May 20, 2022 - News

What to wear back at work

Illustration of a clothing hanger with the hook as a question mark.
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As Central Texans get off their couches and back to their pre-pandemic cubicles, a burning question hangs in the air:

What to wear?

Driving the news: Austin is returning to the workplace at a higher rate than the rest of the U.S., per new data from Kastle Systems.

  • Austin office occupancy is at 60.3% — it's only 43.2% nationally.

What they're saying: We checked in with Austin-based fashion consultant Laurel Kinney for sartorial advice.

  • "Most of the people calling me now are going back to work, but looking at their pre-pandemic wardrobes and feeling they don't relate to them anymore."
  • "They spent the last two years in sweatpants and don't want something with lots of structure. A lot of it is people's sizes have changed, and they're overwhelmed by rebuilding a wardrobe, and rebuilding a wardrobe that fits the vibe."

The big picture: There's also been a "fundamental change" in fashion expectations, she said. For instance: "lawyers don't even have to wear suits anymore."

What to wear: Kinney recommends clothes with stretchy, scuba-style fabric.

  • An untucked collared shirt or even a comfortable T-shirt goes a long way to elevate an outfit.
  • "We're all getting more in touch with our style when we were teenagers," she says.

As for all those ties: Men and women can wear a tie loose, with a top button unbuttoned — worn over jeans or even shorts.

  • The trick with ties is "dressing down," she said.

Sartorial flashback: As a young reporter newly arrived in Austin in 2004, Asher used to wear neckties and blazers to make himself appear older and professional.

  • In fact, he soon realized, they just made him seem younger and preppy.
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