Talking about silver linings in quarantine is a difficult proposition, and the Internet can be a tricky place for rooting out positivity right now. But the truth is that most people are home all day, working, not working, worrying about not working, caring for children—and, yes, some are fashion-influencing on the Internet, and Instagram in particular. Creativity is often born out of adversity, and now is no different. While some are baking bread, or painting what could be their masterpiece, or writing the next great novel, others are mixing and matching their comfort pieces with business attire. And so, quarantine has officially given us an entirely new style genre. Move over, athleisure; welcome, biz-leisure.
Sweatpants and a blazer? Sure thing. Track pants and a button-down? Sign us up. Running shorts and a men’s jacket? It’s a plan. Consider it Zoom call on top, Netflix and chill on the bottom—unless you opt for a sweatshirt with trousers. One newscaster was forced to make a written statement after a disappearing chyron revealed he was wearing his suit jacket and button-down, not with matching pants, but with boxer briefs, or what he later called “shorts.” But biz-leisure isn’t about hiding or pulling one over on your Zoom-mates (or, Zoom-leagues). When done well, it is an unexpected yet brilliant mix of tailored and comfort pieces. At its best, it lives somewhere between Marlene Dietrich androgyny, Marlon Brando sweats, and a touch of boudoir. It’s maybe a baseball cap, and a blazer, and a bustier. What it’s definitely not is business casual. That’s reserved for khakis and plaid shirts on Fridays for Goldman Sachs bros.
The blossoming fashion genre is still finding its footing, but biz-leisure has been born out of necessity, a place where women in particular want to embrace comfort while they’re home all day but not lose a tacit feeling of stylishness. “While the world around us is increasingly scary and unpredictable, what we choose to wear is one way we can care for ourselves. It makes sense that, in times of stress and loss, we would gravitate toward clothing that can evoke a sense of comfort and calm, like a soft sweater or cozy loungewear,” Brooklyn-based psychotherapist Melanie Robinson, LCSW says.
The women creating biz-leisure care about clothes, but not enough to, God forbid, suffer the discomfort of jeans to play Animal Crossing all day. While sweatpants were already becoming a fashion Insta staple, pairing them with button-downs and blazers is the quarantine style trick we didn’t know we needed.
Influencer and consultant Stephanie Broek posted just one of the looks that can come to define biz-leisure. “I combined the shirt and blazer with the sport bra, leggings, and sneakers because I wanted to wear a WFH look that is comfortable but professional as well,” she wrote. “If I would have worn this with a hoodie it would have felt like a Saturday or Sunday.”
And it’s not just aesthetic. So much of how we’re dressing now as we shelter in place has more to do with emotion than anything else. It’s wrapping ourselves up in thick cotton to find solace, cashmere for comfort, a blazer to remind us of who we once were, or at least what we once did and where we once went. “Clothes can really influence my mood and I needed the blazer and shirt to trick myself into thinking I was in the office,” Broek wrote. “I also think it’s important to look professional and representative on work Zoom meetings.”
What we wear can delineate the day, both mentally and in a physical sense. “Those of us who are newly working from home might find that our boundaries between work and life outside of work are getting blurry,” Robinson explains. “Getting dressed for the day can not only make us feel good, it can signal to our bodies and minds that it’s time to get work.”
Just as athleisure was born out women desiring to still look cool as they went from yoga to brunch to shopping, and just as it started to make sense for Bandier to sell leather jackets alongside Soul Cycle–ready leggings, so, too, biz-leisure has sprouted from an organic place.
Monikh Dale has found her biz-leisure style by refusing to abandon the pieces she loves, while still donning at-home-all-day appropriate looks. “I always say, ‘Never save for best.’ I’ve invested in pieces to last a lifetime, so I want to get a lifetime of wear out of them,” she tells BAZAAR.com. “I teamed the Khaite jumper and Isabella Marangoni track pants together, because they are simply two of my favorite pieces, and they are both so comfortable! I only buy pieces that I’m 100 percent comfortable in. Also I like the color clash on these two. That day, I needed a pick me up, so they’re feel-good items.”
As weeks are turning into months in isolation, our desire to “try” ebbs and flows; sometimes you just need to go to bed in sweatpants, wake up in the same sweatpants, and then wear them all day again until bedtime. As long as you break the cycle at some point.
“My quarantine style philosophy changes every single day,” Dale explains. “Some days, I pretend like nothing is going on, and I dress up as if I’m going to Fashion Week. But some days, these crazy times bring me down, and I just need to be comfortable. I wear my Han Kjobenhavn gray sweats the most—I’m either washing or wearing them.”
Biz-leisure may be new, but using clothes as a reflection of our inner states, or to influence our inner states, is not. The fashion we choose is representative of our identities, how we see ourselves. And the other end of that is that not getting dressed day after day can leave us feeling adrift. So while getting turned up and dressing to the nines for “cocktail hour” once a week is a fun escape, the idea that we’re melding our old reality with our current one via biz-leisure somehow feels more real. It’s a way to give credence to the desire to make ourselves feel comfort in a time laced with an undercurrent of fear, while tipping our hats, giving a nod, to the way life was “before.” Or maybe we just never gave enough credence to how good running shorts looked with our best oversized white button-down.
This article originally appeared on Harper’s BAZAAR US.