Simplicity, productivity, and the personal uniform.

Simplicity, productivity, and the personal uniform.

I’m fascinated by—and a little jealous of—highly productive people who wear the same thing every day.

I know I struggle with decision fatigue, but that doesn’t make me unique. We all do. Each decision we make throughout the day takes a toll on our finite amount of mental energy.

That’s why people like Steve Jobs, Albert Einstein, and even President Obama adopted a personal uniform.

I’ve been thinking of doing it myself.

In high school, I was envious of my Catholic school friends who wore the same skirt, polo, and cardigan to school every day. When they rolled out of bed every morning they knew exactly what they would wear. To my high school self, that meant they could sleep for the extra fifteen minutes I had to spend choosing my outfit for the day.

closet full of stripes

I’ve heard style gurus speak about the effectiveness of limiting the colors of your wardrobe. Pick two or three complimentary colors and make them “yours,” and you’re well on your way to looking great every day, with very little effort.

I tried limiting my wardrobe to two colors for a while—black and French blue—and quickly abandoned it. I got bored. But I was younger then, and didn’t care as much about avoiding decision fatigue. Would it be different for me now?

Generally speaking, the personal uniform seems much easier for a man to pull off. Did you read about the Australian newscaster who wore the same suit every day for a year as a social experiment? No one noticed.

But even he said there was no way his female co-anchor could have gotten away with that without drawing commentary.

carrie donovan

As a woman, the idea of tightly constricting my wardrobe feels a little scary.

Yet there are women who pull it off.

Choreographer Twyla Tharp wears the same workout clothes and leg warmers every day, as part of her unvarying daily routine. She’s adamant about saving as much mental energy as possible for her craft.

Many women in fashion successfully pull off the personal uniform. Carrie Donovan, a retired editor from Vogue and Harper’s, wore all black with a string of pearls and huge eyeglasses. Grace Coddington of Vogue wears all black these days.

Anna Wintour rainbow

Even Anna Wintour, editor-in-chief of Vogue, has been wearing a variation of the same uniform since the ’80s: a blouse, jacket, and a-line skirt, plus her razor-sharp bob and dark sunglasses, which she calls her “personal armor.”

This summer, I noticed that I had fallen into a uniform of my own, quite accidentally. Every day I wore a striped shirt (one of a dozen slightly different designs), neutral bottoms, and silver sandals. I loved it, because I rolled out of bed knowing exactly what I would wear that day: the next shirt hanging in my closet and whatever bottoms happened to be clean.

The change of seasons has reinforced how much I enjoyed that summer simplicity. In the early fall I wore simple tees and thin sweaters, with jeans and a scarf, every day. But now that it’s suddenly cold outside I need to refine my idea of what I want my daily outfits to look like, because I’m already begrudging the mental energy I’m expending on wintry layers.

I feel a little silly writing something like “figure out a daily uniform” on my to-do list, but I’m inspired by those people who consciously streamline their daily decisions—like what they eat or what they wear—so they can be more efficient in their work and their relationships.

I’m hoping there’s a sweet spot between cheerful dressing for the ordinary days and saving my mental energy for more important things.

What are your tips for striking that balance? 

P.S. Dress for the day; dress for the life.

Personal Uniform

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169 comments

  1. Morgan says:

    I don’t have a personal uniform, but I definitely have my wardrobe streamlined to just a few complementary colors, and they all go with a base of black. This keeps shoes, purses, and other accessories super simple as well. We live overseas, travel frequently, and have no closets in our flat, so keeping a simple wardrobe was born out of necessity. But I love it–I spend very little time thinking about what I will wear, and it makes shopping so much easier. I used to get overwhelmed by choice, but now I immediately eliminate anything that won’t fit into the simple parameters of my wardrobe, so usually only 2 or 3 things in a shop will stand out to me.

  2. Lori says:

    I’ve been thinking about having a more intentional personal uniform. I sort of do now as I wear a shirt with a cardigan every day to work with a pair of pants. It is kind of getting boring though but as I’m nursing/pumping it is the easiest thing to wear. But I like the idea of having the guess work taken out of what I’m going to wear. I want the decision to be simple but the outfit to make me feel good. One of the pieces of the uniform I’m considering adopting is wearing only black or grey bottoms. I have realized recently that I like scoop neck shirts and do not like crew neck shirts. That helps to keep my focus if I am shopping.

