The more I develop my personal style, the bigger a believer I am in ‘uniforms.’ Not the kind that you wear verbatim each day, but a semi-focused outfit formula that defines your style. One that you feel amazing and at home in.
Why a uniform? The best reason I can give for a uniform is that it makes getting dressed easier and it defines your signature style.
Uniforms vs. lean closets. I think these two concepts go hand in hand, but they are decidedly unique from each other. The first is all about your style and the pieces that comprise it. The second is a tool that helps you get there. Embracing a lean closet allows you to shape your uniform. Identifying a uniform allows you to function highly off a lean closet.
Here are a few tips to get you started.
1 – Understand your building blocks.
I was getting dressed the other day when I realized the pieces I had on were some major building blocks to my winter uniform. I was wearing my go-to dark jeans, my favorite gray sweater (similar option) and my compliment-magnet boots. It got my wheels turning about sharing with you guys what I’ve learned since slowly identifying a uniform in my winter wardrobe. I think the best way to help you understand the concept is to share how I’ve been doing it.
My winter uniform in a nutshell is about three different looks, a primary, and two alternates. If I were to make a pie chart the primary would be roughly 50% of what I wear and my alternates would take about 30% and 20% respectively. But that’s enough math for now. Let’s get to the ‘specifics’ of the uniforms.
PRIMARY: Straight legs (cropped-ish at the bottom), ankle boots, and a top that is not form fitting nor too long. Below you can see several variations of my primary uniform. It’s not an exact science, but more of a road map of shapes. In the middle photo, I am wearing high-top tennis shoes, but it still adheres to the overall uniform. In the second and fourth pictures my top is longer, but it still has mostly same overall look.
ALT 1: Wide pants, ankle boots, and a closer fitting top. Again you can see slight deviances from the uniform, a clog here, a long shirt there, but the over all silhouette is mostly unchanged.
ALT 2: Dress, wool tights, and chelsea boots. This has been a relatively newer uniform to develop for me, and it’s been fun to expand what I wear a bit. Again, there are slight variances, but the overall effect remains the same.
Looking back on these photos, I did not consciously construct and then adhere to a uniform. Rather my uniform sort of rose out of my most loved and repeated outfit combinations. How do you find these pieces in your closet? Consider your favorite outfits. Go with the packing rule (what would you take on a weekend trip?) Sift through your wardrobe and let the good stuff rise to the top. Consider doing a 10×10, which can be a rapid way to find your uniform and focus in on your style.
2 – A uniform can be understated. A uniform can speak as subtly or as loudly as you want it to. From bold signature looks to an understated style, a uniform follows your lead. It can be as basic as you like, or exotic beyond belief. The most important thing is that it’s you.
3 – Pause before you shop. Don’t let the idea of uniform make you feel like you need to run out and buy more pieces – it’s so tempting, right? I struggle with that too. Instead let it steer you to place value on those key pieces already hanging in your closet. Those two button ups that are part of your uniform, relish how good you feel in them and resolve to wear both of them (again) this week . Own it. Work it. If, after looking through your closet, there is a hole, make a wise purchase to tie your uniform together.
4 – Do your homework. Take some time over the next week to analyze what you love. Maybe take mirror selfies for a few weeks to see what you really like. For some reason a picture can be much more helpful than looking in the mirror. The camera doesn’t lie! (Most of the time.)
5 – Write it down. Putting words to paper keeps it from just floating around your mind and actually sharpens your ideas. The first time I wrote out what I thought my uniform was (either here or on Instagram, I can’t remember), all of a sudden it gave the concept a little more weight. The more I mulled it over in the passing weeks the more I realized I had keyed in on something.
I am not writing this post to tell you to get super analytical about your closet, or do a bunch of work. I do want to encourage you to be mindful of this concept, because with a small amount of effort you can reap a pretty great pay off. In addition to what I said above about simplifying and style clarity, a uniform brings with it a few more benefits.
A uniform allows you to more easily part with safety net items in your closet. I finally let go of distressed skinnies that just weren’t me. I told my friend Lauren that I was keeping them as my safety net, they were my ‘blend in with everyone’ skinny jeans that I felt like I needed because everyone else had them. Guess what? They didn’t fit me the best, and I always wore them in ‘throw away’ outfits. I put them in my ‘to sell‘ pile, and freedom!
A uniform will save you money. It will help guide you to smarter purchases. Consider your uniform before you add something to you closet, especially when looking at higher price points. Does it fit into any of your uniforms? If it falls outside what you naturally love to wear, investing $300 might not be a good idea.