Why Not . . . Choose a Work Week “Uniform”?

Sep 07, 2016

You have 4 free post views remaining this month.

Become a subscriber and view posts without restrictions.

Why Not . . . Choose a Work Week%22Uniform%22?

“Beauty of style and harmony and grace and good rhythm depend on simplicity.” —Plato

Diane Sawyer in her crisp white button-up top, collar popped; Ina Garten in her custom made dark-hued tonic top; Diane von Furstenberg in her loose eponymous shift dress, Emmanuelle Alt in her skinny black pants, slub tees and blazer finished with simply marvelous chic heels.

All of these women have their signature uniform. They may change up the color, they may change up the accessories, but the formula remains the same. Why? Because it works. And it works very well.


New York Fashion Week begins today officially and as we watch the fashion elite walk the Manhattan pavement, being captured by street style photogs at Lincoln Center and sitting along the runway, it’s important to note that most of us don’t have the job requirement of looking different each day regarding the outfits we choose. In fact, the beauty, for those of us who strive for simplicity, is that we can choose a primary “uniform”. And today I would like to demonstrate how the luxurious part of choosing a work week uniform can very much be part of this simplistic choice.

A weekend uniform is something I wrote about in 2010 when Rachel Zoe’s first book came out. My ideal is skinny jeans, a simple tee or camisole, a trench, ballet flats and I am set for any casual outing, but what about the work week? Do you have a uniform? A go-to general outfit that not only do you feel confident in, but you look your best?

Those who are passionate about the fashion-end may not gravitate toward this idea, but I would argue even they could make a work uniform of their choosing, unique each and every day. After all, the goals of selecting a work uniform are to establish a professional presence (based on your job’s expectations) and allow you to do your best at your job (not confining mobility or reducing confidence). With that in mind, you could probably ask my students what my work uniform was and they wouldn’t have to think twice before sharing because I do have 2-3 set outfit constructs that I adhere to nearly without fail. These have changed over the years as I have grown into my style, I’ve been able to purchase more quality pieces and I’ve become more clear about who I am and needed less to “try-out” various styling ideas.

So, what is my work week uniform? Stay tuned and I will share at the end of the post. Now, the benefits of incorporating this fashion concept into your everyday work routine:

1. Fewer choices in the morning = more willpower

What seemed like a trifle piece of information in an Atlantic profile piece in 2010 of President Obama has become a piece of information shared widely by not only fashion mags, but self-help gurus around the internet regarding how to approach daily routines, and even how to be a better leader. A navy suit every day for nearly every occasion eliminates an unnecessary decision, thereby not depleting our finite reserve of willpower. And since willpower is vital for making good decisions and performing at our best, knowing what we’re going to wear in the morning just eliminates one decision that helps kick off the day on the right foot.

2. Look your best

Once you have taken the time to observe what works well with your figure, your curves, and have chosen a uniform that you want to wear in some form or fashion each day during the work week, you will look your best. The time it takes to discover what your uniform is, that reveals your signature style, is worth the investment, and each time you slip on your pencil skirt or pull on your perfectly tailored trousers that hit at just the right spot above your ankles, you know you are going to shine every time.

3. Exude confidence

#2 is the cause for #3. When you look your best, and you are certain of this, your confidence is apparent. No worries about tugging or shifting or walking a certain way. Instead you are walking tall and striding strong. And that confidence is magnetic for many wonderful reasons.

4. Investment purchases make more sense

The gift to your budget is that when you know what your signature style is and therefore your work uniform, you know exactly what is worth purchasing. If a classic white collared button-up blouse is a regular item, you will understand that purchasing Saint Laurent’s silk crepe shirt while expensive will be an item that you will wear many times and for many seasons. Therefore the cost per wear makes it a wise purchase.

5. A simple change makes a big difference

Now the idea of a uniform does not mean you are wearing the same exact clothing each day. Rather it means you stick to a pattern. Perhaps A-line skirts and simple crew-neck sleeveless shell tops paired with ballet flats are your preference. If that is the case, you will have 2-4 skirts you love in your closet that can pair interchangeably with a handle of different, similar styled tops. The shoes too will be different, but the heel height, for example, would remain the same. Another example, if sheath dresses are your favorite and work well for your work environment, you may be a fan of Black Halo, DVF, and Ann Taylor. And so it isn’t the same dress everyday, but it is the same silhouette and each day a different flattering color, neckline and/or design detail.

With any uniform you choose, the accessories will make and immediately change the outfit: the shoes, the broach, the earrings, necklace, belt, and don’t forget the scarf. The accessories can be a lot of fun to shop for. As was mentioned in yesterday’s Style Inspiration, a handbag can make a powerful statement, so have fun finding one that you love and that completes whichever outfit you choose to wear.

6. Focus on what is important

When you aren’t worried about your outfit, when you know you look your best enabling your confidence to be sound and assured, you can focus on the task, the job, the people that you are working with. Style is the vehicle that enables you to live the life you want;  it isn’t the reason to live your life or why you make the money you make (unless you work in the fashion industry). Maximize the power of this invaluable tool, but if you aren’t head over heels about fashion, don’t worry. Simply choose a uniform that works and stick to it. Keep it simple.

7. Become your own brand

A few years ago I shared an episode of the podcast about how to become your own brand, and part of your brand is your wardrobe. Even more so, if you have a uniform, your uniform becomes associated with you. What statement do you want your clothing to make? Much like the tone of someone’s voice, your clothing can set a tone as well. Sloppy or smart? Effortless and chic or loud and aggressive? None of these are bad depending upon the work you have to do and the impression you want to make. So what do you want your brand to be?