    • Anne says:

      Did you see the comments here? You wouldn’t be the only one to adopt a black-bottoms-only rule. (And that’s such a great discovery about scoop neck vs. crew neck. It’s amazing to me how empowering simple realizations like that can be when it comes to dressing and shopping.)

      • Lori says:

        Glad to see that others follow that same guideline and find that it works well. I think I’m going to pursue it once I’m done nursing. Something fun to look forward to!

  3. Ashley says:

    This makes me think of The Rosie Project (I just finished, thank you for the recommendation!) And Don’s standard meal plan. I want a standard meal plan. LOL I also love this concept!! I’m seriously thinking of drastically reducing my wardrobe in the new year and trying this.

    • Anne says:

      Bwahaha! I was thinking of The Rosie books when I was writing this, but for a different reason (although the standard meal plan application is terrific). I was thinking of how Don did well in small social groups, but each person who joined the group exponentially increased the number of potential interactions. With clothes that looks like: ten t-shirts and one pair of jeans = ten outfits; ten t-shirts and two pairs of jeans = twenty, and so on… 🙂

  4. Emily says:

    Have you come across the idea of a “capsule” wardrobe (begun, I believe, by the blogger of Un-Fancy)? The idea is similar: limit your wardrobe to a set number of pieces for each season and create your outfits only from those pieces. Similarly this approach would limit how many decisions you have to make–both inside of your closet and out shopping, since the idea is not to shop for months at a time!

    • Anne says:

      Yes, and I’ve thought a lot about it. I love the idea of a limited number of clothes, but all the mixing and matching so many capsule wardrobes incorporate makes me tired! Sooo not my skill set. 🙂

  5. Lucinda says:

    I’ve been wearing black only on the bottom for work for a few years. Even in my casual wardrobe I stick with black or denim on the bottom except for some shorts in the summer. Makes accessories and shoes much easier on the budget.

  6. Kayris says:

    Most of my clothes are pretty basic, but I splash out with accessories. I love red and I love how my scarlet pea coat looks with all black clothes, etc.

    FWIW In high school I set out my clothes and jewelry the night before. Saved me a lot of time when battling with my brother for the bathroom.

  7. I wear a literal uniform every day, but not by choice. 🙂 I work as a chiropractor’s assistant, and all the “girls” in the office wear scrubs every day. We have two pairs of pants each–one black, one gray–and five shirts, one color for each day of the week. I never have to decide what to wear. And it’s nice, except that it forces me to do laundry at least once a week whereas before I could get by with bi-weekly (we do laundry at a laundromat, so I put it off as long as possible). I will say, however, that I miss dressing up. On weekends, I love wearing whatever I feel like. Sometimes I wish I worked at a job that required “business casual”–nice slacks or a skirt, heels, a dressy blouse or sweater–but then I realize I’d have to spend at least another ten minutes a day deciding what to wear. And those ten minutes are much better spent cuddling with my hubby in bed before I have to get up. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      I’ve never had to wear a uniform to work, but a few years ago my business moved from downtown out to the suburbs. I was SHOCKED at how much our wardrobes all changed when it did! Most days it felt like a huge relief, but occasionally I still miss “dressing up” for work.

    • SS says:

      I kind of have a secret wish that someone would assign me a work uniform – not only would it prevent me from having to decide what to wear, but if it didn’t look that good it wouldn’t be my fault. Ha. In real life I’m in black pants or a dark skirt with fun colored tights, and a shirt and cardigan pretty much every day, which I guess is pretty close to a personal uniform, and now I am wondering what I am spending so much time on in the morning every day…

  8. MK says:

    I’m hugely pregnant right now, which means I can choose between maternity jeans or maternity leggings with tall boots for bottoms and a (small) assortment of tops. Long-term, a bit more variety would be nice, but overall, I’m enjoying the grab-and-go it offers!

