From airline pants to the all-day dressing gown, these outfits are just the thing for those duvet-based video calls
Dressing gowns are all about context … they can appear as an open-wrap dress or a cardigan. Photograph: JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images/Tetra images RF
The Guardian-Morwenna Ferrier
Dressing for work, if lockdown is forcing you to work from bed, is a dance between comfort and mindset. A nightie suggests you’ve given up, but lip gloss is too much (plus it’s a nightmare if you get it on your sheets). So, how to dress when you don’t want to get dressed? Can you get away with a dressing gown, and what about a hoodie? Follow these tips for bed-based video-call dressing, and you can hunker down in your chrysalis and emerge from it warm, transformed and, hopefully, still employed.
Say goodbye to your pyjamas
No one is suggesting you wear a pinstripe suit to work from bed. But the once salubrious act of wearing your pyjamas all day loses its novelty as some of us march into month 10 of working from home. Daniel Biddulph, a graphic designer who worked from home way before everyone else did, put me on to airline pants. That is, those neutral-coloured sleep-suits-in-bags they give people on first-class flights. Free of those tell-tale pyjama giveaways – lapels, piping, fun checks – yet just as comfortable, they are pyjamas that are designed to be worn in public, planes in effect being dormitories in the sky. Assuming you don’t fly first class, and your support bubble is lacking a pilot, try eBay, where they sell (bagged and unworn) like hot cakes. Biddulph likes Lufthansa’s, which are dark blue. I prefer the British Airways offering, in black cotton polyester.
Dress like your bed
Cocooned in your new “working landscape”, you may soon struggle to differentiate between bed and bedclothes. Is that porridge on your sheet or porridge on you? Did you just use a cushion as a mousepad or is that actually a mouse? Instead, make an ally of your bed by wearing it. Although, be warned, not all blankets are designed to be worn. Frances Kozen, associate director of the Cornell Institute of Fashion and Fibre Innovation, says: “I own a wonderful alpaca Peruvian poncho, but it is definitely an outdoor garment, being without sleeves and a stiffer wool.” As for her wool Colombian ruana, “it’s better, but the open sides make it trickier to wrap up in”. Lightweight woollens, such as her Loki blanket, are good for curling up on the sofa, “but are not machine washable”, she says, with regards to the porridge incident above. Blankets in fleece and plush are the easiest to wash, and Snuggies and Comfies are designed for bed-working, but none of these are good for the environment. Kozen prefers her ankle-length bathrobe when doing business from bed, which brings us nicely on to the next item.
Embrace the all-day dressing gown
Inspiration for the 24-hour robe comes from two different sources: Noël Coward on the stage and Mary Beard, Zooming from home. Coward, an early “bedfluencer”, wore silk robes as part of his louche, playboy brand, says Brad Rosenstein, the curator of a forthcoming exhibition, Noël Coward: Art & Style, at Guildhall art gallery in London. “The dressing gowns came to typify the style of his theatrical world … [and] he pursued that image offstage too.” For Coward, they were elegant and flattering but the more “eccentric ones” (see a gold silk one from Bronzini, known as the Vegas) were a means of political expression. “As a gay man at a time when homosexuality was criminalised in Britain, the boldly patterned silk dressing gowns could speak safely in ‘camp code’ while also being fashionably appealing to straight audiences,” says Rosenstein.
Beard wears a necklace with hers when she is teaching from home at Cambridge. “It’s guaranteed to trick them into thinking that you really have got properly dressed – because who wears a necklace with their dressing gown?” the academic and broadcaster said recently.
As someone who has worn a gown to a funeral and a wedding, both times without detection, I have realised that dressing gowns are all about context. Worn without its tie, it’s an open wrap dress. Worn over clothes, it’s a cardigan. Worn over pyjamas, it’s very much a dressing gown, though for Coward “the naughty implication of the bedroom” can be a plus.
Remember that hoodies are the new suit
Once upon a time (early 2020) wearing a hoodie to work outside the San Francisco Bay Area would have seemed ludicrous. Post-pandemic, a wardrobe of tracksuits and T-shirts has become fully acceptable. Devin Kohli works in the City of London but, like many of his colleagues, has long ditched the suit and tie. “I work in venture capital … so I see no reason not to wear jeans and a hoodie.” So, too, does Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg, and Ken Leung’s character, Eric, in the HBO hit Industry. His purple hoodie screamed maverick, outsider and self-appointed mentor, in that order. Hoodies, it seems, are the new white collars, signifiers of informality, however performative (Zuck) or studied (Eric) that may be. By wearing one in bed, you not only look conference-ready, you actually look successful. Who would fire someone like that?
Always wear a sports bra
The pandemic has made much of our wardrobe redundant (RIP tight jeans), but it has yet to kill off underwear. Sports bra sales are up 150% at Marks & Spencer. This could be about enclothed cognition (even if you’re not actually jogging, wearing a sports bra means you could feasibly start any second), but more likely, many of us are now so used to leisurewear that this naturally extends to undergarments. No matter what your bed-working attire, underwear is essential. Given that cameras and colleagues are a knotty business (just ask the former New Yorker writer Jeffrey Toobin), a bra or boxers should at least prevent any job-ending slip-ups.