With increasing numbers of people now working from home, it has become clear that we each fall into one of two camps: those who dress up for their working day — think: makeup, jewelry and real pants — and those who favor workout clothes and blankets. Regardless of this divide, video conference calls have become a near unavoidable reality and require a certain level of decorum — at least from the waist up. Luckily, the past few years have seen a surge in brands offering fashion-forward loungewear that can bridge the public-private gap with designs that are both comfortable and presentable. Below, a selection of labels that cater to every level of low-maintenance dressing, with pieces from luxurious knits to sophisticated sweats.
In 2018, the Brooklyn-based husband-and-wife duo David McGillivray and Rebecca Zhou set out to reinvent a forgotten staple of the 1960s, the housecoat, that long, lightweight robe typically patterned with chintzy florals. Zhou, who was previously the head of digital for the beauty company Glossier, and McGillivray, a digital consultant, had initially wanted to create a brand that would offer an upgraded version of Zhou’s beloved but threadbare cotton nightshirt. “As we started to dig into the idea, though, we realized it wasn’t something to sleep in that we wanted,” McGillivray says. “It was actually something to live in at home.” Eventually, the pair arrived at a one-size-fits-all, gender-neutral quilted housecoat, which has the pared-back silhouette of a kimono but the cozy feel of a comforter, crafted from French terry cloth with a “super soft T-shirt fabric on the inside,” McGillivray says, “so it’ll feel like an old favorite from day one.” The piece comes in black, marled gray, a patchwork of soothing sage greens, a mash-up of subtle neutrals and a combination of blush, ocher and electric blue inspired by the ’80s-era Italian designer Ettore Sottsass — and one or two new colorways will be introduced each fall.
The Amsterdam-based brand Extreme Cashmere, founded by partners Saskia Dijkstra and Jan Hein Peek in 2016, specializes in minimalist knitwear for both men and women that balances crisp cuts with flattering draping. The label’s ultrasoft Mongolian cashmere is used for garments ranging from slinky tank tops to wide-legged trousers, stretchy wrap dresses to oversize drawstring shorts — in colors including steel, oatmeal, ice blue and mint — as well as an array of stay-at-home accessories such as blankets and eye masks. Dijkstra, who has a background in cashmere, and Peek, an investor, enlisted the designer Camille Serra, who was the creative director of the British brand Joseph in the ’90s, to head up design and direct the label’s elegant and effortless aesthetic. For head-to-toe comfort, opt for a monochromatic pair of pieces — a sand-colored cardigan with a matching skirt, for example, or a slim-fit tan polo shirt with flowing pants.
While living in Shanghai in 2010, the British designer Olivia von Halle asked a local tailor to make her a pair of luxurious printed silk pajamas that she could wear not only to bed but also to late-night parties and on morning dog walks. When her friends began asking for similar sets, she decided to move back home to London to launch her own label, which she did in 2011. Today, her namesake brand offers a wide range of nightwear and loungewear in psychedelic wallpaper-like prints — her latest collection includes a vibrant assortment of acid-hued animal and tropical flower motifs inspired by adventures to faraway places — but silk pajamas remain the line’s focus. The key to their luxurious feel is weighty 19-momme silk, says von Halle: “It gives the most beautiful drape and makes all the difference to the finished garment.”
The Los Angeles-based designer Scott Sternberg ran the fashion brand Band of Outsiders for 12 years before introducing his latest venture, Entireworld, a line of casual men’s and women’s clothing, in 2018. “It’s a very pure, modernist take on the stuff we live in,” Sternberg explains. This ethos extends to everything from classic cotton T-shirts and button-downs to socks and underwear — but it’s the monochromatic sweats in Crayola shades of cherry red, sky blue, buttercup yellow and key-lime green that feel particularly appealing right now. Especially when worn as a matching set, the roomy sweatpants and crew-neck pullovers are both striking and cozy; they come in either a fleecy brushed Terry or a lighter, looser version. Each piece is made from a super-soft cotton blend produced by mills in Japan, Korea and China from organic and recycled yarns.
The actress and activist Robin Wright and the designer Karen Fowler, longtime friends and fellow Texans, founded Pour Les Femmes in 2016 in a bid to craft the perfect pair of pajamas while collaborating with the women of eastern Congo. Working closely with the nonprofit Give Work, the label employs embroiderers from the region to decorate capsule collections of its airy and expertly made pajama sets (it takes two days to complete a single pair). The brand also offers minimalist silk and linen slips made from fabric ethically sourced from Los Angeles, but it’s the crisp organic cotton creations, evocative of traditional men’s shirting, that are best suited for working from home. For the line’s spring 2020 collection, Wright and Fowler looked to ’50s-era beach clubs in the South of France for inspiration and landed on old-fashioned blue and red ticking stripes (a nod to seaside umbrellas) and a graphic primary-colored swimmer print. The classic tops could even be paired with jeans when office life resumes.