Terra Trevor’s guest post last week and the follow-on comments from readers really got me thinking about what I wear at home and how I feel about it. I’ve written quite a bit about how our wardrobes should suit our actual lifestyles instead of imagined or wished for lives. However, for some reason, when I’ve thought about my own wardrobe and lifestyle, I really only took my “out and about” activities into consideration. I mostly left my at-home life out of the equation and have rarely addressed this topic on the blog thus far.
Such an omission might make sense for someone who is rarely at home and spends the majority of her time at an office and engaging in after hours and weekend socializing. This type of woman may not really need to give much attention to what she wears at home. A few pairs of pajamas or nightgowns may be all she really needs. But that is not my life at all.
There is No Right Answer to At-Home Wear
There are no rights or wrongs in regards to at-home wear. Some people like to wear business clothes in their home offices, while others find they can be just as productive working in their pajamas. We all need to determine what works best for us in terms of our comfort, aesthetic preferences, and activities. These are the same considerations we should keep in mind for all areas of our wardrobes.
This post addresses my unique at-home situation, as well as my recent musings on what is and isn’t working for me. It’s my hope that my insights will be interesting and meaningful to you as you consider what you do or don’t want to wear at home.
For the most part, I haven’t worked in an office since 2000. Over the past 15 years, I’ve worked from home as an employee, independent contractor, or entrepreneur. At times I’ve worked full-time, at times I’ve worked part-time, and sometimes I haven’t worked much at all. My jobs have varied substantially, but the common denominator is that I’ve spent a large proportion of my time at home for many, many years now. In fact, it’s safe to say that for most of those years, I’ve spent over two-thirds of my life at home – and lately it’s been even more.
On “Lounge Wear”
Until recently, when I’ve been at home, I’ve almost exclusively worn what I’ve considered “lounge wear.” Some people have asked what that term means and there is no absolute definition that I can provide. “Lounge wear” can encapsulate anything from pajamas to workout wear to clothing that is specifically marketed for that purpose (as one example, here’s what Nordstrom includes in their lounge category). To make things even more confusing, some people basically downgrade worn out “regular” clothes to lounge wear, including things like jeans and other casual wear.
So I won’t try to offer a precise definition of lounge wear that applies to everyone, but I will tell you what it’s meant for me over the years. Typically when I’ve worked from home, I would wear the same clothes I’d put on for going to the gym or on a walk. This has usually entailed wearing a solid-color V-neck t-shirt with black Capri or full-length workout pants. When I got cold, I’d put on a zip-up fleece jacket, also in a solid color. To keep my feet warm, I’d wear fleece-lined slippers of some sort. Here are some examples of what I’m talking about:
“Serviceable” Clothes Don’t Necessarily Spark Joy
In contrast to the rest of my wardrobe, the cost-per-wear for my lounge wear items has generally been very low. I never spent much money on these pieces because I didn’t place strong importance on them. I didn’t really try to have my at-home clothing “spark joy” in my heart. I considered my lounge / workout items to be “serviceable” instead of fashionable. I didn’t want to “waste” too much money on these items because I wanted to spend the bulk of my clothing budget on my “regular” clothes, those garments I wore out and about and around other people.
It’s not that I looked like a total slob at home. I always showered, put on make-up, and made sure I looked reasonably presentable. I was never embarrassed to open the door to the UPS delivery man or any other rare visitors who happened to drop by. I didn’t think I looked terrible, yet I didn’t think I looked good, either. My at-home wardrobe has always been fairly utilitarian – functional but not at all exciting.
When I posted about my “wardrobe benchwarmers” last year, several readers suggested that I start wearing those pieces at home. Surprisingly, I had never considered doing that before! I let the majority of my wardrobe gather dust in my closet while I wore the same rather blah lounge wear day after day. If I did venture away from home, it was usually only for a few hours at a time, at which point I painstakingly selected the pieces for my outfits. Those were the clothes I cared about, the ones that I’d shopped for in order to present a positive image to the world.
The Irony and Pure Folly of My Approach
I’m sure many of you can see the irony in the “tried and true” wardrobe approach I used for many years. I spent the bulk of my budget on things that rarely got worn and almost no money on the garments that I put on each and every day. I can see the pure folly in it now, yet I gave it virtually no thought for well over a decade!
