steve jobs

There are certain professions that require uniforms, literally: police officers, doctors, fire fighters.

There are also dress codes that govern what we wear in different situations: a lawyer at a client meeting wears a suit, you interview for a job in a suit, you wear a tuxedo or gown to a black-tie event. Then, there are style uniforms.

With the popularity of minimalism and nixing anything in your closet  that doesn’t “spark joy,” the common thread I hear from many of my clients is they want an easier way to live. That easier way can mean different things to different people, but when it comes to closets and style, it often means figuring out your true style, paring down your wardrobe, and spending less time agonizing over clothing, shoes and accessories that don’t reflect who and where you are in your life. We walk our clients through this process everyday on different levels — some clients truly want less when it comes to clothing and some clients like many options. We simply provide them with tools to keep this process streamlined and headache-free no matter the size of their wardrobe.

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Fast forward to last year. A Harper’s Bazaar article that went viral got one of my clients thinking…really thinking. She wanted to make a dramatic change in her style and wardrobe that would eliminate any guesswork with her daily morning routine. She wanted a style uniform. She wanted Michael Kors in his black tee, blazer and aviators. She wanted Steve Jobs in his black turtlenecks (inspired and designed by Japanese designer Issey Mayake, BTW), Mark Zuckerberg in his grey t-shirt,  Fran Lebowitz in her white collared shirts, oversize blazers and light jeans…you get the point. She wanted a signature look that eliminated the “decision fatigue” or chore of everyday dressing. Not only that, she wanted that look to reflect her personal style and, ultimately, be her calling card.

So we got to work.

How to Create a Fashion Uniform

There are certain common threads (pun intended!) to dressing in the same outfit every single day.

1.) Simplicity. A complicated outfit with lots of pattern, bells and whistles, accessories, etc. is hard to duplicate seven days a week every week. It also is extremely memorable. The idea is that the uniform, although part of your signature look, isn’t the thing people remember. They remember you, not the dress you were wearing. Stick with solids or a simple pattern, and classic silhouettes that you can easily purchase again if something needs to be replaced.

2.) Versatility. Your uniform should be appropriate or easily adaptable to a variety of social situations. For example, although Steve Jobs’s turtleneck and jeans worked for him, I wouldn’t recommend it to a client since it is not appropriate for many office dress codes, formal work meetings, etc.  Opt for moderate options — something that could work at an upscale venue, but can also be worn in casual situations without feeling too dressy.

3.) Comfort. Avoid making your signature look something that will not be comfortable to wear on a daily basis.  For example, if you are on your feet during the work day, 3- or 4-inch heels may not be a smart choice.

4.) Transitional. Pay attention to fabric for your uniform. The pieces should be worn across three seasons at least. The more transitional the garments are, the better.

5.) Your signature look does not have to be exactly the same every day (although it can be), but generally the same. For example, Michael Kors  is known for his aviators, a black T-shirt, jeans and sneakers. But look closely and you will see that his jackets vary in length and style — sometimes longer, sometimes shorter. He sticks with his formula, but within that formula he plays with the details. You can still have fun with your uniform, but if a black blazer is part of it, then you know going in that is what you will be buying. Your shopping list is always the same!

MILAN, ITALY - DECEMBER 04:  Michael Kors celebrates Milano opening on December 4, 2013 in Milan, Italy.  (Photo by Stefania D'Alessandro/Getty Images for Michael Kors)

Creating Renata’s Signature Look

The first thing Renata and I did together was discuss her daily schedule with work, family, etc. Renata is a real estate agent in Arlington, Va. She works in an office setting, but also is on-the-go showing clients homes. Her style is Classic American. Think Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, luminous, polished and always put together in her Ralph Lauren.

This meant the pieces we wanted for her would be tailored and timeless…but still of-the-moment and stylish. Separates are always more versatile than one-piece dressing. We settled on a blouse, trousers, low-heel pumps and blazer.  We nixed the idea of a jacket/trouser suit look because it felt too formal (see #2 above).

Grey and black could be dressed up and down easily so we settled on black narrow trousers, grey blazer and white t-shirt blouse. We tried animal print pumps, but decided black was simpler and would be easier to replicate season after season (shoes wear out quickly). We finished her look with a skinny red belt to add a little color.

To start, I recommended five tops, two jackets, three pairs of trousers, two pairs of pumps and one belt. She would then gradually add to total 10 tops, six pairs of trousers, four jackets, three pairs of pumps and two belts. This leaves enough in her closet if something needs to be washed/cleaned, etc. We also added a couple of darker tops, dark skinny jeans for more casual weekend looks that still were part of her uniform.

We selected lightweight three-season wool for her jacket and trousers. For her tops, we selected a variety of silk, cotton blend and viscose.

The Final Look

Renata has been wearing her uniform for two seasons now and the feedback has been enthusiastically positive. Making this change has saved her time and money. It also has been mentally freeing for the busy working mom of two.

“I am loving my uniform.  It has made such a HUGE difference in my life!”

Tell me, would you consider wearing the same thing everyday?

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