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Working from home now? It’s time to seriously define your home uniform

Home uniform
Stuck at home and working? You don’t have to dress as if you’re going to the office. Fashion experts say stick to what makes you feel comfortable at home.
(Jiaqi Wang / For The Times)

In my house, we ask that you kindly take off your shoes before entering. We also invite you to take off your pants.

The shoes are a requirement. In the age of the coronavirus, there’s no need to be tracking in more dirt and bacteria. (According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, coronaviruses can remain infectious on some surfaces for up to nine days at room temperature. So no thanks to your footwear in my house.)

The pants are for pure comfort. Don’t worry. If you decide to go pantsless, we’ll hand you some cozy bottoms because being comfortable is what an at-home look should be all about.

Shedding the day upon entering your home (or mine) is a tradition that surely goes back to the dawn of time. At the very least, we know it goes back to the 1970s, when Fred Rogers, host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” would get home and take off his jacket, exchanging it for a cardigan, before sitting down to take off his outdoor shoes and replacing them with his comfortable house kicks.

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It was a ritual for Mr. Rogers. And it’s a way to signal to yourself, “This is where I can be comfortable.”

Mister Rogers in his cardigan and sneakers
Fred Rogers was the host of the popular long-running public television children’s show “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood.” In the opening of his show, Rogers switched from his street clothes to a more relaxed look including a cardigan.
(Deborah Feingold / Corbis via Getty Images)

It’s also a way of ridding yourself of the person you feel like you need to project and replacing that person with the person you truly are. This is thanks to your unique home uniform. It’s a fashion idea all you newly minted work-from-home people need to explore further.

Vegan Fashion Week will livestream its runway behind closed doors. “The public event might be canceled, but the message cannot be,” says founder.

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Asked about her take on the home uniform, Jillian Clark, an L.A. costume designer and owner of sustainable clothing line Roboro, says with a laugh, “I love things that don’t have a waistband.” Clark says her in-house look consists of a “nice” pair of comfortable pants, a crisp white T-shirt and hard-sole slippers — just in case she has to run out.

Her recommended home uniform flies in the face of the advice given by outlets including NPR, which said, “Dress up, do your hair — whatever you’d normally do” to feel as if you’re at the office. Instead, Clark says, home is a place to create a new look entirely for yourself.

Put on your favorite sweater, robe or concert tee. L.A. costume designer Jillian Clark says home is a place to create a new look entirely for yourself.
Put on your favorite sweater, robe or concert tee. L.A. costume designer Jillian Clark says home is a place to create a new look entirely for yourself.
(Groceries)

However, if you think a home uniform simply means your old college sweatshirt and some stained pants, you need to think again. Take a look back at the history of leisurewear for reference.

“You have this item, the banyan, which was worn by men in the 17th century onward,” says Amber Butchart, a fashion historian in the United Kingdom, of an early iteration of the home uniform. “It is essentially what we think of today as a fancy dressing gown.”

Joseph Sherburne depicted wearing a banyan (circa 1767-70) by artist John Singleton Copley.
Joseph Sherburne depicted wearing a banyan (circa 1767-70) by artist John Singleton Copley. The banyan was worn by the English as a status symbol.
(Heritage Images / Getty Images)

The banyan, Butchart says, was inspired by the opulent leisurewear found in Asia, including Japan, China and India, and adopted by the English as the ultimate status symbol. Because if you had time to be leisurely and own leisurewear at all, that also meant you were rolling in cash.

“If we’re thinking about the history of leisurewear, we have to think about the history of leisure,” she says, noting the banyan was associated with “the idea of the gentleman at home.”

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“Maybe he’s at home writing. Maybe he’s at home reading,” Butchart says. “There’s a certain sort of intellectualism that goes alongside this particular item.”

Perhaps that look is too fancy for you. So why not try some beach pajamas instead?

