Office dress codes are usually not very fun. (HR still won’t take me up on my suggestion of “wear your pajamas to work” day, sadly.) You can see where they’re coming from—take away the rules, and it could be fashion anarchy up in there. Better to set a minimum standard so that everyone projects the level of professionalism that the company wants clients and visitors to see. However, if you’re trying to match up your work day with your workout goals, there are ways to be ready for the cardio class and the team status meeting.
1. The under-the-clothes approach
I mean, it worked for Superman, right? Clark Kent had his business-attire suit over his Superman hero-attire suit, and was ready to go whenever. Too many layers could be a problem if your office is very warm, but otherwise consider using layering pieces like t-shirts and tank tops under your regular blazer or sweater. I’d find a more private place to change than Superman’s preferred telephone booth, but if all you have to do is peel off your top shirt and you’re just about ready for the gym, you’ve saved yourself some time.
2. Fancy yoga pants
Pants are tougher, especially for men—it’s pretty hard to spin sweatpants as khakis. For women, there are some companies making dark, stretchy yoga/workout pants that double as dressier pants. You could also wear workout pants under a dress or skirt or as you’d normally wear tights or leggings. If you go this route, make sure to choose black pants that are a nice, lightweight material—very basic and sharp-looking.
3. Sneakers in disguise
Whenever I see those sneakers that look like dressy flats, I think of Transformers. Looks like a fancy shoe, but shh…it’s a sneaker in disguise. Shop around for a sneaker that looks like it could pass with a work outfit: colors like black, dark blue, or brown, without bright color accents. You could also use dark shoelaces to make your sneakers blend better with your professional clothes.
Whichever sneakers you end up choosing, make sure they look clean and presentable—muddy, worn shoes will never go with a professional outfit.
4. Class it up with accessories
If you wear workout leggings and a tank top in a neutral color, you can add nice jewelry or scarves to make it more of a work outfit. For example, if you’re wearing a hoodie that looks like it could be a legit sweater, but you’re also wearing a cool watch or interesting earrings, it looks more like a funky casual outfit and less like you’ve given up and started wearing plain old sweats to work.
Of course, with any of these, you should check with your company’s dress policy first to make sure you’re not being too casual. You should also make sure that you’re not underdressing for meetings or other important work events. But otherwise, a few touches that make your transition from work to gym easier should be fine. It could make all the difference between a) keeping that three-times-a-week gym resolution, or b) giving up because changing every piece of clothing is a pain, and why not go home and eat chips on the couch instead.