My brand has always been to achieve a simply luxurious approach to dressing. Quality clothing that works for me and simplicity that allows my work and personality to shine. I am not saying that has worked all of the time, and I know since my twenties, I have evolved, but at the core throughout all of these years, my goal has been the same. For quite some time I have been wearing pencil skirts, silk blouses and heels. I also have become a fan of the blazer, camisole, fitted jeans and ballet flats, boots or heels. And don’t forget the wrap dress. As you can see I have about three uniforms that I usually gravitate toward and what my closet provides. In ten years time this may change, but for now I love it, I trust it and I love to tweak it a little here and there. For example, the midi length is an exciting change that I am wholeheartedly embracing when it comes to adding new pencil skirts.

Whatever you work uniform becomes, have fun coming up with it, listen to yourself, honestly look at yourself in the mirror and then invest in your wardrobe gradually. It will be worth it for more than just the compliments and more so for how you feel and the productive life you will live.


~Why Not . . . Accessorize the Work Week?

~Why Not . . . Create Your Own Signature Style?

~Why Not . . . Build a Capsule Wardrobe on a Budget?

~Shop TSLL Capsule Wardrobe here (hand-picked items for All-Season, Fall and Spring wardrobes)

~Shop TSLL 2016 Fall Shopping Guide here



Image: source

9 thoughts on “Why Not . . . Choose a Work Week “Uniform”?

  1. I totally agree with the concept of a uniform for making life easier. I fell into my own signature style a few years ago and tried to fight it, but those rouge items of clothing always ended up at the Goodwill! Now I am perfectly happy with my wardrobe…I only own black dresses (no skirts or pants of any kind). I teach high school English, Journalism, Speech, and Drama and feel that by teaching Drama, I am able to “get away with” more flamboyant accessories! So although every item in my closet is a black dress, the styles vary greatly which allow me to create different looks. My school colors are black and white so on those “jeans and t-shirt” days, my students look forward to how I pimp out the school shirt with my signature black dress! Fun!

  2. I love the story about Obama. Inspirational!
    On a similar note, read Matilda Kahl’s story from 2015 in Harper’s Bazaar (online) about “Why I wear the exact same thing to work every day.”
    The Vivienne Files blog is a wonderful resource for minimalist but not boring wardrobe planning.

  3. I have a capsule wardrobe and have a “uniform” for work and for play. I find I like classic simple pieces that fit well (crew neck cashmere sweater with pencil skirt) and kick it up a notch with scarves, good bags and shoes, good grooming and a smile!

    I consider myself a minimalist and was also inspired by President Obama’s system and Matilda Kahl’s story. Mornings are a breeze and I agree with the idea of a personal brand as it translates into projecting consistency and that you are comfortable with yourself. Good article!

  4. Absolutely! Working in construction management, most of my days are on a jobsite, which adds a whole new layer of consideration to my wardrobe. I need practical, hard wearing items that are still professional and have a touch of femininity in a male-dominated field. I keep it simple, button ups or simple blouses (no frills), chinos or dark wash denim, cardigan or blazer (to ward against the A/C), and loafers or oxfords when I’m not wearing work boots. I usually limit accessories to earrings and maybe a delicate necklace. Emmanuelle Alt is my ultimate inspiration! (I have an entire pinterest board dedicated to her!)

  5. I’ve spent a lot of time in the past year contemplating what my uniform is and coming up with something that works well in an office environment but I still feel pretty in.I love just-below-the-knee skirts and dresses for this reason, but they are SUPER hard to find nowadays. I tend to gravitate toward vintage reproduction clothing because I love the style from the 50s/ early 60s. Everyone just seems so put together all the time, they exude elegance to me.

    I have a fall/winter uniform with 1-3 combinations, usually with jewel tones, gray, white/cream or black with gold, silver, sapphire or pearl jewelry:
    1. Pencil dress + cardigan/blazer + tights and knee high boots
    2. Pencil skirt + sweater + tights and knee high boots
    3. Knee length dress + cardigan + tights and knee high boots

    I normally wear a trench with scarf and leather gloves if its not too cold and then a long wool coat if it is very cold. (I live near Portland, OR so it’s normally the trench.) I am dying for a Lilli Ann wool jacket with a fabulous fur collar that stops at the knee rather than the ankle like with my current wool coat.

    I think of my fall/winter uniform as very 60s a la Joan Hollaway from Mad Men (though the footwear is a bit different). I do love to pair a high neck dress with a longer necklace for this reason. I have a watch on a chain that looks very cute (and functional!).

    My spring/summer wardrobe trends more toward 50s/early 60s with peach, turquoise, white, yellow, lavender, baby blue:
    1. Sleeveless Day dresses with nipped in waists and circle skirts, in fun prints + cropped cardigan + ballet flats.
    2. Circle skirt + t-shirt + ballet flats
    3. Pencil skirt + blazer + heels

    I tend to like patterns with the above colors, when have corresponding cardigans so I can mix and match pretty easily.

    I get a lot of comments about how I dress, since it trends toward vintage so much and I wear dresses/skirts 99% of the time. I enjoy it though, feel comfortable, and always know that I look great, so it feels like it prepares me for any situation.

    Love the post, Shannon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *