My Work (And Life) Uniform

[A version of this post first appeared on Medidata Express, my company Medidata’s Jive-powered intranet]

Back in April, I read this Harper’s Bazaar article: Why I Wear The Same Exact Thing to Work Every Day.

As soon as I finished, I knew I needed my own work uniform. Not only do I waste way too much time in the morning trying on clothes I don’t like, I tend to gravitate towards the same few pieces. I have a closet full of clothes that I begrudgingly wear.

I wear them because they’re warm, or because they were expensive, or because they’re the only thing I own that serves this purpose or that purpose. I wear them because “no one will really see me” that day.

I wear clothes even if I don’t like how the color looks on me or the fit or the fabric or the style. I constantly feel like I have nothing to wear, when the reality is that I have nothing to wear that I like.

A work uniform solves this problem.

I know people have differing opinions about this. “But clothing is how I express myself.” Or, as my friend and colleague Danielle said yesterday, “Will you wear fun pants? No? Well I like colors and prints too much to do that.”

Danielle cares about wearing colors and prints. I don’t.

I don’t want to have to think in the morning. I make so many decisions every day, and I don’t want deciding what to wear to be one of them.

What I do want is to feel confident and comfortable with the first thing I pull out of my closet. That means not owning clothes that aren’t comfortable or flattering. It means finding what works, and wearing just that.


Choosing My Work Uniform

I barely had to put any thought into what my uniform would be. I gravitate towards my black tops. If I know I’ll be meeting people for the first time, like my job interview and first day at my job, I wear black. In fact, I wore black to my first day at the last three jobs I had before coming here!

So why should the way I like to make a first impression be different than any other day? I know how I feel my best. Why not feel my best every day?

Here was my plan:

In the summer, I would wear (mostly) black dresses. I already had a closet full of those. And in the fall, winter and spring I would wear black shirts.

Dori wearing blackWearing black: From work uniform to life uniformAs for pants, that was easy: jeans. Jeans to work, and sweats or yoga pants on the weekend (my “work uniform” is actually becoming a “life uniform”). If I need to dress more nicely for any reason, I own dress pants in gray, black and beige. I donated all my brown dress pants since I no longer had use for them: I can’t wear a black top with brown pants!


Implementing My Work Uniform

This was the trickier part. When I read this article back in April, I decided I would slowly buy more black shirts and start implementing my work uniform in the fall. I like my summer dresses, so this season didn’t concern me as much.

Of course, replacing a wardrobe takes time. It is a costly endeavor, especially since I decided (like the author of the article) to only buy quality pieces after I noticed I avoided wearing my lower quality clothes, even the black ones, because they stopped being flattering after a season or two.

After reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (which truly was life changing) I realized the importance of only owning clothing that sparks joy. I use the wording from the book in jest and I know how ridiculous that sounds, so let me rephrase: I realized the importance of only owning clothing I want to wear.

That means I don’t buy or keep anything I feel meh about. If I am on the fence, it is not for me. If it means spending more for a sweater, I spend more. And in the end I’ll save money because once I have enough clothing, I won’t need more. A few black sweaters, a few black tank tops, a few black t-shirts, a few black long sleeves.

If I find something I love, I buy more than one. If I ever find that perfect black sweater, I’ll buy 10. Then I can spend my time on things far more important to me than shopping, like my dog.

A Work In Progress

I’m proud of the progress I’ve made so far. I recently donated more bags of non-black clothing in perfect condition than I can count. As I buy new black tops, I’ll continue donating what’s left.

“Today, I not only feel great about what I wear, I don’t think about what I wear.” – Matilda Kahl

I already feel better about what’s in my closet. Getting dressed to come to work has been super easy these last two weeks. I’ve felt comfortable every day (clothing wise – I’m still getting there work wise!) and the best part? I don’t have to worry about how I look.

I already know how I look.