Once was a time when men wore suits and ties to work and women wore stockings and heels. Enter 2020, when many of us teleworked at home in our sweatpants or pajamas and bunny slippers.
We have not yet returned to a post-pandemic normal. But for those who have returned to in-person work, is there a new normal when it comes to work attire?
Stephanie Stone, Family and MWR marketing manager, believes there has been a change overall, but said she still “dresses up” for work.
“We still like to dress up because it makes us feel good,” Stone said, recalling that most meetings before the pandemic were in-person.
“Obviously, when COVID-19 struck, that changed the way we were able to connect with our clients,” she said. “Business communication was conducted via telephone calls, teleconference and email.”
Today, many clients prefer to continue such communications because it saves time, she noted.
“The need to dress up has changed,” Stone said. “As a result, sometimes comfort wins the early morning struggle of ‘what to wear.’”
Carolyn White, Employee Assistance Program coordinator, said her office has remained consistent with the same dress code as before the pandemic.
“If anyone dresses more casually than before, it’s probably me, because I’m doing fewer live trainings,” White said.
The general dress code in her office is business casual, but some dress up more than others, she added.
“Some of us lean more toward comfort while others are definitely the stylish ones in the group,” White said.
Alicia Irmscher, public affairs officer for FBI Redstone, said a professional dress code is maintained for most employees, with an exception of those working in the ongoing construction zone.
“Some days the employees may be more ‘dressed up’ if they have an external meeting with the community or other federal partners. For instance, wearing a suit and tie rather than an open collar, sport coat and slacks,” Irmscher said. “Either way, our employees take pride in representing the FBI in a professional and appropriate manner.”
James Lomax, director of leasing at Redstone Gateway, still sees a lot of customers “overdressing” or “dressing up” when they come into his offices adjacent to the Arsenal.
“It is a novel difference from working from home in their comfort clothes,” he said.
Lomax still considers business dress the norm, but envisions possible changes in the future as people adapt to a return to in-person work.
Kaylene Hughes, historian for the Aviation and Missile Command, is literally the only person in her office, so there’s no one to dress up for.
But even before the pandemic, Hughes said, her work “wasn’t conducive to wearing dresses and heels daily.”
“We have to move boxes and handle old documents that can get messy,” she said. “So my style of work attire has always been governed by ‘practical’ considerations first and foremost.”
While she isn’t usually in something as casual as jeans and T-shirts, Hughes wears simple blouses and pants regularly.
“I still pass other people in the hallways who are dressed in the more accustomed office-professional style of clothing,” she said, “although ‘comfort over style’ is well-represented.”
Amelia Hice, public affairs specialist at the Garrison, worked in-person at the office through “nearly the entire pandemic,” but people at work were “few and far between,” she said.
“Since there were so few people working in person, jeans and high-end leggings replaced slacks and dresses,” said Hice, adding that she “prefers the new aesthetic” and a non-existent dry-cleaning bill.
“I only put on a suit or dress when I meet with senior officials,” she said. “Otherwise, ‘hello Levis.’”