    • Anne says:

      Enjoy the grab and go! I remember late pregnancy well, when I only had one pair of jeans that still fit (but golly, I LOVED those jeans!) I had yoga pants that fit, too, of course ….

  9. Sara K. says:

    I’ve been considering something like this for several years. Each time I look in my closet I feel overwhelmed with all the choices. And most of those stay on the hanger for months at a time! The older I get (I’m 35) the most I like a simple, streamlined and classic look. Maybe it’s time to work on matching my wardrobe to my desired style 🙂

    • Anne says:

      “The older I get (I’m 35) the most I like a simple, streamlined and classic look.”

      I followed the internet rabbit trail looking up people who were known for always wearing the same thing every day, and most personal uniform wearers didn’t adopt the look until they were in their forties, at least. I thought that was very interesting … even if I’m not sure exactly what it means. 🙂

      • liz n. says:

        By that age, you know yourself much better than you did when you started your journey through adulthood. By your forties, if you’ve reached a certain level of authority in your workplace, you also get a little leeway in making your own rules. At least, that’s my experience and observation.

      • Kendra says:

        Maybe just that by that age they have tried and discarded numerous styles until they settled on the one(s) that they felt best expressed their personality/life style. I am 59. I love clothes and watching trends on others but have finally decided to stick with what works best for me. I love it! I am still refining, but that is what keeps the minimalist concept from being boring. One blogger called it “curating”… Like art. I love that too! Great article and awesome comments!

  10. Hannah says:

    You’re on to something! The more I try to accomplish, the less I want to think about my clothes. But I still want to look polished for my own sake, if for nothing else. I’ve chosen a hairstyle that I think falls under the same category–easy but polished, so that I don’t spend tons of time fiddling with it and trying to come up with new ways to style it. The downside is that I can get bored. Bored, but productive. 🙂

  11. What a brilliant idea. I’ve noticed that I’ve started assembling a sort of capsule wardrobe, but I like the idea of a ‘uniform’, too. Especially as a new mom, one constant – my outfits – would be so appreciated! I think a well curated accessory collection could help those who feel like a uniform might be limiting. If you have several pieces to accessorize with, you can change the look of an outfit in a flash! Personally, I love scarves. I find that they really come in handy when altering the look of a well-worn outfit.

  12. Leigh Kramer says:

    I would feel so stifled if I did this! I view my clothes as a way of expressing who I am. I also don’t waste time figuring out what to wear. I might scan my closet before bedtime but generally, I look at what the weather will be like and make up my mind then. I might refine my selection (or change it entirely) when I’m in the shower in the morning. Figuring out what to wear never takes more than a minute. To each their own though!

    • Dorothy K. says:

      I love to wear color and I enjoy clothes shopping – even though my body is a little difficult to fit. 5’2″, size 14 means limited choices. That is the only reason I’m not completely broke and in debt!!! I have worked in retail with mandatory uniforms (yuck) and in a casual workplace. I prefer the latter, although some people dress as if they don’t own a mirror. Thanks for the interesting post Anne.

  13. Mandi says:

    One of my goals for 2014 is to get clear about my style, which I definitely think will involve a personal uniform. Right now I’m mostly living in tank tops with a cardigan – either with jeans (out) or leggings (at home) – because I overheat often, especially when I teach in our co-op or at church. (Menopause is going to kill me if this is already happening to me…)

    The thing that holds me back is perfectionism. If I had money to just overhaul everything at once, I would, but trying to pick and choose pieces that fit my style and I love is enough to kill me (and shopping can make me feel discontent with what I do have, so I avoid it most of the time).

    Writing this makes me realize that I really need to find a way to prioritize making some decisions about my wardrobe because it’s obviously weighing on my mind!

  14. Sarah M says:

    I was that catholic school girl with the uniform, and if it makes you feel any better, the clothes fit horribly (imagine a teeny tiny waste and a ballooned out bottom, with pleats) and never looked good on anyone. It was nice to not have to pick out what to wear, but dear goodness, those pants! (shudder)
    Sarah M

  15. Jillian Kay says:

    I love your closet, and I want a scarlet pea coat.

