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Top Ten Fashion Trends For the Freelance Nation

What do you wear to walk the 20 feet from your coffee maker to your home office, projecting power all the way and letting the cat know who's boss?

When you work from home, listening to people talk about workplace fashion can strike you as funny, because for most of us fashion went out the window as soon as we left the office. Suits and dresses are replaced by (let's be honest!) whatever you choose from the laundry baskets you still need to sort, fold and put away from two days ago. You never seem to iron anything anymore, either. It turns out you can go home again, you'll just stop trying as hard once you get there.

I got to thinking about freelance fashion after reading a new University of Cincinnati study about Metrosexual males in the workplace. The study concludes the average American working man is taking much greater pains with his appearance these days and basically wants to look like he's on the cover of Men's Health magazine, whether he lives in San Francisco or Cincinnati. He's more likely to be taking fashion advice from his gay co-workers too, but please, please, please don't call him a Metrosexual because that's so 2007. The line for a solid black, v-neck shirt forms to the right, and please don't crowd. Bonus points will be awarded for well-groomed facial stubble.

But back to your average freelancer, who doesn't have a co-worker to approach for fashion advice and, in fact, may not have thought all that much about fashion since 2007. Then again, freelancers don't have to care about fashion because they work from home and who's going to see them at 2 o'clock in the afternoon except for the mail carrier, the neighbor or the clerk at the grocery store? No one, that's who.

But it doesn't mean the average freelancer doesn't fall victim to various fashion ruts and dilemmas. Without further ado, here are the top ten fashion "trends" for the home-based worker:

1.) Sweatpants. Belts and slacks? Who needs 'em! Well, you will need to keep a few upscale mix-n-match clothing combinations in your closet for meetings and special events, but for the most part you're living the spandex life these days. Female freelancers may pretty much live in yoga pants, which are more fashionable and form-fitting than traditional sweatpants and mean one less change of clothing before yoga class. Just grab your mat and go, then come home and work some more. Life becomes seamless in more ways than one.

2.) Baseball caps. You'll amass quite a collection as a freelancer for the times you need to run errands without having showered because you're planning on a run later in the day so why bother (see below), or you just don't feel like it yet. Hey, you work alone, so it's not like you're offending anyone in "the office" with your appearance. Now hide your greasy hair and run along to Kinko's already!

3.) Pajama bottoms. Whether they're plaid or covered in licensed characters, pajama bottoms are a staple of the work-at-home set, even if they won't admit it publicly. I know one freelancer who is the epitome of professionalism but often works in a pair of neon pink, furry sweatpants with glitter all over them. No, really.

4.) T-shirts. Working at home affords you the opportunity to wear all the slightly embarrassing t-shirts you might not wear otherwise. Go ahead and put on that vintage Pet Shop Boys t-shirt! Food stains are optional.

5.) Slippers. From fuzzy animal slippers to the pair of .99 slippers you bought at IKEA, you're set to wander your own workplace Bermuda Triangle from kitchen to computer to bathroom to computer to kitchen to bathroom. Was that an email that just came in while you were in the other room?

6.) Bathrobes. Some days you just don't feel like putting any effort into your appearance, especially when every brain cell is being sucked into a looming deadline. A bathrobe is the ultimate statement that says you simply can't be bothered right now because you're way too busy. At the very least, you're ready to yell "get off my lawn!" when you're not hiding from the UPS and FedEx guys. Just leave it on the doorstep, please!

7.) Running clothes. You're planning on taking a running break later today; you just don't know when, exactly. So you cut to the chase by wearing your running clothes while working, both as a motivator and a time saver. Remember to charge your iPod Shuffle, because nothing sucks more than a low battery warning ten minutes into your run.

8.) Shorts. Your freelancer friends can wear them all year-round because they're not leaving the house today. From running shorts to khaki shorts to short shorts, the average freelancer has these bases more than covered. But will he or she have enough legroom to meet the next deadline? That's the real question.

9.) Anything fleece. Fleece is the modern freelancer's best friend. From socks to hoodies to lounging pants, we live in the stuff half the year unless we have to be somewhere important. Now let's hope the client doesn't fleece us on timely payment for a job well done.

10.) Jeans. I think I'll dress up today and wear jeans! Jeans can start to feel like a fashion upgrade when you work at home. We've all been there. Come on in, the water's warm. Just remember to wash your jeans in cold water with like colors.

Now that I write this, I'm amazed that an entrepreneur somewhere hasn't come up with a simple but hip clothing line marketed specifically to freelance, home-based workers. There's a lot of market potential for yoga pants boasting slim pen pockets; microfleece shirts and jackets that can wick away sweat during conference calls; and running jackets with zip-up pockets for smartphones, or even iPads. Never let your clients see you sweat. Well, given our freelance fashion sense maybe it's better never to let them see us, period.


  1. Great article! As someone who works from occasionally, I can totally relate!

  2. Thanks, Tina. I like to think of it as "dressing for comfort."


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