The first few years of my school life were spent wearing a uniform. Not surprising for a former communist country, where for years, individuality was anathema. To add insult to injury, our uniforms were ugly. For girls, they were dark brown dresses with white collars, coupled with (I kid you not) aprons: black for every day, white for special occasions. Everyone looked the same and no one stood out.
The nineties marched on, however, and soon schools all over the country got rid of uniforms in favor of regular clothes. This was a welcome change in many ways, but it also created many complications. Clothes soon became a way to assert one’s socio-economic status, and in a public school that taught kids from all walks of life, this meant that disparities in income were acutely felt. Our poor teachers had to adapt to a completely new way of thinking; they also had to spend too much of their time policing the short skirts and the outrageous hairdos. And at the end of the day, we didn’t look all that different from one another, since we were all victims of the same fashion trends.
Whether you like the idea of uniforms or not, you have to admit that they make life (or at least the process of dressing) a lot simpler. These days, the military and health care workers are not the only ones who wear them. Uniforms are everywhere: the t shirt / jeans combo of a techie; the capris / flip flops / polo shirt uniform of a stay-at-home mom; the standard suit of an office worker. But today’s style uniforms also come at a cost of losing one’s individuality and often wearing things that simply do not fit or flatter. Does this mean we should forget style uniforms altogether?
My answer (and it may surprise some of you) is no. In and of itself, the concept of a style uniform is sound, and it is not the problem here. The problem is the fact that we use style uniforms as props to avoid facing ourselves and the way we appear to the outside world. We think, “I don’t have time or money to shop.” Or, “It’s difficult to find things in my size. Shopping is so discouraging.” Or, “I just want to be comfortable.” So we put off dealing with our style and simply adopt the easiest fashion uniform we can find. This is how NOT to do uniforms.
The key to getting the benefits of a style uniform, i.e., simplicity, comfort, and affordability, while still looking great, lies in a simple change of attitude. Instead of automatically adapting a commonly used fashion uniform, use yourself as a starting point to create one of your own. It doesn’t have to be expensive or elaborate, but it must be whatever looks (and feels) great on you. Why wear jeans and a t shirt all the time, if you look so much better in an A-line skirt, for example? And in that case, why not stock your closet with a few flattering A-line skirts in neutral colors and a bunch of pretty and simple tops that you can mix and match? And if you absolutely need to wear pants, why not go for a pair in a soft, drapey fabric that will hug your curves so much better than stiff jeans, and still be comfortable? You have so many options, if only you choose to open yourself to the possibility.
Along with understanding your body and what looks good on it as a way to create a uniform, try this exercise. Imagine if you only had one outfit to wear for the rest of your life. What would it be? It can be anything you want, anything at all. Often it will be something impractical, but don’ t let that stop you. Once you know what your dream outfit is, consider how you would adapt it to your everyday life. Is it a dressy suit? Consider well-fitting trousers and simple blazers you can mix and match. Is it a gorgeous dress and killer heels? Look for a simpler dress in a style that flatters your body, paired with flats or pretty (and still comfortable) wedges. The important thing is to switch your thinking mode from “automatic” to “aware.”
Style uniforms can be incredibly useful, and creating one of your very own can be a lot of fun. A well-chosen individual style uniform will save you lots of time and money in the long run. And as long as you use yourself as the source of inspiration, you can count on always looking great and stylish in your uniform.