    I wear jeans almost every day in the winter which really simplifies things. I just need to grab whatever top is clean. My trouble comes when I have to dress up.

  16. Dawn says:

    If you like your fall style and would like to prolong your fall uniform, use cuddle duds as a base layer and chunky-knit scarves for warmth. It’s not exactly sexy, but for $20-35 (depending on what you buy) it keeps you warm and extends the wear-ability of your wardrobe.

  17. Tina B says:

    My preference would be jeans and t-shirts every day, but alas my employer won’t allow it. I typically wear black pants 3 days out of 4 and I do get to wear jeans on Friday. My tops are mostly black, red and purple. So, I just reach for whatever is clean and appeals to me that day. For years my Mom nagged because I wore “so much black,” but I love it and it makes getting dressed so much easier.

      • DeniG says:

        My resource for really good examples of a “whatever is clean” wardrobe is http://www.theviviennefiles.com/. Her blog was the first time I heard of that idea, and she’s made wardrobe examples in tons of palette choices–just search her site for “whatever’s clean”. I’ve been heading my wardrobe that way in the last couple years, and getting dressed is definitely easier when almost everything mixes and matches.

  18. Emma Lincoln says:

    I love this idea, and have been wanting to do it forever! I think we should do a blogger’s challenge for a month with the goal of saving more mental energy for our blogs / creative projects 🙂

  19. Kat says:

    Anne I loved this article!

    This is a subject I have been considering a lot myself recently, along with trying to become more minimalist (I think becoming completely minimalist would take some time).

    It seems like it might be difficult to do. I am still young (25) and feel like I am still trying to “find myself” so to speak. But trying to find a uniform seems like part of that journey. I also sometimes like to dress based upon my mood, but having an everyday uniform would help with routine which I can then step out of if I want.

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts with us. I hope you will keep us updated on your search for a wardrobe.

  20. Janna says:

    As a homeschooling mama I find there are certain clothes that I am much more productive in around the house–usually comfy black bottoms (yoga pants) and some sort of knit shirt. When I have on my jeans and a nicer top I feel stiff for some reason, I am more conscious of what I am wearing and not able to dig into a load of dishes or bake something or whatever. During winter time 3/4 sleeves are my friends–no wet cuffs when I do the dishes! All that to say, I definitely think there is something to having your own personal uniform–especially for a stay-at-home mom! I save my other clothes for when I am going somewhere (so I don’t always look scruffy . . .). ;o)

    • Rebecca says:

      Me too! I can’t wear jeans and do school at the same time. Yoga pants and leggings only (jeans when I go somewhere else though).

    • Steph says:

      I’m glad I’m not the only one! I completely understand the idea behind the “get dressed up (in more than yoga pants) every day and you’ll feel better about yourself and be more productive” concept, but it doesn’t work for me! I also feel stiff when I have nicer clothes on around the house. I’m most productive when I put on well-fitting, comfy clothes.

    • Shannon says:

      I’m so happy to read someone else feels the same way. I get so much more work done on the days when I keep my clothes comfortable. I’d love to find jeans that made me feel as productive as my yoga pants!

    • Guest says:

      I’m so relieved to hear someone else feels this way. I work from home full-time and feel the same way. One of the wonderful benefits of my job is that I can wash dishes or start dinner in between conference calls. If I’m wearing remotely nice clothes, I don’t want to get them dirty so I don’t do anything. I’m also not as aomcofrtbale in general so I don’t feel like I concentrate as well.

      A few years ago it seemed like tons of women’s blogs were encouraging women to dress up regardless of SAHM or working. I tried it and to be honest, I felt worse, not better. It was a lot of time that could have been used for something else much more meaningful in my opinion. For those who truly feel better when they fix up, though, by all means do it! Just don’t assume the rest of us are slackers who are stuck in a rut. For me, it’s a very conscious choice.

  21. Sue says:

    For my work wardrobe I have about 8 shirts, 4 pairs pants (either black or grey) and 2 jackets. All can mix or match. It takes about 2 seconds to decide what to wear each morning.

