A uniform doesn’t have to be something prescribed by a workplace or school (or any other institution). It can be one that you create yourself. The concept of a uniform works for some, in fact, they love it, it helps them feel in control, they know what they’re going to wear and they don’t have to think about it. For others, it gives them heart palpitations and makes them feel uncomfortable and boxed in to think about wearing such a limited range of clothes or styles of clothes.
What I’ve noticed is that those that love the idea of uniform dressing and find it freeing prefer to:
- Have a smaller wardrobe
- Love wardrobe capsules
If this is you, let’s consider how you can create your uniform formula. But if it’s not, if you find the capsule too limiting as an idea, you get too bored wearing the same clothes over and over, or you really like to wear quite different looks, depending on your mood (and you are a mood dresser), then going down the uniform path won’t work as well for you (though there are some ideas you can use from this in your larger, more expansive and eclectic wardrobe).
There are some that have been considered to have great style who had a uniform – Audrey Hepburn and Jackie Onassis are two who fall into that category from the past, and Anna Wintour these days has a daily uniform of a print shift dress. Steve Jobs claimed that dressing the same every day, and eating the same breakfast every day let him be more creative in his work life, as it took away some daily decisions.
What’s Your Uniform?
Your uniform may consist of a selection of specific:
- Shapes of garments
- Lengths of garments
- Fabric fibres
- Jewellery styles or pieces
- Shoe shapes
- Other accessories
If you love the uniform concept, think about creating your own formula for putting your outfit together. You may want to look through your current wardrobe, select 5-10 favourite outfits and get them out, put them on, take a photo of yourself in them and then start analysing them.
Wardrobe Capsules, Outfit Formulas and Uniforms – Which is Right for You?
Defining Your Uniform
Look for what about each of the above list is similar in them:
- are there patterns
- are they solid colours
- bright or muted colours
- shapes of outfits – straight, flared, curvy, angular
- fabrics – natural fibres or all non-iron synthetics, crinkle fabrics, smooth fabrics
- sheen or texture
- how do you accessorise them? Belts, scarves, necklaces, bangles, shoes etc.
What are the elements that you see in common with each other?
Anna Wintour’s Uniform
When we take Anna Wintour as an example (see pic at the top of the page) you will notice many similarities in her outfits:
- Straight, or fit and flare
- High necklines
- Necklaces that sits just over the neckline
- Bob hairstyle
- Fine fabrics, frequently some sheen
Even though she’s wearing different dresses, there is a uniform quality to her outfits.
My Kind-of Uniform
In some ways we all have a kind of uniform. Even though I like to have a broader variety of clothing to play with depending on my mood, I also enjoy wearing these elements:
- large scale necklaces
- unusual construction
- brighter colours
- dresses or skirts rather than trousers
- comfortable stretch fabrics
- fluid fabrics
- Flat or lower heel shoes
- Boots in winter
- sheen in fabrics
- bob hairstyle
- fitted clothing (rather than boxy or loose)
What is your uniform? What are the elements of clothing that you’ve noticed that tend to repeat themselves over and over?
Are you stuck in a style rut? Maybe you hate your current uniform and need to branch out to find newer more exciting elements to add into your wardrobe and style.
More Tips on Uniform Dressing
Sick of Thinking About What to Wear? 4 Ways to Deal with Image Burn Out
My current uniform is Jeans + Hoodie. Every single day. I love it because I am definitely a casual comfortable dresser, but at the same time I’m coming up for my 31st birthday in a few days, I’d like to stop wearing the same clothes I did in my student days and look a bit more adult. The problem is that I am so used to it that anything else, even swapping a hoodie for a basic knit sweater feels too dressy and weird and I immediately jump back into my comfort zone!
Platinum – you just have to swap your hoodie, wear it a week, and you’ll have gotten over that ‘too dressy’ feeling. People comment the first few times they see you more ‘dressed up’ but quickly get used to that being the new you!
I so love this. By teaching me to analyse my choices, you are teaching me what I like. Knowing what I like saves me time and LOTS of money. My uniform is natural fabrics, a bit of swish, pearly finishes and small, classic jewellery. Somehow, by analysis perhaps, my preferred natural/ feminine style is fitting in with my uniform. Everything I own is being worn on a regular basis. I have and outfit for every occassion in my diary (and one special outfit in case Bear Grylls calls.) Yes, I am a lover of uniforms.
Interesting you mention both the versatility and style of uniform dressing, and the “rut” side of things. I think the uniform can tip into the rut pretty easily. I lost a jacket that was perfect for me about nine months ago. I loved this jacket. It just worked. I didn’t need anything else, it went with everything. When I lost it, I actually experienced some kind of grief. I didn’t want to be without it, it was the cornerstone of my entire wardrobe, which is not large. Gutted. I found another jacket of similar, but not the same construction, but not a good colour for me. I have a lot of criteria for jackets, I find it really difficult to find something I like. So I’m stuck in a rut with this replacement jacket. I even went to a tailor to find out how much it would cost to get the jacket made again – not cheap.
Reading your blog, yes, doing the “exercises”, has convinced me to look around a bit more at other jacket styles and just have a bit more of a think about whether or not I was over-reliant on “the jacket” – a bit too comfortable? Do I want to stay there, or expand out a bit? Using the garment construction information here, with the proportions measurements info and the “why do you like the top you just pulled out of your wardrobe?” questions, I’ve been able to identify a few different clothing attributes that I really like – so the jacket hunt will be hopefully be more fruitful now.
If you’d asked me a few months ago, I’d have said,
necklaces or scarf all the time
earrings all the time
knee high boots whenever not too hot
AND elegant dresses or pencil skirts and blouses, in general often more formal and dressy than required.
