Business Casual? It’s Robes and Slippers All Day Now


When Dr. Denise McDermott, 49, isn’t seeing patients for telehealth appointments, there’s a good chance she’s wearing a robe. In fact, as soon as she and her 11-year-old son finish the video portion of their work and school days, they both make the switch. “It’s become our joke during the pandemic: We’re the robe family,” said Dr. McDermott, a psychiatrist in Manhattan Beach, Calif.

Now that many homes have become de facto offices for the foreseeable future, work wardrobes have adjusted accordingly. “It’s important to be mindful of what makes you feel good,” said Dr. McDermott. “Wearing a robe is almost like giving yourself permission to relax, but it also makes me feel powerful and confident.”

The robe is just one of many cozy styles catching on in isolation; sweatsuits, pajamas and slippers have also seen an uptick in sales, and leggings have replaced structured pants for many people. But while form-fitting athleisure is intended (if not worn) for physical activity, pure leisure wear is an unabashed investment in time off.

It took a pandemic for Alyssa Lester, 26, to purchase her first robe: a vintage floral silk number from Victoria’s Secret. “At the beginning of quarantine, a time where I felt very discombobulated, I felt that finally making my silk robe purchase would make everything a tiny bit better,” she said. “I don’t think I’ve gone one day without wearing it since I bought it two months ago.”

“When I step into slippers and walk outside to check the mail, I feel like a hot, confident Upper East Side housewife,” Ms. Lester, a painter in Brooklyn, added.

Instead of spending the summer in overly-air-conditioned offices, many will still be working from home, where staying cool will be a priority. Alexis Herb, 25, a geographic information system technician intern from Boston, recently ordered a silk robe to wear around the house because she wanted “something that was light and comfortable — especially when it’s warmer out.”

Men are embracing robe life, too. Matt Sarafa, 22, a designer specializing in gender-neutral fashion and a student at U.C.L.A., sees the robe as a garment that is not just flowing but gender-fluid. “Men can be kind of weird about wearing things that don’t fit the exact mold of masculinity, but I feel like robes are almost an exception to that because they kind of have a silhouette like a dress, but are still ‘socially acceptable’ in the very patriarchal society we live in,” he said. His garment of choice these days is a black Versace robe with gold baroque sleeves. “It’s a little bougie,” he said. “Now that I’m home 24-7, I might as well be comfy and fly.”


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