  22. renee says:

    I agree with Caroline Starr Rose ^^ 🙂
    When I wake in the morning, my first thoughts are:
    -I love coffee
    -What should I have for breakfast?
    -What should I wear today?
    I don’t find dressing that time consuming, probably because I go through my closet once a season to evaluate, discard and replace. That way, I know pretty much everything fits and I choose according to the weather and my mood.

    Lovely post, Anne!

  23. Jeanne says:

    I wore a school uniform for all 12 years of school and had to dress the part when I still worked as an attorney at a big firm. Working from home now I love choosing my outfits everyday!

    I do spend some time once a month or so “making up” outfits, trying old things in a new way and whenever I buy something new (even accessories), I make sure what to wear with the new items. That way I never end up putting on, and discarding, 5 tops, because they just don’t look right with the pants I’m wearing.

    And as Renee said: evaluate and edit! I also make use of analogous colours when dressing. Lots of things match other things and you don’t end up with the sharp contrast of colour against black pants, for example.

    I once heard the British presenters of “What not to wear” mention that black makes colour cheap. I sometimes agree!

    Loved this post and the comments!

  24. Desiree says:

    This was the first thing I read this morning, and it has really hit home for me. Today is my 30th birthday and I feel so much like I’m on this cusp now of being a kid playing house and the grown up I really am. I’ve struggled with a uniform for some time now, mainly because I’ve been busy being pregnant or nursing for the past four years and because I too suffer from decision fatigue. I find it easier some mornings just to throw on any old thing, and then I remember your words to dress for the ordinary days. Come to think of it I think that’s how I stumbled upon MMD…looking for guidance on my “mom” uniform. I do try to dress for the ordinary days but there is something funny about being in your 20’s when you can still get away with wearing clothes meant for younger women. Now I feel like I’m 30 and those clothes aren’t as acceptable as I lead myself to believe. I’m going to ponder this more for now, but I feel in my gut your are on to something. Perhaps as a little birthday treat to myself I’ll start with StichFix 🙂 Have a wonderful rest of the week!

  25. Amanda says:

    I spent all of junior high and high school wearing a uniform to school. Khaki pants, white or black fitted polo, black chunky cardigan. Easy, I suppose, but incredibly boring.

    In college, I started wearing a blouse with tailored shorts everyday. (I went to college in Louisiana- it was hot most of the semester.) I had several different pairs of shorts and several different blouses, so I mixed and matched. It was cute and easy, but not very exciting.

    After college, I started wearing slacks with a shell or blouse and a cardigan everyday. I owned cardigans in every color, pattern, type… So that was my personal uniform for a while, but when it was time to leave work and do something fun with friends, I felt frumpy and plain. I didn’t have much of anything else. My uniform became a burden, and I struggled for a few years to break my buying habits and start looking for things that were different from my current wardrobe.

    I ended up quitting that job, and slowly but surely, I incorporated new, stylish pieces into my wardrobe and eliminated all the cardigans and shells. Now I only let items in my closet that I really truly love, and putting together outfits has been fun and exciting again!

  26. I’ve been thinking about this, and I’ve figured out that the reason I’ve never thought of a uniform or a capsule is that I just don’t spend that much time figuring out outfits.

    I suppose I have a quasi-uniform…in the summer, a casual skirt and a knit shirt, and in the winter, jeans or leggings with a boat or v neck knit shirt (usually with a fleece or sweater over top to keep me warm). Since I don’t venture very far beyond those patterns, getting dressed doesn’t take me long at all. It’s just a matter of choosing which shirt and which jeans to wear.

    Also, I don’t accessorize a lot and I tend to wear a lot of solids and neutrals, so coordinating an outfit isn’t very hard.

    This might be boring to some people, I’m sure, but it works for me!

  27. Kristen says:

    I wore a uniform for all my school days (even public schools have uniforms at home) and it was so awesome, no way to tell who was poor and pick on them (i.e me lol).
    I am getting to the point where I don’t like at least 60% of my wardrobe and I am sick of it. I’m sick of passing over the same things every day because I don’t feel comfortable wearing them (bright colours, tight tops etc). So why did I buy them?! Who knows. I’m working on culling and filling my closet with things that I love, especially for work because lets face it, I go to work a lot more than I dress up for fun. I love the idea of filling my closet with a couple colours that look good on me, I have yellows and reds I never wear because I feel like they clash. And I’m getting better and adding colour with scarves and whatnot.
    Anywho – Stefanovic!! haha. I just love that you put him on your blog.