Beach pajamas
A group of women wearing beach pajamas, circa 1934. Designer Gabrielle “Coco” Chanel introduced the cozy beachwear by the 1920s.
(Hulton Archive / Getty Images)

“Coco Chanel was the first to create the beach pajamas,” Clark says. “Which was loungewear, originally like men’s nightwear, that women adopted as their resortwear.”

She explains that post-World War I fashion became looser and more practical, especially for women who could finally lose the corset and breathe a little easier. Chanel’s 1920s beach pajamas, made of loose, flowing fabric, were the perfect answer. This look also showed off people’s fancier side because if you could own beach pajamas, that meant you had time to relax on the beach.

Evelyn Holt
Evelyn Holt stands on the beach at Blackpool, England, wearing a silk pajama bathing suit, after her day’s work filming “The Three Kings,” circa 1927.
(Topical Press Agency / Getty Images)

Each decade thereafter saw more change in leisurewear. There was Bruce Lee rocking colorful tracksuits and jumpsuits, Sylvester Stallone popularizing the now-ubiquitous gray sweatpants in the “Rocky” franchise and Run-D.M.C. adopting a relaxed look while making matching Adidas tracksuits an instant classic.

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Each version solidified the notion that comfortable fashion meant for inside the home was now OK as everyday wear.

Bruce Lee in a scene from “Game of Death” by director Robert Clouse.
Bruce Lee in a scene from “Game of Death” by director Robert Clouse. Lee was known for wearing tracksuits and jumpsuits during his career.
(Golden Harvest / Paragon / Kobal / Shutterstock)

And, of course, there are yoga pants. Love them or hate them, those stretchy pants signify you’re fancier than you think as well.

“Yoga pants are aspirational for all of these different socioeconomic reasons,” Butchart says. “Again, you’re signifying you have leisure time. If you’re walking around in Lululemon clothing, then clearly you have the money to afford it, which itself is reasonably expensive, and you have the money and the time to go to yoga classes.”

Millions of people around the world might be working from home for a while. Try to enjoy it.

Don’t buy into the idea that wearing uncomfortable clothing, whether it’s jeans or suits, somehow makes you more productive and more presentable to the world. You’re working out of your house right now. It’s time to get cozy.

Therefore, take home-uniform fashion advice from Rogers, who made Sperry’s shoes fresh, or Chanel, who famously said, “It is always better to be slightly underdressed.” That’s the best way to look at home.

Want to build your perfect home uniform with Los Angeles brands? Clark and Butchart have a few suggestions.

Sweatpants: All Things Fabulous

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A solid good weekend to you 🌈 #lovetolounge

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The Venice-based company sells some of the softest bottoms around in cuts that go far beyond normal sweats. That includes classic joggers, sailor pants, fleece drop-crotch bottoms and more. loveallthingsfabulous.com

T-Shirts: Alternative Apparel

Women’s pullover crewneck top from Alternative Apparel
Women’s pullover crewneck top from Alternative Apparel.
(Alternative Apparel)

Located on Abbot Kinney Boulevard in Venice, Alternative Apparel is here to satisfy all your comfortable T-shirt needs. Best of all, the company uses upcycled cotton for many of its goods, meaning it’s super soft and ultra sustainable. alternativeapparel.com

Cardigans and sweatshirts: Groceries Apparel

A men’s crewneck sweatshirt from Groceries.
A men’s crewneck sweatshirt from Groceries.
(Groceries)

Groceries Apparel, located in downtown Los Angeles, specializes in locally made goods. The company sources and manufactures locally and ensures its employees are paid fairly and its sustainable goods are built to last. Level up your home uniform with a comfortable cardigan for women or classic hoodie for men. groceriesapparel.com

Robes: Decades

A robe from Decades.
A robe from Decades.
(Decades Inc.)

Everything old is new again, especially when it comes to leisurewear. For robes, Butchart suggests shopping vintage. This way you’ll find something truly one-of-a-kind. Try a shop like Decades on Melrose Avenue in Los Angeles that specialize in high-end designers for an investment piece in your home uniform wardrobe. decadesinc.com


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