I find a bra that’s really comfortable for me I’ll wear it, too.

    • So…when I’m working from home I let myself wear whatever I want (usually t-shirt and jeans or sweats) but I make myself wear a bra and “real” shoes! Those two things make me feel “dressed” no matter what else I’m wearing (or how recently I’ve showered…) πŸ˜‰

  11. i don’t work from home frequently, but sometimes i get the opportunity. i definitely don’t like to chill in my pj’s all day (i only do that when i’m sick and over christmas break), but one of my favorite things about the days i work from home is the opportunity to prolong my morning. usually i actually start working sooner (’cause i don’t have to do stuff like get dressed) and sit with my computer and coffee and do something simple like go through emails and then get dressed once i’m more awake.

    i’m not a morning person, and the stress of having to get dressed (and everything else) while i’m groggy just makes it worse. i realize not everyone considers getting dressed stressful, but…i find pretty much everything stressful first thing in the morning.

  12. It certainly DOES make a difference what you wear if you work from home!
    For me, when I was working freelance in direct sales, the days I did not have appointments but was making calls at home, I really fell off the wagon if I stayed in pjs. It’s like the bed and the covers and the haze of sleep are still clinging to you if you don’t experience air on your body for a few seconds as you change clothes, bristles on your teeth, a whiff of deodorant, and sliding contacts across your ‘balls instead of just popping on glasses. Even nowadays, when I go to the office, it changes my entire attitude for productivity if I wear jewelry and put makeup on, or perfume. We are creatures of habit, aesthetics can make or break a mood for us.
    Shoot, even on my days off this is true! If I have errands or an appointment, even cleaning the house, I don’t feel awake and ready until I have freshened up and changed clothes and at least put on some earrings and mascara.
    I will say this, though. There is something huge to be said about being COMFORTABLE, no matter your work environment.
    I bless the person you said jeans are uncomfortable if worn for too long sitting down. WORD. Especially if you’re on the curvaceous side.
    Some great alternatives I have discovered are Target’s long “yoga” pants. No cuffs, straight leg, comfortable fabric, brown, black, or grey. No booty hugging, no string up top, almost no way to tell they are from the exercise section!
    There is a more posh selection, from New York and Company, I think. They are cut like work pants, but the fabric is the perfect cross between soft yoga and work twill. Plain band up top, no button or zipper.
    In my casual office, my “uniform” is generally a pair of those pants, a colorful tank or cami, and solid open, trailing cardigan. Most of those items are cheap, readily available, reusable, fairly universally flattering, and easy to mix and match.

  13. I wear smart-casual most days. Smart trousers with a shirt or dressy top. Some days, especially if I only have an hour or so of work to do I’ll just wear whatever I like, but I always get dressed. I did have one or two days of not getting dressed (I think it was the novelty of being able to do so!) and it didn’t help me feel ‘work ready’, so I ditched that pretty quick.

    I like getting ready and doing my hair and make up even if no one else is going to see me. Plus, if something crops up where you have to leave the house – or even just answer the door to the neighbours or something – I feel better knowing I’m ready to go.

  14. Dark jeans, button-down shirt, and sneakers. For some reason, wearing shoes is my mental cue to Do Actual Work and not just Dick Around on the Internets. And while I love love love ballet flats, they are too easy to kick off.

  15. I’m going to just throw this out there and say that I haven’t worn pjs to sleep since high school. Even in the winter (and I live in New England) I sleep in the buff. So for me, sweats and what-not don’t equate to being tired, just with being comfortable. I have found it’s not the clothes I put on to start the work day at home that matter. Taking a shower before I start working is what really helps. Just because I’m not going to see anyone doesn’t mean I can’t smell good to myself. It wakes me up, prevents me from jumping back into bed, and makes me feel that my day has started

    • Totally agree with this! even though I am a complete girly girl found in retro dresses most of the time a day in sweats and t shirt is just a day i felt like wearing that. Getting up, showering and doing my hair is what makes me ready to work for the day. (gotta get my yoga in there too!)

    • I’m completely the other way. I hate showering first thing in the morning. Partially because I feel like it’s just extra hassle I don’t want to deal with and partially because I have waist length hair and if I showered in the morning I’d then have to spend another 20 minutes blow drying it as well before I could go anywhere (because otherwise it’d either be still wet or super frizzy) and it’s just not worth it. I usually shower before going to bed instead.

  16. I’m another one that has to be dressed in at least jeans and a t-shirt before I feel like I’m going to have a productive day. I really love LL Bean’s “Perfect Fit Pants,” which are a knit pant that looks decent and are also insanely comfortable. I’m a very big fan of them. In the summer, I usually wear a knit skirt and a t-shirt whether I’m at home or in the office.

