What we wear for our professional activities has clearly changed. During the covid-19 pandemic, we mostly worked from home. Although I don’t recommend it to anyone, I have also made myself “guilty” of wearing sportwear and lounge wear for an entire day. Now that office life is back on – partially -, social activities such as weekend getaways, weddings, dinners and parties are filling our schedules again after work hours, and our work environment has completely changed (hybrid workdays, office cubicles, WFA, etc.) It becomes a big challenge again to find the appropriate outfit that we feel ourselves presentable, productive and good in.
“What should I wear?” will be a question that quickly comes back to mind in the morning, now that the summer period is halfway through and the back-to-work wave is slowly approaching.
Especially when you have to make your entrance into a new office, or for other professional activities, you may again experience the pressure of making a good first impression. The outfit choice can then be just that one decision too many on that already long list of to-do’s and responsibilities.
To remedy this, not only are we going to have a hybrid work environment, but – in addition to our cars – our closet is also going to be hybrid. But is a hybrid wardrobe really a solution?
What is a hybrid wardrobe?
A hybrid wardrobe consists of clothing items that we can wear for any occasion – whether work, personal or festive – and mix and match with each other. Clothing is no longer reserved for special occasions or divided into work and private.
The idea is to reduce clothing choice stress, have to buy less clothes and be able to express your personal style all the time (and not only on weekends).
I can certainly agree with the last two motivations, but I have my reservations about the first one.
More or less stressful choices through a hybrid wardrobe?
If you used to wear only pencil skirts and white blouses, stiff suits or other uncomfortable clothes – why actually? – I understand that the business casual trend and a hybrid closet is a breath of fresh air for you.
Only, you knew what to wear that day and could spend your morning doing other – more important – things. With the broad interpretation of business casual and the various options of a hybrid wardrobe, there’s just a lot of possibility and more room to do it “wrong.” Wrong may sound strange, but we simply live in an image-focused society – partly thanks to social media – and are judged on our appearance, especially women to a greater and stricter extent, both in a professional and personal context.
Then choosing the “right outfit” for work becomes an additional task that we have to the ever-growing list of pressure on working women. Pressure that only increases with your responsibility within the company.
When you naturally depart from a closet based on the 5 pillars of your personal (brand) style (industry, work environment, function, occasions and personality) and depart more from evergreen items and a capsule collection, a hybrid wardrobe will indeed give you the peace of mind and less choice stress. Indeed, everything you then have hanging in your closet will work for you, your work environment and your professional and personal lifestyle.
Varianten op een hybride garderobe
With a well-constructed hybrid wardrobe, most will indeed benefit. Especially if you are professionally active in an SME, start-up or scale-ups. In my opinion, there are 2 variations on a hybrid wardrobe: the corporate work environment and home-based work environments.
The first variant is for those who are active at medium to larger corporates and especially in the financial and legal world. In my opinion, the best strategy – when you want to get the most out of your closet – is to build a work-only capsule wardrobe there. Especially when your own style is less in line with the more classic corporate dress code. By working with a separate capsule collection for work, you don’t end up with clothes in your spare time that are appropriate for going to work, but don’t allow you to fully express your personal style. Of course, if like me you have a classic style type, you don’t suffer as much from this. For your work-only capsule collection, you can focus on a limited number of pieces – the business essentials – that are of high quality. Think suit pants, stylish plain blazers and blouses, a nice comfortable black pump, etc. With accessories and statement items from your regular wardrobe, you can then still express your personal style within your work environment.
Work from home
For those who mainly – or always – work from home, a second variation of a hybrid wardrobe is an option. For example, for freelancers and small business owners. First and foremost, their wardrobe should be comfortable and functional. Since you spend most of your time at home, it is important to be able to separate work-life. A hybrid wardrobe, in my opinion, would interfere too much with the work-life balance. A wardrobe that puts you in work mode while being comfortable enough is the starting point. A few more professional pieces when you do have to get out the door for client meetings, networking events and other work-related events are the perfect complement. Your clothes for private related matters such as dinners, time with the family and other social activities should ensure that you can actually shut down and leave work behind.
As with so many things, there is no one-sizes-fit-all solution. It all depends on filling in the 5 pillars of your personal brand style, your (professional) lifestyle and your goals.
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