A friend and I have been having a recurring conversation in recent months about work uniforms. As in, developing one in order to make getting dressed easier.
I’ve read several interesting articles about this, including this one, this one, and this one. Some of you might remember the Uniform Project from several years ago, in which one woman wore the same dress — she had seven, one for each day of the week — every day for a year, but used accessories to change her look from day to day. I love that idea.
A number of well-known, highly successful people have uniforms, including Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and President Obama. And of course, we all know that Steve Jobs wore the same outfit for years.
I don’t know about y’all, the last thing I feel qualified to do at dark o’thirty in the morning is pick out clothes for the day, so I’m all about making things as easy as possible. My closet and dresser are particularly and precisely organized, so I can pretty much get dressed in the dark and know that I match.
I’ve long had a wardrobe based on black (with some forays into navy blue and gray) (crazy, I know), but in recent months I’ve found myself simplifying things more and more.
Most days, I wear black trousers (I have several pairs in various cuts, lengths, and fabrics), a black layering t-shirt, a cardigan (or sometimes a blazer), ballet flats (but the boots have started coming out), and some sort of eye-catching accessory (a scarf or necklace). I wear a lot of knits because they are comfortable and don’t need ironing.
I rarely wear blouses because they’re less comfortable and I find that I fidget with them all day. And not only will you never see me wearing high heels, I’ve gotten very picky about my footwear and won’t wear anything that’s not super totally completely comfortable, which means that several pairs of cute flats are no longer in my closet.
To keep things simple, I buy most of my t-shirts (both short and long sleeves) in limited colors and styles from only a couple of places (Old Navy and J. Crew). I do have an assortment of striped Bretons thrown in for good measure. Of the three or four dozen t-shirts in my drawer, only a dozen-ish are not black, navy, gray, or white. (One pale pink, one green, two purple, one cranberry, and five or six non-navy blues.)
As for my cardigans, I have the same lightweight cotton one* in something like 10-12 colors, plus an assortment of warmer ones (in merino wool and cashmere, in varying lengths from cropped to tunic) for the colder months.
As for colors beyond black, gray, and navy blue, I stick to only my favorites — blues, greens, purples, and reds. No yellow, no orange**, no brown (other than shoes), virtually no pastels, and definitely no neons. I prefer jewel tones with cool undertones because that’s what looks good on me.
** Okay, a few scarves have orange in the patterns and I have a few necklaces and bracelets with orange because my alma mater’s colors are orange and blue. Hey, a woman’s gotta show her school spirit from time to time.
Having this work uniform has been so freeing. I just don’t have to think about what I wear. I get dressed quickly and don’t worry about my clothes for the rest of the day because I’m work appropriate, not to mention both physically and mentally comfortable. In the four months I’ve been working, I’ve had only a handful of days when I regretted something I wore to work and my reaction was to get rid of those items that were problematic.
Is this repetitive? Sure. Do I care? Not one bit.
This begs the question of whether or not I get bored with what I wear. So far, no. I have plenty of accessories and shoes to amuse myself with, plus see my comment from earlier about having the same cardigan in a dozen colors.
I am at work to work, not be fashionable. No one cares when men wear the same things over and over again, so why should we women have to vary our wardrobes?
The female director I report to has a uniform too — trousers, simple shirts, a blazer or cardigan, comfortable shoes, and maybe a scarf. Her color palette is even more limited than mine and she wears virtually no jewelry. She is a highly respected professional with a great deal of responsibility and I seriously doubt that anyone ever says, “Gosh, [her name] needs to vary her wardrobe a bit.”
I am curious about the rest of you. Do you have a uniform and, if so, what is it? If you don’t have a uniform, is there a reason why?