The Realities of Working at Home: The Evolution of the WAHM Dress Code


Starting a work-at-home business has its perks — the freedom to set your own schedule, the joy of doing what you love and of course, the serious lack of a dress code. Most new work-at-home entrepreneurs respond to the dress code freedom with the same reckless abandon as college freshmen experiencing their first free beer night: WOO-HOO…party on! Then after a while (and a few morning after hangovers), the novelty wears off and you rethink your party-on attitude.

The Stages in the Evolution of the Work-at-Home Dress Code:

Stage 1: Pajama Parade — Characterized by a serious lack of personal hygiene and the standard issue new work-at-home entrepreneur uniform: pajamas (and by pajamas, I mean the SAME pajamas you wore to go to bed the night before multiplied by the days you have been working at home since the last laundry day). The key benefits are huge savings on dry cleaning and shampoo. The main drawback: you are ill-prepared for impromptu meeting requests.

Stage 2: Haute at Home — Characterized by a heightened return to corporate attire, possibly with heightened fashion sense, usually following a corporate-type event where you had to revert to your corporate clown costume. The key benefits are increased professionalism and a sense of pride in your appearance. The drawbacks are skyrocketing credit card bills from shopping expeditions to buy stuff that you aren’t really going to wear that often.

Stage 3: Fitness Frenzy — Characterized by stretchy clothing capable of doing a downward-facing dog or running a marathon, often sporting swear stains from the ambitious workout you squeezed in before sitting down to work. This stage comes after it dawns on you that parking yourself at a desk all day has left you with some serious office butt. The key benefits are it removes any excuse not to work out, but the downside is that you have reverted back to a variation of Stage 1.

Stage 4: Happy at Home — Characterized by an anything goes policy that allows for pajamas or fitness attire, but mainly strikes a balance between being comfortable and corporate, usually a blend of polished sweaters or tops and comfortable pants or dressy jeans. This is the final stage in the evolution of the work-at-home dress code where you finally find your balance and realize that showering is an important transition between the home life and office hours.

Regardless of what work-at-home dress code you choose, it is important to differentiate between your work life and your personal time. Establishing a routine where you get up, eat breakfast, workout and go to your office allows you to set boundaries for your business. The same is true for leaving work behind by shutting off the computer, leaving the files on the desk and forgetting it until the next day.


About Author

Carla Young, Publisher If there’s living proof that women can have it all – and then some – it’s Carla Young. Building her multiple businesses on a virtual work-at-home model, Carla is an inspiration to other mothers who want to start a lifestyle business. During her early days as a mom entrepreneur, Carla made every single mistake in the book (and a few new ones for good measure). Realizing that “doing it all” was unhealthy and unsustainable, Carla started by getting organized to the extreme, developing support systems for both her work and family. After other mothers started asking how they too could enjoy her lifestyle, Carla launched to support moms at work, at home and at play (because every mommy deserves a little me-time)!


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  2. This is so funny! I think I went in reverse, though. Most days I can’t bring myself to change out of my workout attire and put on makeup because I think, “Why bother? Who’s going to see me besides the kids?” Then there are days like today, when I spent 30 min getting dolled up to go read to my son’s preschool class! I’m not used to seeing other people during the day so I went overboard!

  3. As a freelance-from-home worker, there are days I stay in workout-type clothes that could pass for getting out and about; I like to be at the ready in case the school calls. But I’m not a pj-all day wearer. How I dress and look affects my mood and productivity, so even a 5-minute makeup face and “real clothes” help.

  4. I’ve always been a jeans and shirt mom. It probably helps that I’ve never had to worry about meetings while working at home. That and I have to take kids to school, and have usually had to walk them, so getting dressed has always made sense.

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