Heading back to the office? Stay comfy with these style staples
Professional outfits don’t have to be all work and no flair.
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Whether you’re prepping for an in-person meeting or returning to the office full-time, it’s time to swap your sweats for office-appropriate attire. But “business as usual” doesn’t have to mean your usual business clothes. You can find plenty of ways to stay comfortable—and stay true to yourself—while remaining polished and professional.
If the thought of non-Zoom meetings has you zooming to find new workwear (pants no longer optional, of course), consider these tips from New York-based personal stylist Gloria Cospito and New York- and New Jersey-based personal stylist Lisa Emelo.
What are we wearing?
What should I wear to work in 2022?
If you’ve been working from home since March 2020, returning to office means returning to styles you might not have slipped on in awhile. But while you may still have some rules to follow, especially if your workplace has a uniform or strict dress code, officewear trends have shifted since the start of the pandemic. “Things have either become more casual or more comfortable,” says Cospito. “There's definitely a sense that you can infuse your personal style into your workwear more so than ever before.”
Look for “elevated casual pieces that can be worn to just about anything,” adds the style expert, who recommends going through your closet and trying on pieces to see what fits you—both literally and personal style-wise. After all, as Emelo says, we are “our own brands” and “tell our own story with what we’re wearing.” If you decide to refresh your wardrobe for work, consider dressing for success with these style staples.
Find blazers created for comfort
Don’t lose sleep over ditching your WFH pajamas. You can shop styles that are similarly soft and stretchy, including blazers made out of knit, cotton, or spandex instead of traditional polyester or wool suiting, says Emelo. Blazers are also ideal if your suit size tends to fluctuate, as she recommends looking for “silhouettes that will fit your shoulders and your arms” but are looser overall.
For a sporty yet stylish look, try Athleta’s Eastbound Blazer, a spandex-blend blazer designed for movement. It comes in gray and black in women’s sizes 0 to 26. Looking for another activewear-adjacent option? Lululemon’s New Venture Blazer, available in men’s sizes XS to XXL, is made from a similarly stretchy, lightweight fabric. Should you get caught in a downpour during your commute, the polyester-elastane Lycra blend is even water-repellent.
If all you need is something to help you beat the office AC, try the Cecile Relaxed Sweater-Blazer, a cozy cotton style from J.Crew. Grab it in four colors in women’s sizes XXS or 3X.
- Get the Eastbound Blazer at Athleta for $65
- Get the Cecile Relaxed Sweater-Blazer at J.Crew for $168
- Get the New Venture Blazer at Lululemon for $198
Rock relaxed-fit tops
Already missing your trusty sweatshirts? Look for work-appropriate tops with baggier silhouettes. Wear “items that aren't so tailored or fitted, so that you can bring to the office the kind of comfort that you had when you were home,” says Cospito. You can also find polo shirts and button-down shirts in comfortable cotton or cotton-blend fabrics, such as the elevated yet casual pieces you could wear on the golf course, says Emelo.
Try a loose-fitting silk blouse like the Satin Classic Shirt at Banana Republic, which comes in four colors in women’s sizes XXS to XXL. Reviewers rave over the style, with one calling it “elegant, classy, and comfortable.” For collared comfort, try the brand’s Luxe Touch Polo, which is available in seven colors in men’s sizes XS to XXL. Despite its silky appearance, it’s made of a soft 100% cotton interlock with added “anti-odor properties.”
- Get the Satin Classic Shirt at Banana Republic starting at $33
- Get the Luxe Touch Polo at Banana Republic for $23
Sport stretchy pants that are just as comfy as sweats
The bad news? It’s time to ditch yoga pants. The good news? Checking your clothing’s fabric content can help you find office-ready styles that are just as comfortable but don’t appear so casual. Look for designs with an elasticized waist and spandex fabric, which Emelo says are “comfortable as sweatpants but look so much more pulled together.” Try the Dream Pant at Everlane, which one reviewer says “feels like loungewear.” The style, which has an elastic waist for legging-like stretch, is available in seven colors in women’s sizes XXS to XXXXL.
For a professional spin on sweats, sport a cotton jogger. If you work in a more laid-back office environment, consider combining it with an elevated T-shirt or a cool jacket “so you have a layering item that isn't a sports coat,” says Cospito. Try the Bonobos WFHQ pant, which looks polished despite its elastic waist and stretchy, moisture-wicking fabric. It’s available in seven colors in men’s sizes XS to XL.
Add dark denim to your closet
While certain industries won’t allow for more laidback looks, don’t discount denim when putting together polished office outfits. If your office offers more leeway, purchase a pair of jeans in darker denim, which gives a more professional impression than lighter washes, says Emelo. Also, “most people look best in straight-leg jeans. So if you don't know your body type, just pick up a pair of straight leg jeans and you'll feel great,” she says. Looking to dress up your denim even more? Try to pair “casual fabrics, with more formal fabrics,” says Cospito, who recommends mixing denim with, say, a silk blouse or button-down shirt.
The Mid-Rise Dark-Wash Power Slim Straight Jeans at Old Navy come in women’s sizes 00 to 30 and have a 4.5-star rating from over 2,400 customer reviews. For a style in men’s sizes, you can’t get more classic than a pair of Levis 514 Straight Fit jeans. Try them in 10 washes in waist sizes 26 to 42 and lengths 29 to 36.
- Get the Mid-Rise Dark-Wash Power Slim Straight Jeans at Old Navy for $35
- Get the 514 Straight Fit Jeans at Levi’s for $69.50
Add some personality with your footwear
It’s time to think outside the Zoom box. If you’re no longer confined to video meetings where you’re only visible from the collar up, why not put your best foot forward with some stylish footwear? Play with prints or put a stylish spin on loafers with a two-tone, on-trend version that “takes the preppy” out of the traditional shoe, says Emelo. Try the Bass Weejuns Whitney Loafers, which feature black-and-white color blocking and come in women’s shoe sizes 6 to 11.
Depending on your workplace, you can also add some character to your outfit by sporting suede sneakers. Try the Oca Low from Cariuma, which comes in eight colors in both men’s and women’s shoe sizes 5 to 13. Our tester found a different style of the viral sneakers to be the most comfortable shoes she’d ever worn.
- Get the Bass Weejuns Whitney Loafers from Anthropologie for $155
- Get the Oca Low from Cariuma for $98
Accessorize to add your own sense of style
Little details can add a little bit of you to your look. Even if you work somewhere with a strict suits-only dress code, experiment with earrings, necklaces, and other jewelry that lets your personality shine through. (If you’ll still be logging into lots of Zoom calls, however, Cospito recommends avoiding bangle bracelets that could make lots of background noise while you’re unmuted.) For a trendy touch of pearl, try the Kendra Scott Lindsay Cultured Pearl Earrings, which are plated in 14K gold.
If statement pieces are considered too bold for your office, try stacking your delicate necklaces “to give it more personality,” says Emelo. Try the Satellite Necklace from Mejuri, which our tester says works with any outfit and doesn’t tarnish after months of use. For a dainty designs that comes pre-layered, try the Enamel Daisy Coin Necklace at Madewell, which features three gold-plated recycled brass strands and a daisy-printed pendant.
- Get the Kendra Scott Lindsay Cultured Pearl Earrings at Nordstrom for $80
- Get the Satellite Necklace at Mejuri for $98
- Get the Enamel Daisy Coin Necklace at Madewell for $48
Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.