The Pros and Cons of the Uniform Wardrobe Approach

The Pros and Cons of the Uniform Wardrobe Approach

Credits: Photo - Anonymous, Styling - Sarah G. Schmidt, Location 26 block of 14 Street SW


Every few years I feel like I am getting closer to self-actualization through dress. Yes, I’ve manipulated Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs to be entirely sartorial focused. I’ve come to realize when it comes to loving yourself you either start from the inside out, or like me, the outside and work towards the deep dark in.

If you’ll indulge my self-actualizing grandiose notions an itsy-bitsy-teeny-weenie-yellow-polka-dot-bikini longer, there is something stylishly romantic about finding a style so you, that you wear it for the rest of your life. This is the style unicorn that is a beautiful, fully expressed person in a uniform wardrobe.

In the simplest terms, a uniform wardrobe is when you wear the same style of pieces in the same combinations over and over again. Perhaps that’s white shirts with black pants. For others it may be dresses one hundred percent of the time. For others yet that may mean suiting up no matter the day – I see you Johnny Rose.

While some people may be quick to point to Steve Jobs in his dingy turtleneck and dad jeans I’d say aim your style sights higher. Fashion designers like Carolina Herrera, Alber Elbaz, the late Karl Lagerfeld, and Yohij Yamamoto, have their look on lock. Journalists on news desks and at sport games have an established look that they go back to day after day. Even Mr. Rogers had his look so consistent you could likely time his jacket for cardigan swap every episode.

Now that we’re on the same page of what it is, it’s time to look at why it is.

PROS

  • For those looking to hack every ounce of their life, this may be for you. Less time fussing about what you wear may mean that you can focus that brain power on something else.

  • Less in total pieces, yet “more” truly-beautiful-to-you clothes is the style unicorn I mentioned earlier. Getting to the place where you are only repairing or replacing worn items is a feat.

  • It’s no secret that our rate of consumption, and shopping perhaps continually and recklessly for clothing, is detrimental to the environment and our people. Perhaps learning to love less has many more benefits that just your bank account.

  • How much space – literally and figuratively – would you save in your life if you selected a tight, specific wardrobe just for you. You could get up and get on with your day, everyday.

CONS

  • If you’re not a stylist, how do you decide what your uniform is? Trick question: call me.

  • We all understand that we don’t get joy in all the clutter, yet we are each on our own journey. We make progress from learning from our missteps. Perhaps striving for our forever, “perfect” uniform is setting the bar too high? There’s a beautiful essay in the 2014 book Worn Stories that shares one women’s journey of constant cyclical reinvention and rejection of her wardrobe. It’s so honest and vulnerable that it’s hard not to relate.

  • If you find yourself ditching last year’s uniform for another one year over year, that’s missing the point. The intention is for more longevity. We all can’t – or shouldn’t want to - be like Madonna and change our complete look with head to toe with every new album. Who has the cash and time for that? Also, what happens to the clothes you’re no longer wearing? Another trick question: I’ve got you.

  • Maybe the most jarring to me, is the question of what happens if your uniform grows boring you? Style diets are work. Should you not be able to stay away from shopping and find something outside of your style sandbox that you adore, are you to walk away or go for it?

What are your thoughts? Are you loving the uniform approach or find it so not you? If nothing else, why not try a uniform approach for one area of your life - choose on-duty or off-duty - for a week or two or ten and see what you think? You won’t know for yourself until you try. Should you be brave enough, designate a spot in your closet, home, or that chair in the corner (you know the one), to place your uniform pieces to try and mix and match from just that select few. How many combinations can you wear and feel good in?

Please share details with me; I’d love to know.

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