The Uniform I’ve Chosen for Myself
Some people express themselves through their clothes; they stretch the parameters of office dress codes with unexpected cuts, vintage menswear, and statement jewelry. I admire those people, but I am not one of them. The last thing that I want to do on a weekday morning, or at anytime, honestly, is think about what to wear, but I still want to look good.
So I developed a uniform:
• A gray or black long-sleeved V-neck shirt.
• A gray or black A-line skirt (Brooks Brothers, via Rue La La.)
• A scarf, which hopefully disguises the fact that I’m wearing a T-shirt with no bra to work.
• Tights if it’s cold, fleece-lined tights if it’s really cold.
• Black heels.
In winter, I swap the gray and black V-neck shirts for gray and black V-neck sweaters that are thin enough to tuck in. If I need to be more formal, I add a black blazer. If I want to be more casual, I swap out the skirt and heels for black pants (ok, glorified leggings) and a pair of flats.
I picked this particular combination of clothing because it’s appropriate for my office, reasonably comfortable, and flattering for my skin tone and body type. Obviously, everyone’s ideal uniform will look different. My only advice, if you’re looking to create your own, is to stick with neutrals. People are less likely to notice that you’re wearing the same thing every day if it’s unmemorable.
That’s the main issue with wearing a uniform. For whatever reason, it’s considered socially unacceptable to wear the same thing every day, unless you have a job where it’s mandatory. Every time that I think that I’ve solved the problem of “workwear,” I immediately panic and wonder if my coworkers are talking about the fact that I only seem to own four pieces of clothing, even though I’m not in a fashion-related industry; even though I can’t remember what they wore yesterday, and they probably can’t remember what I wore either; even though I have a pile of identical shirts, so it’s not like I’m wearing the same thing day after day and it’s becoming increasingly sweaty and dirty and gross. Even though I don’t really want to live in a world where you’re judged for not owning enough clothes.
The second issue is getting bored. Most of the time when I’m walking around, I’m thinking about what I’m going to do after work, if I should pick up groceries, or if any of the books that I put on hold at the library have come in. I’m not thinking about my clothes, and it’s great. But then I walk by someone in cropped narrow-leg pants and vintage penny loafers and suddenly I’m wondering if I should buy cropped narrow-leg pants and vintage penny loafers. I worry that my uncreative outfits make me look uncreative by association, and that everyone I meet looks at me and assumes that I’m a boring office worker with no interests outside my job.
The way I deal with either of these issues, unfortunately, is by buying things. But instead of buying clothes, I pick out some kind of cheap accessory, like an iPhone case, that reveals my personality. Or a new scarf. I am big on scarves, and I know it makes me sound like someone’s mom who read a book about French women who have style for all seasons or whatever, but scarves are really great, because you can buy a decent one for $20 or less and feel like you have a whole new outfit. When you get tired of the color or the pattern, you can easily pass it on, because scarves fit everybody. Also, they don’t take up a lot of space in your closet.
On good days, I think of my uniform as a disguise. I imagine that I’m blending into the background, observing life. Sometimes it’s nice to be recognized, but most of the time it’s nice to disappear.