  17. I have an office job that doesn’t care what I wear, so jeans/t-shirt is the norm for me at the office anyway (and slippers. I chuck my shoes the second I get to my desk.)

    That being said, I do freelance at home on the evenings/weekends, and also sometimes just work from home for my regular day job. I definitely change from what I’ve worn to bed, but I still wear sweat pants….nice, thick, pant-like sweat pants with a nice shirt in case I have to have an impromptu skype-meeting. So, always nice from the waist-up, super comfy waist-down. Also, at home I sit in a kneeling chair vs. a regular chair (http://www.bluehen.com/images/fullsize/Kneeling_Chair_2143.jpg) That’s probably most of the reason I’m more productive at home than at work…I spend half my time feeling awkward in a normal chair no matter what I’m wearing.

    Plus, working from home means kitties climbing all over me, don’t want to get the nice clothes covered in hair and claw-catches πŸ˜‰

  18. Oh man, you guys don’t even WANNA know what I look like when I produce Offbeat content. Yikesers. I’m a full on sweatpants and t-shirt and no bra worker. I don’t recommend it. I think Cat’s right about wearing clothes that you can wear outside if you need to run an errand. I find myself NOT running errands because I look like a mess.

    • I’m the same way!
      I’d like to excuse my frumpiness by saying “Oh, it’s because I’m usually working with paints and dyes”, but that’s mostly bull. My poor shipping store lady must think I’m the walking dead when I go in there.

  19. I don’t work from home, but I only have to go to uni two days a week. The other five days I’ve found that it really helps on my productivity if I take a shower/wash up and put on some clothes before I start working. Usually I put on PJ bottoms and a cute top and a cardigan (and if I have to run out I put on jeans), or a dress and tights.
    But I might have been a bit more sloppy if I didn’t live with my partner. I think it’s nice to try to look presentable for each other.

  20. I’m in that in-between stage of technically unemployed but working on starting my own business myself. I find that if DON’T get up, showered, and dressed I don’t get anything done. Dressed for me is generally the nearest pair of jeans (or now that we’re finally getting warm around here in Massachusetts, shorts) and a tank or t-shirt. I tried not bothering to get showered and dressed, but found that my Pavlovian response to this is to net-surf, read, watch movies, or really anything but work, because the only time I ever wore pj’s for any length of time before I got laid off was on days off or when I was sick. Getting dressed means I’m supposed to be Doing Something Productive.

    Really, it depends on how much what you wear impacts your personal productivity level. If you can be just as productive in sweats, by all means do it. But if you find that you’re slacking off because you’re too comfortable, try at least throwing on jeans or whatever. Honestly, though, wear whatever works best for you, the hell with what someone else thinks. One of the great things about being self-employed/working from home is that you DON’T have to wear what someone else says you should be. πŸ˜‰

  21. I have been working from home for a year now. I think that around 90% of the time, I get dressed for the day fully, makeup and all. I don’t dress “office” but I dress in my own casual comfortable style. Sometimes skirts and tights with a scarf around my head, sometimes jeans and a tee and a big necklace (even if no one sees me!). It keeps me feeling like ME and like I’m working – instead of lazy and maybe too comfy. I do admit once in a while when I’ve got a big long project to do where I know I won’t leave the house all day, I’ll keep my cozy sweats on and work the day away. That’s just one of the perks – do what you WANT! πŸ˜€

  22. When I worked from home I found I was definitely more productive and more awake if I structured my day. I got up at 7, when my fiance got up (instead of sleeping until 8:30 to roll out of bed and start work at 9). Doing so gave me time to have a bowl of cereal and some coffee, read the news, see Himself off to work, take a shower and get dressed before sitting down at my computer. I would usually dress comfortably, but in clothes that I wouldn’t be embarrassed to leave the house in – jeans or nice yoga pants and a t-shirt or sweater, depending on the weather. Not only did this lend structure to the day and make me feel more like a worker than a laze-abouter, but it had the added benefit of still allowing the pleasure of at 5:30 switching off the computer and changing into my PJs for the evening lounging/beer drinking session!

  23. I realized after commenting before, that this question came from a dude, (Hi Mark), who probably doesn’t own lots of dresses and leggings. πŸ˜€

    My boyfriend is also a freelancer. He gets up, does a 10 minute email/blog check in his underpants, then once he is “awake” he puts on t-shirt and jeans (or cargo shorts in the summer) and spends the rest of the day fully dressed. So there is his thing.

    Maybe trade the t-shirt for a polo shirt, if you want to feel a little more business, and maybe switch out the jeans for khakis.

    What would be the guy equivalent of leggings or black yoga pants?

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