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'Get up, get dressed': 6 Long Island women redefine office style for working from home 

Long Island native Katie Sands, who runs the popular Instagram account and blog @honestlykate, shows us her office style while working from home.  Credit: Katie Sands / Katie Sands

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Is dressing for work over? Should we care about how we look while we are practicing social distancing and doing our jobs from our homes? The answers, put simply and unequivocally by many working women from CEO’s to fashion influencers are as follows: No. And yes. 

We reached out to a group of Long Island high-profile types to get their take on working from home these days. Across the boards, these women who have businesses, clients, sponsors and followers and for whom staying connected is paramount to their jobs and lifestyles, believe that consciously dressing for work at home — even if it’s somewhat modified — helps you to feel professional, good about yourself, and “normal.”

If you still feel inclined to pull out the loungewear, you're not alone. Even these women who aim to keep their style professional admit to a half-and-half approach: a business blouse paired with sweats that won't be picked up on video chats. Below, they share their tips:

Mathé Kamsutchom, 30, Old Westbury

The job: Senior manager for digital and creative strategy, Karla Otto agency

The advice: “I kind of want to feel ready for the day,” says Kamsutchom whose agency has many team video conference calls in the United States, along with global ones in London, Milan, Paris and Hong Kong. When she was actually going to the office, she says she was often out the door in 16-minutes. “This is a behavior shift and has shown me how much more productive I can be.” 

Kamsutchom is using this time at home time to establish "a ritual" in the morning. “I’m definitely more comfortable and cozy than when I would go to work. I’m taking advantage of the time for a skin care routine, and it’s nice to settle in and get ready for the day and not feel like I’m wearing yesterday.” 

Comfort is key she says, “I think workwear is getting more casual to begin with and moving in the direction of being more comfortable. But for me and everyone in leadership roles, you want to look like you still care. I try to look good — put on a button-down top or a little better, some lip gloss and no one really cares about what’s on the bottom.”

Is it difficult working from home? Of her co-workers and friends in the industry, she says, “For the most part we’re all feeling privileged enough to still be working. Everyone is maintaining a serious level of enthusiasm.” And the video conferences help connect people. “No one feels isolated because they’re not coming to work.” After the day is done is the time for “sitting with their bag of chips on the couch.”

Carrie Kerpen, 43, Port Washington

The job: CEO of Likable, a social media/marketing agency and author of “Work It: Secrets for Success from the Boldest Women in Business,” ($11.19, TarcherPerigee)

The advice: “The most important thing for me is that we all get dressed every day,” says the busy, busy Kerpen who has 42 employees at her NYC office (not to mention three kids) and, in the days of social distancing, starts and ends each day with a Facebook Live conversation in a closed group with her entire staff. “There’s a sense of normalcy and routine, and it’s a way to separate the day from night when you’re used to working in an office and going home,” she says.” 

As for her own style, she says that while “I’m not in full gear these days,” (she’s wearing nice sweaters, Lulu Lemon leggings, lighter makeup and done, but less than usual hair — and maybe slippers), I wouldn’t be embarrassed to be seen outside.” Kerpen believes that getting dressed for the day in comfortable work clothes, “helps fight feelings of isolation and depression. Using video whenever possible helps you stay connected to other people and it encourages you to put yourself together.” 

At the end of each workday, around 5:30 p.m. or so, she sends out an email. It reads, “Don’t forget to step away from your computer, and don’t forget to change your clothes.” Of course, Kerpen says, “I’m obviously not mandating this, but it’s a strong recommendation from me.”

Katie Sands, 27, Locust Valley

The job: Style host, fashion and beauty influencer @honestlykate, 229K followers

The advice: “This is our new reality,” says Sands, who appears as a style expert on NBC -TV and Fox, is a host on Amazon Live, and is often face-to-face with sponsors and followers on, Facebook Live, Instagram and Zoom. 