Now that last bit has changed (due to a man no less) and I do wear casual stuff sometimes, like jeans (still darker blue or black, ie more dressy), more informal comfy tops (not only blouses or blazers) and canvas shoes/ankle length boots. He also plaits my hair sometimes, so even that has been tweaked a bit.
How I dress is often mood related though, but it’s amazing how my style evolves and can change even within a few months!
Lol. Which perhaps just means that I’ll find another, slightly different, jacket to live in 😉
Imogen, shouldn’t Anna Wintour know something about ‘image’?! Does the black dress suit her? (I doubt it.) Blonde or not, people just love dressing in black…
Great post. I am definitely a fan of uniform dressing. Makes shopping simpler, frees up precious time and there is still so much variety available within the parameters of the uniform.
I can’t say I’ve having any uniforms (or signature looks is what I would personally call them) nor stuck in a style rut, so I’m guess Im towards ecclectic, but more simplified (classic lines and subtile prints. Texture & Color Blocking over busy prints etc) when it comes to wardrobe building. My personal style isnt really “ecclectic”, just combining different styles together like classic with feminine, not those crazy street styles I see sometime which I associate with ecclectic (like those longue/sport inspired everyday outfits combined with high fashion details that I see on blogs sometimes.) 😛 Overall, my wardrobe is not so structured as I wanted it to be…. or at least for the time being because I prefer having alot of variety. Its not really de-cluttered either because Ive been edited and organized for a year now and tryied to organized it into “capsules”, but I find this a bit tricky because I prefer more variety, both clothing combination, colors, accessories for different occasions. Most of clothes are worn to variety of occasions instead of just one or two, so Im not sure how to asses my wardrobe to my lifestyle yet.
But a few month ago, I found another concept very similare concepts to uniforms, where you use “proportions” rather than uniforms or set of outfits. For example two of my favorite outfits are: Slim Fit Pants/Jeans + Untucked Long Sleeve Blouse with footwear and 3rd piece alternatives AND Knee lenght Skirt with tucked in shirt + cardigan + footwear alternatives. THEN, switching up the proportions of these outfits with other “proportions” (item categories) to get a different look. Im not sure if people understand what Im talking about, but its basically uniforms splitted up into item categories that are mixed and matched, rather than wearing similare outfits. :3
Before, I builded my wardrobe around “moods” (like those elements post you’ve written feminine, natural, classic, creative etc + other articles from other blogs were inspiration for that) and after the clothing formality. The typical methods were you sort your wardrobe by type and color has never worked for me, because that method doesnt take season and formality of an item into consideration (and my wardrobe is too big for that. Not all of my buttoms are on the hangers, some sweaters are in drawers etc). 😛
At last the answer I have been looking for and shown on such a perfect role model, Anna Wintour. I could have saved myself a lot of endless searching if I had seen this post earlier…. and here it is, in simple, clear, precise language and Steve Jobs as well…. brilliant. Successful people, who get things done and live in a simple way. U is for uniform. Excellent. Perfect recipe.
I’ve had a few different self-created uniforms over the years.
When I was giving seminars 20 some years ago, this was my uniform: a navy suit (jacket and skirt) plus an ivory blouse. My travel uniform, while flying to and from the seminar cities: a tweed jacket over a pink or blue oxford cloth shirt, paired with khaki pants.
In retirement my uniform for several years was similar: a navy cardigan, a periwinkle blue tee shirt, plus khaki pants.
Then a few years ago, in an attempt to make things as simple as possible, I started the shift to wearing almost all black. My everyday uniform now: black cardigan, black tee, black pants. For weddings and funerals and other special occasions: black cardigan, black dress.
One reason I like all black: Once or twice a week, my husband and I go to our son and daughter-in-law’s house to take care of our infant grandson. He’s adorable, of course, but he spits up often, sometimes on me. I keep an extra black tee shirt and pants in my tote bag. If needed, I can change either top or bottom. Because everything is black, everything goes together.
Another reason I like all black: traveling. My husband and I travel a few times a year, and we plan to travel much more often in the year ahead. Our daughter and son-in-law live 2,000 miles away, and they’re expecting their first child (our second grandchild) in a few months. So our plane trips soon will become more frequent.
One way to make those trips as easy as possible is to simplify packing. And packing couldn’t be easier when almost all of my clothes are black. Again, everything goes with everything. And all black works so well on the plane. Coffee spills sometimes happen, especially with turbulence. And those stains don’t show on black clothes.
(By the way, I’ve read that Angelina Jolie almost always wears black when she travels.)
Many women would find this extremely boring, I know. But it works for me.
It’s great that you’ve found a uniform that you’re happy with!
I believe that the uniform concept is an anxiety remover. Once you have worked out that receipe for what is flattering and makes you look and feel fabulous, why reinvent the wheel? Who gets tired of looking great?
The idea that a uniform is boring or limiting is probably perpetuated by the fashion industry to make you insecure and therefore eternally searching for that percieved lack. Seriously, there are only so many garment styles, and the ones we are currently wearing have been around a long time. There are always some new wrinkles to consider, but I prefer tried and true over “Is this working for me?”
I think that it runs deeper than just fashion. Some of us prefer more variety, some people find it relaxing and anxiety removing to find a uniform – have you read my post on Options vs Procedures? https://insideoutstyleblog.com/2015/07/abcs-do-you-like-options-or-prefer-procedures.html
My uniform tends to be shift dresses in various styles, patterns and colours, I am a infrequent wearer of a casual looks, I find that wearing more formal looks even when I do not have to do gives me loads more confidence with my image and life in general . I do love the formality of wearing a black skirt suit ,which my friends find strange because some of them have to wear one as part of there dress code for work and cannot wait to change out of them when they get home, where as I do not have to wear a skirt suit take the decision that I want to have that formality and cannot see an issue about them.