A Personal Uniform
Simplify your wardrobe down to the one style you love, and where to buy it.
In 2018, we wrote an article on designing your personal uniform. The guidelines are simple: quality over quantity, style over fashion, and function and versatility above all. Start with cleaning out your closet, orient your uniform around what’s left, and consider a shopping hiatus to ensure that, as you begin to purchase items with a personal uniform in mind, you’re cultivating a wardrobe that will stand the test of time.
But where does one begin, really? The personal uniform has become a popular concept, but many of us have tried to design our own personal uniform only to find that we tire of it over time, or it no longer suits us after just a couple of months. The social distancing brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent changes to work arrangements has meant that, for many of us, our day-to-day is more casual than it was before. That, or we did so many closet cleanouts over those months that we’re now left with only one or two outfits we can confidently wear out of the house.
We’re diving deeper into the personal uniform to help you curate a wardrobe that works for you: you’ll save time getting dressed every morning, you’ll save money on the impulse purchase you might wear once before deciding it was a mistake, and you’ll have several reliable outfits that you feel good in no matter the occasion.
Articulating your personal style requires that you know how you want to look based on what you already look good in. In the Financial Times, Lauren Indvik writes that ‘pinpointing your personal style is about finding the (probably rather narrow) overlap between what suits you and what you like.’ A good place to start is to take stock of the outfits you already reach for again and again. These are likely pieces you feel good in. Indvik suggests taking photos of these outfits to keep in a folder on your phone. You might be surprised by the pieces populating this album over time. This tends to be a more effective practice than creating a vision board based on images taken from websites and magazines because you’re working with clothing that works on you, not on the model being paid to wear it.
Indvik also entreats us to ‘repeat, repeat, repeat.’ Buying similar shapes and cuts of clothing makes the accessories you own more functional. Indvik buys or hems her skirts to be the same length as her pants so that her shoes go with a greater number of items. My personal uniform is a white tee shirt, a pair of well-tailored trousers, and a long jacket. I have several of each item in various colors, but they are cut similarly so that I can wear boots or flats, add a statement necklace depending on the occasion, and choose a weight of both trouser and jacket that suits the season. Your personal uniform might be a long-sleeved dress, a blazer over blue jeans, or a black sweater over white Levi 501s with a Charvet scarf wrapped around your neck, as is editor and stylist Tonne Goodman’s.
Tonne Goodman, Editor and Stylist
Photo courtesy of Town & Country
For inspiration, you can also look over the websites of brands you love and from which you’ve bought and kept clothes in the past. Several brands are notable for their contemporary and minimalist silhouettes that can become the versatile staples of your personal uniform:
These lines encourage uniform dressing, in that they reissue the same pieces over their collections, so you will be able to find what has become your go-to blazer in a new color appropriate for spring and in yet another come fall.
Some of these brands even offer styling or at least the suggestion of styling:
Net – A – Porter has curated these fifteen pieces.
Tibi founder Amy Smilovic has started offering classes on Instagram based around her ethos of ‘creative pragmatism.’
The Frankie Shop features a page on its website called the ‘Everyday Formula,’ that pulls pieces from their collection to help you ‘build a contemporary wardrobe that works for you.’
Classic tote $248
Cuyana’s tagline is ‘fewer, better,’ promoting the practice of investing in pieces you can love for a long time over cycling through fast fashion to keep up with trends that come and go.
If you like Glamour magazine’s personal uniform, they have done the shopping for you and found 23 “wardrobe essentials”.
As Tonne Goodman writes, a uniform gives you ‘one less thing to have to worry about, so you can be more creative.’ It seems Anna Wintour, Steve Jobs, and Albert Einstein would agree.
Earlier ASE articles on this topic: