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Tips for reclaiming office style when nearly every day is casual Friday

Jed Morey, CEO of Morey Creative Studios, at

Jed Morey, CEO of Morey Creative Studios, at his Syosset office Sept. 11. Credit: Johnny Milano

Fashion went into hibernation during quarantine when working from home meant a major wardrobe shift. After being cozy and cocooned for s-o-o-o-o long, the transition to real life may seem a little stressful. As work-from-homers head back to the workplace, they’re needing to adapt to having less time in the morning and a casual Friday vibe across the board. And while individuality still exists, there seems to be one universal fashion statement: comfortable clothes.

"I’ve noticed that though people are anxious to get dressed again, they’re putting a premium on things that are comfortable," says Samantha Brown, an NYC celebrity stylist. "Men are not wearing ties. Women are not putting on high heels. People are looking for things that mimic athleisure — elevated leggings and yoga pants — but are not as tight as skinny jeans. Fabrics with stretch are key."

Take Wendy Heppt, 59, a copy writer at beauty company KISS Products in Port Washington, who back in the day (like six months ago) would coordinate her outfits for a few days in advance with matching jewelry and bags. But during quarantine, she says, "I’d wear black leggings and a tee shirt, and I stopped wearing a bra. I stopped wearing makeup." Comfort was key then and now. "I developed a personal uniform": leggings of a higher quality, flowy kimono-like tops and a backpack.

The new "casual everyday" goes for men too. For them, rules of work attire have been relaxing for years, but quarantine put an exclamation point on it. So says Jed Morey, the CEO of digital marketing agency, Morey Creative Studios in Syosset. "It’s very surreal to stare at a lineup of suits in your closet that used to be part of your identity," he says. Morey only recently returned to the office on a limited basis and months at home gave him a new perspective. "I’ll dress ‘smart-casual’ out of respect for the other people I’m meeting with." For him that means a collared shirt and jeans, and occasionally a blazer. "Oh yeah, and we’ll have to wear shoes," he says.

Some, like Francesca Carbone, 27, a social worker at SAFE, Inc. in Glen Cove, are relishing getting back into dressing up a little but have made modifications. "For me it was like the first day of school," she says of returning the office a few weeks ago. "You want to have a nice outfit to see people you haven’t laid eyes on for five months," adds Carbone, whose go-to is feminine tops, jeans and flats. For Dr. Josie Bishop, 57, the school psychologist at South Side High School in Rockville Centre, adaptations had to be made after her first three days back, including lightening up on her foundation, most of which, she says, ended up in her mask. "I have to represent my profession the best way I can. And what I’m fighting the most is not dressing the way I was and being in a good place for the school year."

Stylist Samantha Brown's mantra of the moment is, "Cut yourself some slack," when it comes to dressing for work. "Everybody has bigger things on their plates than obsessing over what they’re wearing. There’s the school issue, the virus …. if dressing for work is causing you stress, keep it simple and put it on the back burner."

Back to work you go

With staggered hours and new schedules, some people are either not ready to return to their former wardrobe rotation or feeling a little insecure after spending so much time at home. We asked a couple of fashion stylists how for advice on how to ease on in:

-Start fresh: Evan Elkowitz, a personal shopper and fashion stylist from Old Westbury says start with of the basics before you reenter the workplace. “Make sure all of the key things are taken care of — that your hair is cut, colored and you’re manicured. You’ll feel better and look better and believe in yourself.”

-Time management: “I’ve noticed that people are struggling with getting ready on time,” she says New York City stylist Samantha Brown. “Check the weather, lay out your outfit the night before, choose low maintenance fabrics that are machine washable,” says Brown pointing to Modal, jersey and certain synthetics along with cotton stretch. “You won’t have to fuss with ironing or errands like going back and forth to the dry cleaner.”

-Create a capsule: Brown says to edit your wardrobe into a grouping of your favorite casual, work appropriate pieces and actually keep them together in your closet. “At least for the next month it will minimize the decisions you have in front of you when going back to work and cut down on decision making and time.” Elkowitz also says to plan ahead, “Put yourself together the night before, pack your bag, and have your closet set up in a way that clothes are interchangeable.”

-Express your individuality: Yes, even in a more casual setting it’s still possible. “I think people should treat masks like any accessory that they can experiment with,” says Brown. “Maybe it’s time to try a leopard print, and mask chains can be very pretty too.” Elkowitz adds, “I love scarves, they are just the best accessory and add a touch of chic to even the most casual of outfits.”

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