For over two months now, the COVID-19 pandemic has flipped our lives upside down in the U.S. With many students and professionals alike now bound to working from home, deciding what to wear amid pandemic is a topic worth discussing. With lifestyle changes come wardrobe changes.
The Work From Home Fits Instagram page provides a lens into how some are adjusting their style amid COVID-19. The common thread? Sweatpants, hoodies and more sweatpants. The general consensus among quarantine style appears to be loungewear. And fashion publications are jumping on the trend, detailing how to style work from home looks.
This newfound acceptance of loungewear, as opposed to dressing up, raises questions about the future of the dress code. Have we as a society given up on denim? Have we surpassed the point of collared shirts? Are loafers a thing of the past? Does the way we dress in quarantine affect our mental health and overall wellbeing?
Wearing a white UNIQLO crew tee and Levi’s 501s, I’ve decided to find out the state of style as we know it. At the bottom of my bed lies a navy Irish knit sweater my grandmother made, which will quite possibly end up being put to use throughout this interview process.
Let us begin.
Meet Oscar Diaz
Oscar Diaz is a DePaul University alum who steers towards business casual. While finishing his senior year, he worked at a private equity firm, which enforced a strict dress code. Full suits, and be wary of taking that blazer off. He now works as an internal consultant for Robert Half International, a global human resource consulting firm, which allows Diaz to dress down and be comfortable.
He handles his work exclusively through Zoom, since the office is closed due to the pandemic. Diaz said that the work environment at Robert Half does not call for much of a dress code.
“That’s the culture they’re trying to bring, they don’t want you to feel uncomfortable. Even if we were in the office, they wouldn’t want us to dress like corporate America, which is really weird because it’s such a big company,” Diaz said. “As long as you’re not naked, I don’t think you’ll have a problem.”
However, Diaz also said that he thinks the way we dress most certainly has an effect on how we both feel and perform, even throughout mundane daily tasks.
“The way you dress changes your mindset, it changes how you talk to people. When you have the proper style, you feel more confident and more ready,” Diaz said.
He loves button downs, dress pants and nice pairs of shoes. Now that he’s working from home, he ensures that from the waist up he looks professional. If he has a big day, he’s putting on either a quarter zip sweater or a button-down shirt.
“No matter what this world is going through, you’ll always see me in a nice pair of pants and a slim fit button-down shirt,” Diaz said.
Stay-at-home fits supply Diaz with a sense of accomplishment, engagement and routine. He is on the opposite end of the sweatsuit trend spectrum, and it’s going to stay that way moving forward. Although Diaz maintains a business casual look most of the time, he’s never been afraid to take risks while dressing.
“If the world was to open up again tomorrow, I’m wearing a cowboy hat. I want to bring cowboy hats into the city, I want it to be a norm,” Diaz said, “So, what I’m going to do when everything pops up, I’m going to wear these nice, silky, kind of golf-style pants. I could wear these when I want to golf, or I could wear them in the office. Then I’m wearing this blue silky Calvin Klein shirt. If you know me, I’m going to leave one or two buttons hanging out, and I’m going to tuck it in too.”
To top it all off, he’s looking at a new pair of loafers for the summer, which he may very well be wearing inside.
Meet Sophia Jorgensen
DePaul senior Sophia Jorgensen is practicing social distancing in Chicago’s Ukrainian Village. She moved there with her older sister, Bella, right before shelter-in-place began. Until then, she’d been working at Elske as a host, which is a restaurant in the West Loop. Jorgensen has a unique personal style, one that strikes a medium between feminine and masculine. She can go from an oversized tee to a smock dress, or from sneakers to boots. One look that stuck out to me during our interview process was the combination of a cream sweater and blue striped collared shirt, paired with loose fitted black work pants and black Vans. It reminded me of a skateboarder’s style.
“I bought these tie-dye sweatpants that are unbelievably comfortable from Target, I think I wore those every day for like a week,” Jorgensen said. “Then slowly when we started classes, the first week I was seeing people on Zoom, and I was like, ‘I got to get up, get dressed, and not put pajamas on.’”
To counteract her loungewear, she’s been wearing overalls. She finds them to be comfortable enough to wear every day.
“I have like four or five pairs. I bought two more pairs, it’s just been my go-to. I haven’t worn jeans in like two months now, unless you count my overalls, only one of the pairs is denim,” Jorgensen said.
Before quarantine, Jorgensen wore her hair short. It struck her shoulders when let down. In two months time, her hair has grown out, so she puts it into space buns in the back. A bandana is her choice of headwear. To bring the fit together, she’ll pair whatever T-shirt she likes with the overalls.
I had to wonder, just what is it about this look that keeps Jorgensen coming back?
“It makes me feel good because I’m still comfortable, it’s not as spruced up as something I’d wear if I was going out or going to class. I think the most dressed up I’ve been was when I went on a sort of date distance walk the other day,” Jorgensen said. “I put on actual pants, they were these painter pants, and I put on a sweater with a collared shirt underneath. I put thought into it.”
Comfort has been key, but it’s deeper than that. As soon as Jorgensen made the move to Ukrainian Village, she decided to reinvent her wardrobe. She’s been curating a Pinterest board to shift her style in a new direction.
“I’m not going to wear two tone camo pants anymore, that’s just freshman and sophomore year vibes,” Jorgensen said. “I’m moving into the style I’ve always wanted to be and it’s more professional for the age I am.”
When it comes to shoes, she’s been wearing a pair of fuzzy slippers inside. When she’s outside, she’ll either wear a pair of white Nike Ultraforce Mids, black authentic Vans, or Crocs, which she’s been wearing more than ever.
Jorgensen feels that just getting dressed, even if it means changing sweatpants, has a positive effect on her mental health. “I feel like it’s putting you into a normal state of mind and a normal schedule. I go on a walk every day, even if I don’t change in the morning right away, I change when I go outside to walk,” Jorgensen said. By changing and going for a walk, she feels ready to go about the rest of her day. If she doesn’t carry out this routine she finds herself procrastinating just lying around.
“Having to get yourself up and physically look in your closet does help your mental health. Even trying stuff on, yesterday after I cooked dinner for all of us I went to change,” Jorgensen said. “I was wearing my chef overalls and felt dirty, so I tried on three different pairs of pants before I decided which ones were most comfortable.”
With graduation approaching, she’s already begun brainstorming the cap and gown, though DePaul canceled its in-person ceremonies.
“There’s lots of big fits to come,” Jorgensen said.
Perhaps denim isn’t a thing of the past and neither is a collared shirt. The COVID-19 pandemic has undoubtedly put loungewear in the limelight, but it seems no matter the fit, we have a sense of what we wear and why we wear it — even if it’s just for comfort.
Header image and video by Jack McGann, 14 East