How to dress for a return to the office | Fashion

I used to think that “going to work” and “doing my job” were the same thing. But since last March, I have been doing my job but not going to work. I work every day, but I never go to the office or to shows. So I guess it turns out that going to work and doing my job are, in fact, two different things.

Back when there were computers in offices but not in homes, you had to go to work to do your job, and so the two activities got all tangled up in our minds. We picture them together, like snow and Christmas Day, as though they are conjoined in the natural order of things. Now that I’ve realised doing my job and going to work are two entirely different activities, I’m worrying about how to do them at the same time (whenever that may be). There are many interesting conversations to eavesdrop on in the office, and getting a snack involves taking a lift and then queueing at a counter to pay, rather than just opening the fridge and eating cheese. This sounds very time-consuming. How did I get anything done?

But when the day comes to try to go to work and do my job at the same time, I am not at all conflicted about which activity to dress for. My doing‑my-job-at‑home outfits are dull. I am not maverick enough to be one of those people you see in video calls in a smoking jacket and bed hair, so my at-the‑laptop outfits are respectable but low-energy. Anything more ambitious than an interesting collar is wasted on a video call, and, anyway, no one is looking at you, they’re too busy character-assassinating you based on the bookshelves behind you.

Dressing to actually go to work is entirely different: more matchy-matchy, squarer, altogether punchier. I’ve never really been a trouser suit person, because they make me feel theatrically overdressed – and I say that as someone who is never happier than when in a party dress. But now that I’ve recognised going to the office as a social and professional ritual rather than part of doing my job, dressing up for it makes complete sense. After all, if I was going to concentrate on work, I’d stay at home, right?

Jess wears blazer, £69.99, trousers, £29.99, and heels, £79.99, all zara.com. Vest, her own. Styling: Melanie Wilkinson, assisted by Peter Bevan. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Sam McKnight haircare and Benefit