I’m not wearing the same thing every day anymore.
Sorry, everyone who finds this post in the hopes of having me comment for a trend piece! (I mean, I’m obviously still happy to talk about why I did it and what it was like, and you can reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org, but like… I don’t do it anymore.)
For those of you who are brand-new around here, about two years ago, I made the decision to go full Work Uniform a la Mark Zuckerberg / Barack Obama / that woman who was in Harper’s Bazaar that one time. I scooped ten of the same top in black and white (variety is the spice of life!) and a few pairs of skinny black jeans, and that was what I wore for two years, every day at work.
Until this summer.
See, after two years of wear, those ten tops I started with were starting to show their age. I mean hi, I wore them every day.
Some of them–ahem, the white ones–had been lost to incidents with coffee or pens, and I’d already replaced the black pants twice. Black pants fade like whoa when you’re wearing them and washing them all the time.
So it was time to recommit. Time to–ugh–go shopping and find my new ~look~ for the next two years.
Except… I didn’t want to.
When I first implemented the work uniform, my work wardrobe was a mishmash of things I bought to look “professional” during business school, things I bought as one-offs to go with other outfits, and things I bought because I wanted to buy them. No theme, no unifying colour scheme, nothing. It was Lord of the Flies, Closet Edition.
That whole situation made getting dressed and looking like a presentable human being a bit of a challenge. One that I wasn’t all too attached to, clearly.
So I went out and hardcore committed to my new work uniform to solve it, and it worked wonders. Now, I had a core base layer of clothing that all matched, and my stress just evaporated. To this day, I am forever grateful that the work uniform gave me the constraints I needed to stop buying random shit just because I thought it looked cool in the store.
The impact of constraints
Let’s talk about those constraints for a bit.
Yes, of course, wearing the same thing every day was a big ol’ constraint, and probably further than most reasonable people want to go with their clothing choices. But it trickled down into my every day wardrobe, because thanks to the work uniform, I also got very clear on whether something would work with the bulk of my clothing–and whether I actually enjoyed wearing it.
On the rare occasion I needed a new outfit, my wardrobe all of a sudden had a colour palette and some general constraints that were easy to remember.
- Neutral colours, mostly black-white-grey and denim
- No patterns
Do you know how much easier your life is when everything you own could reasonably match with everything else you own? Or when the outfits you like to wear basically boil down to “Some kind of loose top and some kind of tight pant”? (Seriously, my go-to off-duty outfit is either skinny jeans and a cotton t-shirt, or leggings and a cotton t-shirt. I’m wearing it right now.)
The answer, my friends, is so much easier.
The work uniform was the real key
I know myself and my habits, and I can confidently say that none of the above would have happened if I hadn’t gone all in on the work uniform. If I had just bought two or three new tops to add into my existing wardrobe, my weird mismatched closet situation would have been a forever thing.
Thanks to the extreme all-or-nothing approach, I was able to step back, assess, and build a wardrobe mostly from scratch that I actually like wearing.
So why not keep it going?
If my work uniform has been sooooo great (it has) why not keep it up? Why not just suck it up, go shopping, and replace everything with ten new tops and a few new pairs of pants?
Because I don’t need to anymore.
Some of the items from my work uniform are still in great shape, and I can wear them without looking like I’m pushing the boundaries of acceptable workplace attire. Against all odds, even some of the white tops have survived me for the past two years.
I’ve also found a few other similar tops (specifically, these ones) that work well under my existing layers, like a blazer or a sweater. I’ve gotten a few of them in different colours (OK, black and white) and while I was at it, I grabbed a few new cardigans… and a few of my favourite cotton t-shirts. (If anyone from Reitmans is reading this, you guys should really just sponsor the blog, I literally only wear your things.)
I stocked back up on jeans that look professional, including one pair in black, and with those things purchased, I’ve got a pretty solid work ~look~ going on. Is it still mostly the same, with very little variation compared to most people? Yeah, of course it is. Is it exactly the same every single day?
Nope. And for right now, that’s just fine with me.
Clothing – and money – is really about knowing yourself
Wearing a work uniform helped me get really clear on a lot of things about myself and my preferences about what I put on my body – in the same way that tracking my spending helped me get really clear on my preferences about where and how I spend my money.
Right now, based on where I’m at and the clothes I already have, I don’t need or want to spend a few hundred dollars on ten of the exact same top, just to replace a closet full of tops I already have. (I’d prefer to spend that money on an unlimited yoga class pass, please and thank you.) But it took me two years and a pretty unrealistic commitment to get to this place.
Kind of like an “unrealistic” committing to tracking your spending, manually, down to the penny for two years. Or like committing to stick to a strict budget, or a shopping ban, or about a zillion other “unrealistic” commitments you could make to optimize your finances (and your life!).
I’m definitely not saying you have to do anything over the top to get your wardrobe or your finances under control–you guys know I’m the queen of moderation and still drinking lattes. But if you have a sneaking suspicion that trying something new–even something that seems extreme at first–might be just the shake-up you need?
It might be totally worth it.
And, as evidenced by my slightly-more-varied wardrobe, it doesn’t mean you have to do it forever. (Even if you accidentally became the go-to media spokesperson for implementing a work uniform. I’m really sorry, the media, this was a wonderful two year thing we had going on.)