Some people have to wear prescribed uniforms for school or work. I remember my mom in her white nurse’s uniform during my growing up years. She enjoyed the ease of getting ready for work and the fact that she didn’t have to put much thought into what she wore. Conversely, a lot of kids who attend private schools lament the fact that they must wear a uniform, as they are unable to express their individuality through what they wear.
A Different Kind of “Uniform”
This post is about a different kind of “uniform.” Many people come up with a formula for getting dressed that works for them, and they use this formula when creating their daily ensembles. A famous example of this is Joan Rivers, comedienne and co-host of the show “Fashion Police.” Not long after I started watching “Fashion Police,” I noticed that all of Joan’s outfits are comprised of the following:
- Black top
- Black pants (occasionally, she’ll substitute a black dress for the top and pants)
- Colorful or flashy blazer
- Statement jewelry (necklace, earrings, bracelets, rings)
- Pumps or other closed-toe shoes (often colorful as well)
The blazers, jewelry, and shoes vary widely, but the black under-layer always stays the same. Here’s are a few examples of Joan’s “uniform” (source: Fashion Police Facebook page):
The “Uniforms” I Wear
While I don’t host a national television show or appear on stage in front of thousands of people (perhaps one day…), I do have a few basic “uniforms” that I wear for the various occasions of my life. Here are the three basic outfit formulas I wear on a regular basis (I also include scarves or statement necklaces in many of my ensembles):
Uniform #1 – For Winter / Cooler Months
Long sleeved top, pants/jeans, long coat, boots/heels
Uniform #2- For Moderate Weather (Spring/Fall)
T-shirt or tank, pants/jeans, open cardigan, ballet flats or pumps
Uniform #3 – For Summer / Warmer Months
Skirt or dress, blazer, sandals
Project 333 and My “Uniforms”
When you look at the images above, my “uniforms” are plain to see. However, I didn’t think much about the concept of “uniform dressing” until I took on the Project 333 challenge. Over my ten weeks of Project 333 thus far, I’ve worn one of my uniforms so often that I’ve become sick of it! If you’ve been reading my Project 333 updates, I’m sure you know I’m referring to formula #2 – the pants, tee, and open cardigan formula.
“Uniforms” Have Their Ups and Downs…
Identifying my own uniforms and experiencing “uniform overload” got me thinking about the pros and cons of this type of dressing. While dressing according to an outfit formula is a great fit for some people, others may find it limiting or boring.
I’d love to get your input on how outfit formulas have or have not worked in your lives. But first, let’s look at what I see as the positive and negative aspects to uniform dressing…
The Pros of Uniform Dressing
Dressing by means of a formula has a number of benefits, including the following:
It’s Easier to Put Together an Outfit
I’m sure it’s much easier for Joan Rivers to put her “Fashion Police” outfits together than it is for her co-hosts, who seem to vary their looks much more widely. If you have one or more outfit formulas in place, getting dressed can be much easier – and faster, too.
Lots of Mix and Match Options
If you use the same types of items in your outfits and own quite a few of each item type, you can easily create many ensembles by mixing and matching your pieces. The reason I included five open cardigans and ten knit tops in my Project 333 capsule was so I could create a seemingly endless number of combinations. I reasoned I would experience more variety and less boredom that way (sadly, I still got bored – more on that below).
It’s easier to shop when you only wear a few different types of items. For example, since Joan Rivers only wears black tops and pants, she probably doesn’t even look at other colors or prints of these items when shopping. She (or whoever shops for her) simply makes a beeline over to the blazers, shoes, and accessories departments to do the bulk of her shopping.
A Signature Style
Many people like being known for dressing a certain way. Wearing a “uniform” can definitely help you cultivate a signature style. This can make it easier for others to shop for you, plus you’re easier to pick out in a crowd! I know one woman who always wears all black and another who primarily dresses in white ensembles. I know what to expect when I see these women because they always use the same formulas when putting their outfits together.
The Downside of Wearing a “Uniform”
While the benefits above are certainly compelling, there are also some drawbacks to uniform dressing:
While some people can be quite happy using one or a few outfit formulas for many years, others are happier when they shake things up a bit more. Since I gave myself so few options in my Project 333 capsule, I became bored with wearing pants, tees, and open cardigans so much of the time. I’m looking forward to incorporating new options for getting dressed when I re-visit the rest of my wardrobe following Project 333.
Buying Too Many of One Thing
Sometimes when a person finds a formula for getting dressed that works for her, she may go overboard in buying the components of that formula. Such has been the case for me with coats, blazers, and open cardigans. I simply bought too many of these types of items, especially during the past few years. I erred by thinking that if I like a certain type of garment, I should buy as many as I can (to increase my options, of course).
This philosophy has gotten me into trouble and has contributed to both my boredom and over-shopping. I was compelled to shop more to increase my wardrobe excitement, but I was going about it the wrong way!
Lack of Creativity and Originality
During the course of Project 333, I started to feel like many of my outfits looked very similar, despite the fact that I had included a number of color and pattern options within my capsule. However, since the shapes of the garments were much the same, the overall look of my ensembles wasn’t as varied as I would have liked.
I did my best to shake things up through new color combinations and the use of accessories. Still, I could have been much more creative had I included a wider variety of garment silhouettes within my Project 333 wardrobe. Uniform dressing can only be so original and creative, I learned.
It’s Hard to Change the Formula
Once you have so many of the same types of items, it can be difficult to create new outfit formulas, especially if your style aesthetics change. For a long time, I liked midi length skirts and wide-leg pants and bought far too many of each.
When my tastes changed and I started to prefer knee-length skirts and straight-leg pants, I had to either alter my existing garments or start over again. It would have been much better to have purchased just a few long skirts and wide pants. That way, I wouldn’t have had to choose between spending a lot of money on alterations and feeling guilty for not wearing many of the clothes in my closet.
As I mentioned, uniform dressing works really well for some people. If you’re one of those people, then as they say, “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it!” As for me, I feel the need to break out of the uniform mold or at least add a few more uniform options to the mix.
Now that I am shopping more consciously and inviting my brain to participate in the process along with my emotions, I will buy more strategically in the future. That means I’ll buy a few blouses instead of more knits and consider different topper options for my outfits. I’ll also try on a variety of new silhouettes to see if I can find other garment types to love. I’ll buy less and think more.
If I hadn’t taken on Project 333, I doubt I would have noticed that I was dressing in a “uniform.” I could see it in Joan Rivers but not in myself. Now that I see the patterns, I will vary them more often. I’m sure I’ll still sport my three “uniforms” from time to time (or even much of the time), but I definitely won’t wear them all of the time!
What Do You Think?
I would love your thoughts on the concept of “uniform dressing.” Do you have outfit formulas that you use when getting dressed? Do you have other pros and cons to add to my list?
What has been your experience in wearing a “uniform” of sorts? I always value your comments and I look forward to reading your thoughts on this interesting topic!