In last week’s Encore post of Simple Is A Tool, the subject of “uniforms” came up in comments. While we might tend to think of a “uniform” as a single notable look such as Steve Jobs’ jeans and black turtlenecks or Anna Wintour’s knee-length dresses, it doesn’t have to be quite so rigid. Duchesse in the comments described her uniform as those items she reaches for again and again. Rosie mentioned “knowing what designers work for me and sticking with what works.” Both of those statements align with how I’ve come to envision and build a workable uniform.
Relying on a few basic styles as a wardrobe foundation has simplified getting dressed considerably! Each woman will have her own list of “Basics,” but mine (summer version) include variations of what you see above:
- Jeans (skinny, straight, bootcut…all in various washes). I live and work in Southern California, and there are few venues here where jeans could not be worn. (Styles shown above here and here.)
- Black trousers/pants. When I want to dress up a bit more, or just need a change from the jeans. (I mostly stick to slim/straight styles but am wearing the slightly wider-leg J.Crew Curator pants shown above quite a bit this summer.)
- Tees and lightweight sweaters (short and 3/4 sleeve, scoop-neck, v-neck and boatneck styles). Silk jersey dresses up or down. Linen and cotton knits in mostly slouchy or A-line cuts. (Shown above here and here.)
- Jackets. “Softly structured,” simple cuts. Throwing on a jacket makes jeans and a tee feel office-appropriate. I also like the structure they add to an outfit. Eileen Fisher tropical suiting jacket shown above: misses, petite, womens.
Keeping my basics within a range of neutrals (black, white, navy, denim) maximizes the number of possible combinations. In comments last week on this post, Sandy asked how I’m able to acquire so many outfits. My answer was that I don’t think in terms of acquiring outfits, but rather acquiring (and keeping!) pieces that are versatile and can be combined easily with other items in my wardrobe.
I’ve learned that trying to limit myself to a single color or silhouette feels too restrictive and have come to recognize and respect the need for some variety and novelty in my wardrobe. For the most part, I’ve looked to accessories (shoes, bags, scarves, jewelry) to freshen my basics, but I’ve also found that a well-selected stable of reliable workhorses can help settle the occasional “spirited filly” too.
Another advantage to my know-what-works uniform is that shopping is simplified. Rather than agonizing over a vast range of styles, brands and fabrics, I’m able to do the majority of my “basics” shopping online which is now mostly about replenishing/replacing worn out or the occasionally outdated pieces. I stick to retailers that offer free shipping (and returns) and will sometimes order multiple sizes of an item if I’m not sure of the fit, and then promptly return what doesn’t work. I’ll usually shop in person when I want to try a new-to-me style or just get some “re-mix” inspiration, but I rarely spend more than an hour or two per week browsing on foot (and some of that is doing bloggy research, which provides cover 😉 ). Getting to this point has required a substantial investment of time and a lot of trial and error over the past few years. I finally feel as though I’m on wardrobe “autopilot” a good percentage of the time, but a change in circumstances at some point in the future might require recalibration.
Other items shown above: Link Necklace: Nest // Striped Sweater: Eileen Fisher // Ankle Strap Heels: Sam Edelman // Denim Jacket: J.Crew (similar) // Watch: JORD // Leopard Flats: Steve Madden // Floral Blouse: J.Crew // Metallic Flats: J.Crew // Bracelet: Nest // Pendant Necklace: French Kande
Do you have a core wardrobe of basics? What are your criteria for choosing them? Are there certain pieces you find yourself wearing more than others?
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