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Working From Home: Are You Dressed For Success Or Wearing Pajamas?


What are you wearing? And how has that changed since the coronavirus outbreak, since you started social distancing and maybe working from home? Are you in your pajamas? And is that OK?

Washington Post fashion critic Robin Givhan is here to answer that question. She wrote a piece called "Our Clothes Tell Our Story. What Happens When The Narrative Is Just Pajamas And Sweats?" Good morning, Robin.

ROBIN GIVHAN: Good morning.

KING: All right. So in normal times, what does the way I dress for work tell people about me?

GIVHAN: Well, I think it says something about, one, who you are, but I think it tells people kind of what you expect from your day, what you have on your agenda. And I also think it is sort of a line of demarcation between our private time and our public time, our playtime and our work time. So I think it sort of gives you a sense of order to your day.

KING: So we have these reports now - we see them on Twitter. People have been emailing and texting each other. Certainly, I've got a number of these texts - (laughter) - girlfriends who are like...

GIVHAN: (Laughter) As have I.

KING: ...I have not put on - I don't know if we can say B-R-A on the radio. But you know, I'm in yoga pants. You know, I can't get out of my pajamas. You know, it's been a week. Is working in pajamas from home a problem?

GIVHAN: I don't think it's necessarily a bad thing in the beginning because I do think that people want to sort of revel in the fact that they have this ability to be as comfortable and as informal as they want to be. But I think if you keep doing it, everything begins to blur. I mean, I've had people say to me - oh, I forgot which day it was, or, you know, all of a sudden I looked up - I thought it was noon, and it was almost 7 o'clock. So I think that when you stop using your clothing as a way to sort of create chapters in your life, it all starts to blur into one big sort of muddled sentence.

KING: One of the big questions here is, how long this is going to go on for? And I wonder - you are really an expert in this field. When you think of this potentially going on for six weeks or eight weeks, people not changing out of pajamas or yoga clothes or something similar, do you worry that we are, as a country, going to be dealing with just a sense of dislocation and time loss quite broadly?

GIVHAN: I do. I think that we're going to lose a little part of ourselves, a little part of our individuality. I mean, what I think is sort of sad, particularly for younger people, is that we all go through a process of figuring out who we are. And part of that process is trying on different personalities. And we do that through attire. And I think that it just sort of becomes harder to figure out who you are and who you want to be and how you fit in when you don't have that ability to sort of go out there and take on these different characters until you find the one that's really you.

KING: Are you working from home?

GIVHAN: I'm working from home. We just entered - I think we're going on week three now.

KING: And what are you wearing?

GIVHAN: Well, you know, every day, I try to put on, you know, at least a favorite pair of jeans or a shirt dress or something like that. Yesterday, I put on a sparkly T-shirt because I felt I need a little sparkle in my life. The only creature around to appreciate it was my dog. But you know, I felt better.

KING: It's something.

Robin Givhan is chief fashion critic for The Washington Post. Robin, thanks so much.

GIVHAN: Thank you.

(SOUNDBITE OF HANDBOOK'S "SURFER'S PARADISE") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.