Remember workwear? Keep it slick in black and white

It took me a year to adjust to WFH. I’ve just about got there, and now it’s going to take me just as long to adjust back to working-not-from-home. Not least the question of what to wear.

Working days at home are different, even when the job is the same. They have a strangely porous quality. Even on the good days, when you get to work in a quiet room with the door shut, home life seeps in. Cooking smells waft under the door and TV canned laughter through the walls. A calendar reminder for a meeting you don’t want to go to chimes in tandem with that funny noise the dishwasher has started making which you should probably look into at some point. Working from home means shapeshifting back and forth between identities and this, as much as laziness, is why so many of us have ended up swapping proper work clothes for stretchy fabrics and sweatpants. When you WFH, you never know what shape or size of hoop you may have to jump through next. Cookie-cutter work clothes just don’t cut it.

So far this spring, the occasions to dress up that have returned have been the casual, jolly kind – beer garden meet-ups, pavement cafe lunches, that sort of thing. Occasions that are an excuse to wear something nice, rather than having any kind of real dress code. But many of us will, at some point in the not-too-distant future, start to toggle back to workplaces, at least part-time. And almost every office has a dress code of some sort, even if it’s tacit and unofficial.

Office culture feels exotic to me now. The lift etiquette, the out-of-date Blu-Tacked notices for cake sales and choirs – and the clothes. I am excited about the po-faced solemnity of a dependable pair of black trousers. (I don’t mean this unkindly. These are my own trousers, and they are my absolute favourites.) I am itching to ditch the zingy colours and Zoom collars that help make you look semi-alive on a video call for understated head-to-toe monochrome. Frankly, I am almost as psyched about a back-to-the-office outfit as I am about the return of socialising without coats. I might even push the boat out and wear a trouser suit – at some point. I’ll pencil it in for next year.