    • Anne says:

      “I’m sick of passing over the same things every day because I don’t feel comfortable wearing them…”

      Ugh, I do this, too. (But why, then, do I have such a hard time just getting rid of those clothes? Green jeans, I’m looking at you….)

      • Kristen says:

        Seriously though, I have green / olive jeans and they were only $10 and I wore them a few times thanks to pinterest, but truthfully I just never felt comfortable in them! I purged my closet last weekend and put all the clothes in a spare bedroom (out of sight out of mind) and if I don’t want to wear them by the end of the year, they’re gone.

  28. Sarah says:

    I am in love with this idea. But then one side of me thinks, “how boring would this be?!” I feel like clothing is a great way to show how unique we all are, and that we all like different styles. But it can take up a lot of time putting it together. 1/2 of me likes dressing predictably and safely, and the other 1/2 loves to throw on some funky, unique outfit that reminds me I am uniquely made. I feel like what we are wearing should make us feel our very best.

    I like the efficiency of this plan, because it saves time for other things. Also, when we don’t focus so much on our outer appearance, we do tend to shine a little brighter from the inside. 🙂

    • Anu says:

      This is where accessories come in! If you have your personal uniform in a neutralish color scheme (mine is black and jewel tones) then you can really get wild and personalize with you accessories. This is not only more space efficient it is also budget friendly and can allow you to complete re haul your accessorie wardrobe should you want, while still retaining that neutral uniform base of well fitting flattering clothes.

  29. Laura says:

    I was really inspired by a dad at my kids’ school who wears the same thing EVERY DAY, all year! I decided to try it out and have been happily wearing jeans, a tank top, and blue sweatshirt all fall. It helps that I’m staying at home. Man, it’s kind of awesome to just get dressed so easily that I can focus on my tasks. I feel bad for my husband that I’m not more stylish, but I will still dress up for date nights 🙂

  30. I’m fascinated by the idea of a personal uniform, but am afraid of getting bored by it. But I suppose, like a lot of folks, I have a default uniform anyway – right now it’s a dress with tights or leggings and riding boots (usually black) for work in the fall/winter. Cardigan and scarf added when required.

    Food for thought, Anne, as always!

    • Anne says:

      “I’m fascinated by the idea of a personal uniform, but am afraid of getting bored by it. But I suppose, like a lot of folks, I have a default uniform anyway…”

      This is me, exactly. 🙂

  31. Alison Pike says:

    When I was pregnant, the only thing I enjoyed besides the baby at the end was having a very limited wardrobe. I’ve stuck to it. For example, this season I’m rotating 3 bottoms, 4 tops, and 2 pairs of boots. I blogged about it once, and asked if my IRL friends had ever noticed. Only one, the rest were shocked!

    Anyway, my boy is nearly 7. I LOVE this way of life! Come on over…

  32. Kerri says:

    I have a rule that I’ve followed for years now: I must choose my outfit the night before. Decision fatigue is just too great in the morning when I’m in a rush and groggy! It’s amazing how much time and energy I save making that decision at night rather than the morning.

    My other ‘achievement’ was learning to pay more for things that I love and that can layer well: so a sleeveless, knee-length dress of a neutral color can transition to fall and winter with tights/leggings, a long-sleeve shirt, a blazer, and a scarf. And now when I shop, I ask myself: do I already own things that match this? Or do I have to buy a whole new outfit just to accommodate this one piece? If it doesn’t already fit with something, it’s out!

      • Dorothy K. says:

        I choose my entire weekly wardrobe on Sundays. BTW, I would notice if someone wore the same thing more than once a week. I am a detail person, so this would stand out to me and maybe that is why I enjoy planning my weekly wardrobe down to jewelry and shoes. Other people think this is a little excessive-sorry. I also do not function well before coffee and a shower EVERY morning, even Saturday and Sunday.