“It’s fun and fine to stay in sweatpants for a day or two, but then it’s time to put in the effort and not give up. I think it’s really good for your mental well-being to put on makeup, do something with your hair and wear a cute top. You’ve got to show up for yourself. I’m not talking about full glam or putting on heels — you should feel comfortable but still like you’re in a workplace.”

For the time being at least, Sands, along with a-l-l of her sweaters, leggings, beauty products and boyfriend, has sought refuge in her girlhood bedroom at her folks’ home after the management of the NYC building she lives in suggested people should go elsewhere if they could based on an elderly population there. “I brought a lot with me to quarantine,” she says. Upbeat and easygoing, she has adapted.

“It’s extremely important when you work from home to have a schedule.” For her, now is the time to focus on “positivity.” She adds, “Fashion is not over,” and theorizes that the current situation is a one-door-opens-when-another-closes situation. “I think people will look to fashion and beauty influencers for advice and ideas and inspiration for looking and feeling good in their homes with their quarantine buddies.”

Meaghan O’Connor, 35, Atlantic Beach

The job: Stylist and plus size influencer, @meaghanpoconnor, 21.1k followers

The advice: “I think for a lot of people fashion is more than just self-expression. It’s their outlet for creativity and staying connected. And I think we should continue with as many similarities as we can while we navigate such a surreal time,” says O’Connor. For her, she says, “I’m still feeling I have to get dressed for work. It helps me focus a little bit more. I mean, I’ve shifted a little bit to be a little more casual but I want to keep exercising that fashion muscle.” 

Like many others, O’Connor says there’s “a comfort theme happening. Not pajamas, but a lightweight blazer and leggings — something that makes you feel that you’re at work. I’m trying to stay excited about getting dressed even though I’m just going across the hall.” O’Connor feels that putting yourself together — even just a bit, “sets a tone and helps with productivity. Even if you just throw on lipstick, a blazer, earrings — it’s a mental thing and you’ll look good and feel good keeping a semblance of normalcy in all this chaos.”

 

Michelle Madonna, 31, Brookville

The job: Blogger/fashion influencer @Michelle.Madonna, 133k followers

The advice: “It’s all about total self-care during quarantine,” says Madonna. Rather than broadcasting her typical “street style inspo” on her blog, she says, “I think high fashion is taking a rest during quarantine. I’m showing people what I’m doing and hopefully giving them ideas on how to work from home — working out, cooking easy recipes and dressing in nice clothes that are mainly comfortable. In my opinion, it’s really good to have a schedule. It’s easy to get up in the clothes you slept in and spend the day in them but I want to feel good about myself and comfortable and like I’m ready to go to work.” 

She’s switched out her trendy, designer looks for stylish lounge sets that can be worn outside, but still cozy for home. And she has a definitive routine: “Get up, make your bed, shower, workout and make yourself a little work station — a place where you can answer emails, do video conferences. Then go out get some fresh air and in the evening you can hunker down into the couch.”

Her clothing, she says, “Is comfy and cute. And that makes me feel good about myself … it’s very motivating.” Beauty is one category that Madonna is less self-conscious about day these days. “I haven’t been wearing much makeup and my skin has never been better and I’ve bleached my hair forever — now I’m not. Also, I’m always styling it with a blow-drying and a curling iron, so I’m giving it a rest.”

 

Mercedes Gonzalez Mayo, 22, Smithtown

The job: Blogger/fashion influencer @StyleitwithTrix, @174K followers

The advice: Mayo, who often matches her fashionable choices with her pet Chihuahua, says, “There are no rules when you’re working from but as much as possible you should do what you normally would as if you were reporting to an office. The reality is that it’s very different but for me, sticking to a normal routine is really important. The first thing I do is make the bed,” (several people mentioned this as a quick start in the morning), “I do my hair, put on a little makeup and something fresh like leggings and a tee shirt or a cozy lounge set — it can really boost your mood. I think getting out of your pajamas is really important. Otherwise, you can start to feel like you’re in a slump.” As for Trix, Mayo says to expect to see her “rocking some hoodies during this time.”

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