After the readers’ comments last year, I made some changes. I started wearing more of my “regular” tops at home, especially during the cooler months. Many of my casual knit tops started to see a lot more wear with this new approach. While I continued to wear the same pants and slippers as I had previously, I was happy to be bringing more of my clothes into regular rotation. I also felt more attractive and well put together and better about how I looked overall. That one small change made a big difference.
Yet I still didn’t give much thought to my at-home wardrobe. It wasn’t until I exchanged email with Terra that I realized I was still doing things all wrong. Terra and I have very similar lifestyles. We both live in casual Southern California beach communities and we both spend most of our time at home. When Terra revealed that her largest wardrobe capsule is for at-home wear, a lightbulb lit up inside my head.
Shouldn’t the same thing be true for me? And why isn’t it?”
It’s Time for a Change!
In her post last week, Terra expressed her deep happiness and satisfaction about what she wears at home. She also mentioned that she can easily make a few quick changes to be ready to walk out the door for pretty much all of her “out and about” activities. Unlike me, she doesn’t have to change her entire outfit and agonize over what to put on when she leaves the house. I found myself wanting what Terra has, and it’s really time!
I know it won’t happen overnight, but I want my wardrobe to better reflect my current lifestyle. Although there is a part of me that wants my lifestyle to change, the truth is that I’m not sure when that will happen. I continue to struggle with a lot of health challenges that limit what I’m able to do and I need to accept that. I do the best I can, but the reality is that I am at home most of the time. Since that’s the case, why not devote more time, attention, and money to the clothes I wear at home?
Now that I’ve seen the light about my at-home wardrobe, I’m more willing to buy higher quality “lounge wear” and wear a greater percentage of what used to be my “out and about” clothing when I’m at home. I love bright colors, stripes, and prints, so those are the types of things I want to wear at home. I also love comfortable, cozy fabrics and clothes that stay in place, rather than fussy, flimsy pieces that have to be adjusted over and over and don’t wash or wear well. I now want the clothes I wear at home to “spark joy” just as much as the garments in the rest of my wardrobe.
The Ugly Duckling Point of View
I will close this post with some additional words of wisdom from Terra. This response to a reader’s comment is too good not to share:
I’ve also discovered that the ritual of self-care, and dressing in a manner that uplifts us, even when we are alone, especially when we are alone, makes it far easier to get dressed and look our best when we are preparing ourselves to go to work, or a social event. If we feel good about our appearance most of the time while we are at home, it provides a smoother transition when we get “dressed” to go out in public.
Not caring about how we look at home can result in an ugly duckling point of view, and places too much pressure on becoming a beautiful swan in order to go out into the world with confidence. It also helps to let go of unrealistic expectations, and to find a simple beauty and getting dressed routine that sparks joy.”
I no longer want to hold an ugly duckling point of view or place undue pressure on myself to be a beautiful swan every time I step outside the door. What I long for is a sense of balance, and I feel I’m well on my way thanks to Terra!
Conclusion and Your Thoughts
I need to give this all some more thought and analysis (you know I love my numbers…), so I’m sure I will write more about this topic moving forward. For now, I just wanted to share my recent insights and open up more discussion on this important subject. Stay tuned for more insights and conclusions as time goes by!
I know that many of you chimed on with your thoughts on at-home wear in response to Terra’s post. But I welcome any additional feedback here, either about what I have written or about your own at-home wear.
As one commenter recently wrote to Terra, this topic is rarely discussed by bloggers and fashion experts. But it’s very important that we consider it and determine what works best for us. If you’ve settled upon an at-home wear formula that works for you, please share it with us. And if you are still working it through and have questions, feel free to post them. I love the discussions we have here and I find your thoughts and insights very helpful. In fact, many of my future posts are inspired by reader comments, so keep them coming!
Before You Go… Something to Share and a Favor to Ask
- I was recently interviewed for an article in Artefact Magazine called, “The Hidden Life of a Shopaholic.” Click here to read it. By the way, the photo in the article is not recent. My closet is not nearly as packed anymore (but I still love stripes).
- If any of you have read my most recent book, “End Closet Chaos,” and found it helpful, I could really use some additional reviews on Amazon. Books with more reviews have increased visibility and are more readily purchased. Just a few sentences can really make a difference! Click here if you want to leave a review (I also welcome reviews for my first book, “UnShopping”). Thanks so much!