After a year of sweatpants and "Zoom shirts," many of us are heading back to the office soon for at least part of the work week. It'll be fun to catch up with colleagues we haven't seen in real life in so long, but we're definitely not ready to go back to our old stuffy work wardrobes.
We've gotten a bit spoiled over the past year and have enjoyed plenty of time in our slippers and joggers, but that won't exactly fly in the office. The Shop TODAY team consulted a few fashion experts to find out what wardrobe essentials can help us look chic and feel comfy this fall.
How to rock your "return to the office" wardrobe
If you're feeling first day jitters like you used to before the start of a new school year, you're not alone. Most of us haven't set foot in an office in well over a year, so we haven't been exercising our office style muscles. But with many companies embracing a hybrid work model, they're also reconsidering what is and isn't professional.
As you prepare to return to the office, try adding a few of these work-ready styles that mimic the cozy appeal of your sweats:
- Balloon sleeve tops: "This silhouette’s breezy fit offers comfort that allows you to focus on the work at hand," Stitch Fix stylist Stephanie Valponi suggested. "Seek out this style in a cotton fabric and pair it with a wide or straight leg bottom. Complete the look by accessorizing with minimal layering pieces, like touches of gold jewelry."
- Palazzo pants: "This high-waisted, wide leg pant will help anyone ease into the office comfortably and fashionably," three-time Emmy Award-winning costume designer and stylist Soyon An told us. "Palazzo pants are super chic paired with an oversize button-up shirt for a more refined look, or a fitted vintage tee tucked in for a more casually cool feel."
- Leggings: "For those of us who’ve grown attached to leggings since the pandemic, you don’t have to tuck them away in your drawers yet! Instead, repurpose them for the office by selecting a pair that has some elevated detail (think faux leather or moto-style leggings). You can layer a tunic-style top over them for added length and comfort," Valponi said.
- Jumpsuits: "Instead of jumping into a restricting formal pant or slacks, try a comfy jumpsuit instead. This will be your fashion go-to as you start getting out of your work-from-home wear. Jumpsuits with an adjustable waistline are fabulous, or you can create a waistline with a chic belt. Paired with kitten heels, any jumpsuit becomes office-ready," An said.
- Midi dresses: "Swap out the sweats for this instantly polished look that will have you ready in a snap. Try a loose-fitting midi dress with a waist-cinching belt that will provide the balance of sophistication and comfort you desire. Additionally, don’t be afraid to play with various fabrics and prints — we are seeing light florals and stripes come out in a big way," Valponi said.
Work shirts and blouses for women
Want to know the secret to rocking your return to office look? It's all about classy comfort. Take this blouse, for instance. We’d totally rock it at home because it’s roomy, but little details like a peplum waist and smocked sleeves step it up a notch for the office.
Much like Valponi said, balloon sleeve tops are one of the most multifunctional styles around. This popular one comes in 21 colors and has a 4.4-star average on Amazon. It's one of those tops that pairs just as easily with jeans and sandals in the summertime or a pencil skirt and pumps at the office, meaning it's well worth the $26 price tag.
Not ready to give up your T-shirts just yet? A lightweight crew neck with puffy sleeves is a nice way to ease back into the office life. The fabric is soft and stretchy, so you won't feel stuffy wearing it, and the color is nice and sunny so it'll give you a boost of confidence to rock that first in-person meeting.
Whether you're a fan of solids or prints, you're bound to find something you love with this blouse that comes in 15 colors. The roomy sleeves are nice and flowy, so you won't feel constricted, and the top can be easily paired with jeans, leggings, skirts and more, making it a style you'll love to wear in and outside of the office.
Work pants for women
With almost 4,900 five-star ratings, these pants have won the hearts of countless Amazon customers, and we're ready to jump on the bandwagon, too. The pull-on style is stretchy and roomy, just like our favorite sweatpants, but it's polished too, meaning you can get away with rocking it in the boardroom, on your couch or on your next vacation. It also comes in 22 colors!
Valponi swears by paperbag pants for staying comfy at the office and we can see why. The tie waist lets you customize your fit and looks pretty snazzy too, if you ask us. The style is available in sizes 2-20 and is also a total steal at only $15!
We have some great news: There's no need to ditch your beloved leggings when you head back to the office. Just like Valponi suggested, seek out styles with a bit of added detail and structure so your stretchy pants look sleek, not sloppy. We're currently crushing on this high-waisted pair from Express!
A leather stripe on the side of this sleek pair of pants helps step up an otherwise simple style, making it totally appropriate for the office, while the pull-on style's elastic waistband keeps you cozy. It's hard to believe the pants only cost $21!
Work dresses and jumpsuits
Flowy, loose-fitting midi dresses are one of those wear-everywhere styles you can never have enough of. A cheery floral print can work for all seasons — just add tights and a sweater in the winter! — and the soft cotton fabric will have you feeling like you're rocking your comfiest sweats.
Cuddl Duds knows a thing or two about ultra soft materials, so when we came across this adorable jumpsuit from the brand, we were instantly ready to add to our carts. When paired with a cardigan or blazer and ballet flats, it looks instantly polished for a meeting with colleagues. When you're ready for some downtime, you can throw on a denim jacket and canvas sneakers.
Elevated basics, like this cinched T-shirt dress, are one of the many versatile styles we're gravitating towards this season. Whether you opt for basic black or prefer a pop of purple, you can't go wrong with the breathable fabric and the drawstring waist.
We're not ready to go back to wearing stiff button-down shirts just yet, but a shirt dress is the perfect wardrobe compromise as we ease our way back into the office. This style from Gap is made of a TENCEL Lyocell material that's sustainably sourced from responsibly harvested trees, so you can also feel good knowing you're rocking a quality material.
For more stories like this, check out:
- Toms just gave its most iconic shoe a comfortable upgrade
- From joggers to clogs, 14 comfortable items healthcare workers swear by
- Hate shorts? These lightweight pants were made for summer