  33. Ellie says:

    I created a uniform for work this year and I love it! I’m a huge dork so I pick a theme for the week (jackets, monochromatic tops/sweaters, blue) and try to plan my outfits to match my theme. It’s enough fun to keep me from getting bored but not enough decisions to stress me out. Anyone on the fence, try the uniform!

  34. Nichole says:

    I didn’t have time to read all the comments, which I am sure would be incredibly helpful. But I don’t have time for that rabbit hole today. 🙂

    I want to suggest that before you decide on a uniform or more streamlined wardrobe, you get your colors done. Please find someone with tons of experience who recognizes that the “seasons” method is not quite right. Too many people cross over and do not fit inside one season. I had this done 2 months ago and it has made decision fatigue about my wardrobe nearly non existent. The best part is that my husband, my friends and even super critical me can tell a big difference: I look better all the time because wearing the right colors makes my face come alive.

    The person I went to is an image consultant. She also put me on the right track with my makeup, validated that my hair cut and color are lovely on me, and showed me which shapes of clothing and which types/ metals of jewelry look best on me. Life changing! It was money very well spent and I wish I had done this years ago. I would have saved myself 10x the price in mistake clothing and makeup purchases.

    I have been really enamored of the minimalist wardrobe blogs. But I do notice that the vast majority tend to wear colors and shapes that are not the best on them for the sake of simplicity and because they haven’t gone so far as to get professional help. But I think if I am going to have a streamlined wardrobe, why not have it be the absolute best colors and shapes for me. It seems like an a attainable goal, in my opinion. Best of luck!

      • Nichole says:

        Melissa,
        I was in a you tube rabbit hole of wardrobe simplification posts when I came across someone with their own channel doing a color analysis. This person was using the seasons method which I always found hokey, but she said she used to be an image consultant. So I googled image consultant for my area (DFW), and came across a few. My lady had a nice website with a video of her doing a color consult and I thought “that seems right to me”. Also, she dressed nicely, but like a normal person. Not ultra trendy or with ridiculous 4″ heels, etc… Here is the site if you want to check it out: stoltzimage.com. It may help you figure out what to look for in your own area.

  35. Barbie says:

    Yep. Neutral bottoms, mix it up a bit on tops. Some reverse this. Check out Project 333 (33 wardrobe items cycled every 3 months). Also capsule wardrobes. Outfit Posts blog has Some great ones called one suitcase.

  36. Deborah says:

    The uniform concept has made my life so much simpler! I have a large summer uniform collection because we live in the Middle East and a small “winter” one for the colder months of the year. High necks, covered arms, and long, loose bottoms are a must for me here, so I rely on caftans and light sweaters in the summer and boyfriend jeans with shirts that cover the booty in the “winter.” Have been able to find some items here that feel like me, but get most things on sale in the States. Which means that 90% of what I see in stores just won’t work with my personal uniform.

  37. Jessica says:

    I am so inspired by this! I read this post last night. When I woke up this morning, right after my cup of tea, I pulled out all the tops/sweaters/dresses in my closet. I’m sticking with beige, blue, gray & black. For pants I’m sticking with skinny legged jeans & leggings. I’m a little scared – will I bore myself?! Plus my husband has already asked what I intend to do with the mound of “reject (for now) clothes I piled on the bed. I have no idea! But I do know that I love the looks of my closet. Guys, I can actually see my clothes in there!

  38. Erin says:

    I had an idea while reading through the comments… actually it is probably a couple of ideas that can be mixed and matched (like a wardrobe – no pun intended):

    A. Spend time one day a week picking out outfits for the rest of the week – like meal planning. (For me it would be on Sunday – for work Mon – Fri.)

    B. Take pictures of outfits, either when they are on (in a mirror) or laid out on the bed. List ALL aspects of the outfit on the back – even spanx 🙂

    C. Another option would be to take pictures of each item (shirt, pants, shoes, etc.)

    D. Print pictures and just those to plan outfits – like flashcards. Then using the backs, you can make sure everything is organized on one or two hangers for each day (and that everything is clean).

