‘What should I wear to work?’ was a daily concern for hundreds of millions of people all over the world until the outbreak of COVID-19. With many of us now restricted to our homes, we look at the clothing choices being made by homeworkers.


Homeworking looks set to continue as we move into the next normal. Some countries are now facing a second wave of COVID-19 infections, which are likely to lead to more localized lockdowns.1 At the same time, companies and workers are also beginning to recognize the advantages of homeworking. 

These trends are having a major impact on the fashion industry. Overall, there has been a significant reduction in demand for fashion items – in the US, retailers have reported a 79% decrease in clothing store sales.2  Sales of traditional workwear have dropped by 50%, with suits being discounted by roughly 64%. Sales of athleisurewear have, however, increased by between 2% and 7%.  

Dressing for Lockdown

The work environment changed dramatically during COVID-19. Working from home has led to the breaking down of some traditional rules surrounding dress codes. While meetings are now remote, the remote worker still needs to dress appropriately, even if the call is audio-only. 

Although the exact percentage is disputed, it is recognized that a large part of our communication is non-verbal.3 Clothing can help us feel professional and this can, in turn, make us more productive.4 Homeworking only succeeds if we can achieve the same levels of productivity as we would in an office. 

At the same time, we need to recognize that our homes are not just our offices. They are also the place where we need to relax and unwind. Finding the balance is critical but difficult. Traditional workwear can be too constrictive. Clothing choices need to be relaxed, but without a complete abandonment of propriety. Homeworkers require comfort, but this cannot be at the expense of feeling part of the team or being ready to participate in a video conference call at short notice. 

Dressing for Comfort

Fashion magazines have responded with a slew of articles entitled “What fashion editors wear to work from home” and “Fashion's Experts On What To Wear When Working From Home.”5 They all stress the importance of feeling professional and yet more comfortable. 

Comfort does not mean being scruffy. Carefully selected clothes that are comfortable, such as yoga pants, can make you feel sharp, active, and ready for work, while still providing freedom of movement. 

Athleisure has been one of the success stories in the fashion industry during lockdown.6 While there is nothing new about the adoption of athleisure as a fashion trend and lifestyle choice, COVID-19 has accelerated this process.7 It is the perfect choice for many people during lockdown. In homes that are also functioning as offices, schools and gyms, it provides the flexibility to remain smart without limiting movement. One surprising consequence of this clothing choice is that wearers have become more cognizant of their own health and wellness.8

Consumer demand is shifting but the need for good quality products that perform as advertised has remained unchanged. Consumers want homeworking clothing to be comfortable, stretchy, durable, and which maintain a certain level of formality. They want to feel confident in front of the camera, be ready to exercise, and feel energized enough to face the upcoming challenges of lockdown.

SGS Solution  

SGS offers a comprehensive range of testing solutions to help manufacturers and brands ensure their products exceed market regulations and consumer expectations. Services include chemical, material, colorfastness and shrinkage, physical and mechanical, and flammability testing. 

Learn more about SGS’s Softline Services

Dr. Min Zhu
Technical Director, US & Canada Softlines
SGS North America Inc.
t: +1 (973) 461 1230


1 Melbourne’s harsh lockdown could end weeks early & New lockdown rules for Cardiff, Swansea and North England 
2 Fashioning a new future for the fashion world 
3 How much of Communication is really Nonverbal & How Much of Communication is Really Nonverbal? 
4 The Impact of What We Wear: Unexpected Findings & Enclothed cognition
5 What fashion editors wear to work from home & Fashion's Experts On What To Wear When Working From Home 
6 Shopping after lockdown & Dressing for success these days means "Athleisure" 
7 Wearing athleisure to work 
8 Get off the rack