As 50 percent of the UAE workforce heads back into offices today, putting on real clothes feels like a distant memory.
For the other 50 percent still working from home or doing rotational schedules in the office, zips, jeans, and buttons are a thing of the past, replaced by trackies, loungewear, and pajamas. However, even if you don’t technically have to get dressed right now, that doesn’t mean you should forgo it completely.
Fashion isn’t just about aesthetics and vanity — it can also have a huge impact on your mental health. “As tempting as it is to stay in your pajamas all day, according to psychology and the theory of ‘enclothed cognition’, it is important to get dressed in the morning in order to get the most out of your day,” explains fashion psychologist Shakaila Forbes-Bell.
“Enclothed cognition essentially suggests that we embody the meanings we associate with our clothes. For example, would you feel more active and ready to work out if you put on a pair of trainers or if you put on a pair of dress shoes? The same logic applies to your daily attire. You’re more likely to feel productive and ready to tackle the day ahead if you wear a clean and presentable outfit than if you stay in pajamas all day.”
What we wear is how we express ourselves and what we present to the world, even if the world doesn’t necessarily get to see us right now. Forbes-Bell is a strong believer in using clothes to put you in a positive mindset – it literally is about starting the day as you mean to go on.
“The same way we associate clean and presentable clothing with work and productivity is the same way we associate pajamas with relaxation and sleep,” she says. “Staying in your pajamas all day can force you into a perpetual state of inactivity, and studies have shown that a lack of stimulation has been proven to negatively affect your mental health.”
The pandemic has brought about so many changes in the way we work. For a lot of us, it means a shift to working from home, and for others, it means a decreased workload or being put on furlough. Even if you’re not working right now, getting dressed will help keep you in a positive state of mind – something which is easy to neglect during the pandemic. Forbes-Bell says: “You’ll be more willing to engage in hobbies or activities that stimulate your mind if you dress the part.”
The psychologist does admit that one of the benefits of staying at home is that we’re afforded the opportunity to dress more comfortably. “Comfortable clothing – like lycra and loungewear – has been shown to positively impact our ability to focus and process information, while uncomfortable clothing increases the likelihood of us getting distracted,” she adds.
While this is definitely a bonus – plus it helps that loungewear and lycra are a lot easier to wash than suits and jeans – Forbes-Bell doesn’t want you to forget the rest of your wardrobe, saying: “It’s important to remember that comfort doesn’t begin and end at loungewear.”
Considering the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry, an unexpected positive to come out of the pandemic could be a more eco-conscious approach to shopping.
Even though you might be working from home, most of us are still connected to the rest of our office with video chats and Zoom calls. With this in mind, Forbes-Bell says: “Dressing up once in a while is also encouraged. You’re more likely to present yourself in a more professional manner if you dress more formally,” she says.
Living through the pandemic will permanently change many things in our lives. Forbes-Bell thinks our attitudes towards fashion will shift when life goes back to normal, saying: “We’ll all be paying closer attention to the clothes we own and how we shop.” We’ve been wearing fewer clothes during isolation, meaning we could start to “look at our wardrobes and question why we own so many items if they actually suit us, and if we even really like them”, she says.
Of course, when shops reopen and we’re finally allowed out, Forbes-Bell says there could be a period of ‘revenge buying’ all the clothes we couldn’t due to lockdown, but this is unlikely to last long. Instead, the psychologist predicts a more reflective approach to fashion, saying: “We’ll shift to a more minimalist lifestyle, where we only buy and wear clothes that we’re strongly attached to.” Considering the huge environmental impact of the fashion industry, an unexpected positive to come out of the pandemic could be a more eco-conscious approach to shopping.