August 17, 2019
If you ask most people, they hate the idea of uniforms. It’s expensive and it doesn’t allow for individuality or personal expression are a few of the reasons given. But, if you stop and think about it, uniformity is quite practical. Many powerful world leaders say that they have adopted a uniform attire and only rotate through a few different colors or styles to cut down on the amount of micro-decisions they must make in a day, leaving their brain available for making more significant decisions. Minimalism, in its most extreme form, has a few different premises about a small wardrobe such as capsule wardrobes, project 333 or the 100-item wardrobe, to name a few. While these may be a good fit for some folks to follow, the fashionistas—or those of us that fall somewhere in the middle—may not be ready to go to that extreme but can still create a basic uniform if their career field doesn’t dictate one. Check out some of these ideas that I have tried over the years and see if they fit your style or inspire you to come up with a new method.
The paired wardrobe In this uniform concept, you marry all your clothing tops and bottoms as a set and hang them together on the same hangar. This could even be taken to the level of hanging a necklace, scarf or other accessories to compliment it. This will also allow you to take inventory of your clothing to make sure that everything is wearable and see if there are any holes in your wardrobe that may require a shopping trip. When you need to get ready, you simply grab the hangar and get dressed with very little thought required.
The cataloged wardrobe When I was growing up, this was mom’s method of writing everything in her wardrobe in a notebook and tracking what she wore and when. This allowed her to avoid wearing the same things repeatedly and ensure her wardrobe got a proper rotation. To modernize this concept, it could be digitized. A quick Google search tells me that there are several apps to choose from, but I haven’t tried any so will avoid steering you in the wrong direction. If you have used one, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
The uniform wardrobe If you work someplace that has access to polos or work monogram attire, this is a great option for business casual work environment. This is the wardrobe I follow, and I have a handful of work logo polo shirts that I pair with cargo pants or khaki pants, or jeans if it’s a dress down day. If your company doesn’t have this access, but they do have a logo you could get permission to use, there are several websites you can use to design and order your own or a local embroidery shop or seamstress can help you out. I have used Vista Print for polos for an organization and a local screen printer for shirts for a club and uniforms for a team. The quality of both online and local were fantastic. Sometimes they can give a better rate the more you buy, so talk to coworkers before ordering to see if they are interested. For websites and local shirt shops, you can go online to their website or a shirt design site and design your shirt by uploading the logo and get a picture of it to share.
The capsule wardrobe This wardrobe rotates by season but follows the fundamental idea of having a handful of interchangeable pieces that can mix and match for a variety of looks and styles. I’ve used this in the past and love it for travel, but I quickly got bored with it for work. I love that I don’t need a lot of pieces and can create a variety of looks by changing which items I pair together.
While there are many valid arguments to not wearing a uniform, I am still an advocate for them. I am not a morning person and try to capitalize on every spare minute of sleep unless I am motivated to get up for a workout. Either way, I don’t leave myself much time for planning. I also prefer to dress for comfort rather than style, but I still need to look professional. I spent countless mornings stressing over what to wear, and it set a tone of haste and frustration for my day. When I started exploring a minimalist lifestyle, I had a closet jammed with so many clothes and knew that the 100 item wardrobe or the Project 333 would not be a good place to start and I’d have to eliminate too much or find storage for unused items for a capsule wardrobe. Eliminating items I didn’t love and creating a uniform really made things less stressful, allowing me to easily dress for success with minimal frustration to start my day. I also used the backwards hangar method to get an idea of what items I wore and didn’t wear, which made cleaning out at the end of the season a snap. Helpful tip when clearing items out: check with the local schools to see if any items could be used in their uniform closet. Jeans, khaki, black and navy pants fit almost every school’s uniforms, dresses and dress clothing can be useful for concerts, recitals or competitions, and some will face a devastating loss and need to rebuild a wardrobe. Shoes that are gently worn can always find a home there, as well.
As simple as this seems, I was pleasantly surprised at how much less stressful my day was when I didn’t have to make these decisions. Since I work with teenagers that have to wear a uniform to school, this also made the conversations easier to have since I was modeling the expectation I had with them—I was essentially wearing the same uniform they were, so their arguments were lost on me. And when it did come up in conversation, it was a great opportunity to share the idea that it simplified their decisions to be made in a day and reduced a bit of stress in their life. Some agreed, but some still longed for the days of high school to choose their own clothing. Although more than one has reached out to tell me that they missed uniforms once going on to high school and careers because it was another decision to make in a day.
Whatever you decide to do with your wardrobe, at least take this advice—go through and clean out your clothing when the seasons change, removing damaged items and either fixing or disposing of them, and make sure your closet is filled with clothes that make you feel comfortable and happy. Every occupation has its stressors and they are much more manageable when you are not distracted by poorly fitted or uncomfortable clothing. Not to mention, it’s a great opportunity to see if you need to plan a shopping excursion!