Discover more from The Cereal Aisle by Leandra Medine Cohen
What do I wear when I work from home (but I'm not just working from home)
Working from home post-lockdown
This is a public post from the Essays about Getting Dressed franchise. To revisit the last one, click here.
I have become obsessed with the grey area between going into an office and working from home. Not lockdown working from home, though, more like, I just don’t go into an office but do spend a good amount of time sitting with my computer, where I can stay in pajamas but tend to find that it can make me feel kind of blue and honestly, anyway, it’s not that tenable because even though I (you?) (we?) (puff pastry) work from home, I do have to leave home for multiple reasons every day but no one is telling me what to wear because there are no rules and that is giving me octopus legs.
As in, I’m an octopus on pavement and have all these legs but am not exactly sure how to use them so how do I walk? Where do I get my shoes? What should I wear?
Alternatively, too, what does one wear when they’re a mom of young kids. That is a full-ass time job too. One that requires a dress code or at least some conversation on how to approach your life as a doormat without so frequently being aware of this fact while you lay yourself down, with love, absolutely, but also a twinge, a very slight twinge, of very real rage.
Here is one for when you have to go out to meet someone, pitch a product, sell a product, or simply just want to remind yourself that you used to (or if you wish to, can one day) inhabit a reality where getting dressed to look quasi-corporate is one of the challenges that occupy your mind in the morning.
Trousers are a good alternative to jeans. When it’s still warm enough for an open-foot shoe they do a fair job delivering a weather-related contrast. When you want to vibe switch (e.g. look formal and informal at the same time), a lightweight cotton shirt (any form of oxford cotton button-down or t-shirt) will give you what you want pretty quickly.
I rolled up a scarf pretty tight (as if I was trying to store a poster) and tied it around my neck to catch the pants so that the proportion of different vibe would be even (two formal to two informal). Then I put on my !serious face! (Above.)
This is a good one to wear if you’re leaving home early and it’s kind of chilly but not cold and will probably get warmer but you can also, probably, keep the sweater on all day and where you’ll be all day, by the way, is not home, though you’re not necessarily going anywhere fancy, you just want to feel cool in a less conventional way. This recipe is like, two parts kitsch (novelty sweater, ironic use of gym shorts) to two parts regular (hair in half-pony, unimpressionably chic sandals). I wore it to drop my kids off at school one morning last week, then to write from a coffee shop downtown through mid-afternoon and then I stopped by my friend’s brand’s one-year birthday party.
Proof for your viewing pleasure:
And here’s just one more picture because:
Doesn’t it look like the rest of my body is inside the carpet? ROTFL!!!!!!!! Also, none of the jewelry I’m wearing exceeds $150 (credits are in the above caption).
This final suggestion has me thinking about the difference between impulse dressing and uniform dressing. I wore it recently to take my kids to school, knew I was going to come home right after, and in some ways, it perfectly underlines that feeling you get after you hustle to get something done (in my case, kids out the door and to school on time), succeed in your doing it then wonder: what now?
I had been feeling kind of sad earlier this month. I’m pretty sure it’s pegged to transitions — the seasons, the kids moving from out of school to into it, the overall feeling of an especially loud “back to school!” month but my own life still whispering kind of quietly.
One of the ways I found myself trying to offset the sad was by getting dressed, which is often a thing that I do, and often a thing that works to the extent that it actually gets me up. I realized when I got home from taking my kids to school one morning last week that the clothes I put together with this objective in mind (i.e. through an emotional lens) tend to serve a less utilitarian purpose: they’re mood clothes — and they’re never the ones I come back to and think: I should wear that again! When I think that is usually when I’ve put something for the express desire to solve a dressing problem.
In this way, the mood clothes are more like impulse outfits: filling a hole inside instead of solving a problem outside. It’s like the dressing equivalent of writing in a journal vs. publishing for public consumption but with lower stakes and better steaks.
There’s nothing necessarily wrong with it, I don’t think, but it’s helpful to recognize (even more to separate) because then I know what to ask when I’m in my closet and struggling to make it work: am I getting dressed to fill a hole inside or out? If it’s inside, am I expecting to solve a dressing problem? If it’s outside, am I expecting to offset a feeling? Where do the two pursuits overlap on the Venn diagram of style?
I’m going to tease this apart further. In the meantime, bye!
This week’s Thing of Note:
Real Estate, a book by Deborah Levy
Why’s it of note? This is the third in what the author calls a “living autobiography.” (The first editions were Things I Don’t Want to Know and The Cost of Living respectively.) Reading the first two was like being inside the mind of an articulate, more mature mentor, eager to share the wear of her life as a tale of simultaneous caution and inspiration.
Mostly, I think how she presents her strength through the language of restraint — packaging sheer rage in a quiet, even gentle tone) is what made it so relatable, even with (especially because of?) the 30-year age gap and multiple oceans between us. What a gift to capture the feelings underneath experience and to be able to serve them in a platter so gorgeously wrapped in the prose of an artist.
A good read if you have pursued a traditional path (kids, partnership), wouldn’t have it another way, but still find yourself rubbing up against it more often than you’d have expected.
We probably won’t talk about this at the Bright session tomorrow night but hey, you never know.
Signing off yours truly,