A physician who was emotionally exhausted with her ongoing work with COVID-19 patients was advised to wear yellow, the colour of vitality and cheerfulness, by her ‘Dress Doctor’ Dr Dawnn Karen. Dubbed as the world’s first fashion psychologist, Dr. Karen is a proponent of Mood Enhancement Theory. She prescribes colours and styles to her clients to lift their moods and improve their productivity. The recent pandemic has ushered in a new culture of remote-working, which along with its many life-lessons, has also unearthed the strong relation between attitude and attire.
Eighteen months is a long time to settle into a new workplace, and so have I – into my home office. I’ve established routines and disciplines that will power me through the day. My desk is entrenched in a cozy nook in the bedroom but inspires serious discussions. Maintaining work-life balance entails crossing the few feet between desk and bed to catch a few winks, and effortlessly transitioning from Zoom to Netflix in the evenings. Both habits and recreation have been sufficiently digitised – with YouTube fitness experts governing my workouts, local food joints indulging my palate with doorstep deliveries, and all kinds of Genies running my errands. I think I’ve found my new normal. In this journey of establishing remote-working protocols, my wardrobe too has had its fair share of experiments. After all, one cannot underestimate the symbolism of clothes and their impact on psychology and productivity.
Not without my PJs
In the initial days, as I grappled with the sudden restraint of a lockdown, and the chaos that prevailed outside, my pyjamas and tees reinforced the assurance of being safely ensconced at home. I needed the agility to handle the compounded pressures of online work, domestic chores, and the prevailing health-risk. All this while maintaining my sanity through the increasing demands of a stay-at-home family and my own addiction to endless Netflix-ing. I suddenly found myself in a world where I needed to be a domestic goddess, Zoom-friendly and couch-ready, all at once! Joggers, sweats, and PJs had become second skin, one I had no intention of shedding.
New closet champions
The next phase was that of acceptance and preparedness – which had me re-organizing my closet to bring to the forefront easy-breezy attire that would take me through the not-so-breezy times. Oversized shirts, anti-fit dresses, flowy skirts that had been deemed too causal for office, had been thrust into the spotlight. These saved the time and effort of getting dressed, while tailoring the mind to the humdrum of a remote workday. This was the phase that re-ignited my appreciation for roomy non-constricting silhouettes – a love that would last for months to come.
The period that followed was that of re-emergence – even one of stepping up my game. Fashion brands and designers, looking at reinventing themselves, were already wooing homebound consumers with practical trends. The promise of the vaccine was buoying hopes and inspiring hybrid styles. There was an increased effort at ‘casualization’ of at-home work wear. Kaftans, loungewear sets, cowls pants, paper-bag trousers were luring me through incessant social media ads. It wasn’t long before, a few of these found their way to my closet. I was echoing Dr. Adam Galinsky’s thoughts on ‘enclothed cognition’, according to which with the rise of video calls, clothes we wear have a bigger impact on our performance because we can now see ourselves. New York Times fashion director Vanessa Friedman too believes in dressing up for a desired mindset. Her padded jackets, she thinks, broaden her shoulders, and empower her to wrestle any assignment into shape. While jackets may be an overkill for the home office, Friedman is confident that smart dressing gives us the psychological cues for productivity and success.
Eager to imbibe these pro-tips, I started curating my on-screen appearance – I added pops of color to my wardrobe to lessen the melancholy of the times, and even threw in a few accessories to add some spark. Soon enough I was beginning to nail the ‘above-the-keyboard’ look.
The workforce worldwide is wondering what comes after months in sweats. One thing you can expect is that people will be less judgmental and more accommodating to practical workwear. Stiff formal styles will be replaced with fashion for functionality and safety. It will also be a good time to re-fashion, re-purpose old wardrobe items to create your own signature styles, while contributing to the cause of sustainable fashion. Whether we are gearing up to return to physical establishments, or our homes continue to double up as offices until-further-notice, we can certainly count on the transformative power of fashion to tide us over all times.
Disclaimer: The above article has been written by Dr Taskeen Nadkar. Taskeen is head of Product and Strategy at Reliance Jio. She is passionate about consumer centricity and product innovation. Taskeen holds a PhD in Electrical engineering from IIT Bombay.