    I don’t know if this would work, it was just what my brain processed in the list of thoughts and ideas.

  39. Mystie says:

    I have been slowly working toward this myself. Right now I have a limited palette: black, white, red, bright pink, turquoise, orange, and purple. The colors are all specific shades I *know* look good on me and that make me happy. 🙂

    Now I have three “formulas” I wear: jeans + white or black top + colored cardigan, black or white bottoms (pants or skirt or maxi dress) with colored top (or colored cardigan if a maxi dress), and colored bottoms (skirt or maxi dress) + white top & black sweater or black top & white sweater and maybe accent w/ a different color scarf.

    That way, there’s variety, but it’s easy to put together. Generally I grab one thing I want to wear and then pick the other part based on the formula.

  40. Trish says:

    I work 1/2 days in a hospital so I don’t have many decisions in the morning (tee shirt under my scrubs, dansko or nike, hair). My trouble is when I get home. I obviously want to ditch the scrubs but at noon it seems silly to put on a real outfit. Lately I’ve been wearing the work tee shirt and changing into jeans. I add a scarf or a cardigan and some jewelry and call it good. Life got easier once I was able to use some of my work uniform as my personal uniform.

  41. Amy Tilson says:

    I’ve threatened to go all Michael Kors a few times with my wardrobe for travel. The more I think about it, the more brilliant it seems. Now I just need to determine my version of Michael Kors.

  42. Rebecca says:

    I think every woman has different needs at different seasons of life. For my forties, I switched over to dark gray or dark rinse denim bottoms, jewel colored tops, and a black, silvery gray, or denim top layer. I always purchase gunmetal or pewter shoes and bags and silver jewelry. Anything in the closet matches, and I’ve cut my clothes shopping time down to nearly nothing. I don’t wear prints, so that also greatly simplifies my life. I find that texture, color, and a little kick of shimmer in my accessories gives my outfits enough interest for my taste. As much as I adore warm and soft colors, I can’t pull them off anymore with silver/ash blonde hair.

    • Anne says:

      “I think every woman has different needs at different seasons of life.”

      That’s such a good point, and makes so much sense, but I hadn’t clearly articulated it to myself in so many words. Thanks for the insight.

  43. Katie says:

    I love this idea. I hate hate hate shopping. And I hate the energy that goes into figuring out what to wear, finding an outfit that’s flattering, affordable, etc. I don’t know…I also love the idea of fashion as personal expression. So it’s tricky. I’m afraid I would get bored. But maybe it’s worth a shot. My husband had a professor in school that wore all black everyday – not the same thing, but always black. She was German, blonde, and it looked great on her. I was intrigued then.

  44. Alicia G says:

    I just bought 4 pairs of Lands End sweats (yay 30% off) for my Mom Uniform on stay at home days. Sweat pants + cozy sweater or soft cotton shirt. Comfier than jeans but I feel more productive in them than wearing pajama pants all day….which might have been happening lately. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Hahaha! I hear ya on the pajama pants. I tend to get carried away when I start writing early in the morning, but bad things start to happen if I’m still in my pjs at 10 a.m. 🙂

  45. Liz P says:

    I have a uniform of sorts. I wear a dress every day. Usually with leggings. And most of my wardrobe is blue red white and black. Red flats, black wedge heels. Red handbags, and a black backpack for some days. Black or red shirt sleeved cardis for cooler days (going into summer here in Sydney) and in winter I have two black knitted jackets and one big black charcoal coat for super cold times.

    Joggers and gym gear. My gym gear is where I get a bit more colourful but it’s all black bottoms (long and short) and coloured shirts.

  46. Alison says:

    Just wrote a post about how I’d like to settle on a uniform. I used to think it would be boring and loved shopping too much, but now the ease of use and establishing more of a standard appearance sounds appealing! There are so many variables to consider that it is a little daunting – best colors, body shape, lifestyle, budget, climate, etc. But through trial-and-error I’m getting there 🙂 Example of a winter uniform possibility: dark bootcut jeans, cropped cardigan, printed vintage-style tee, simple boots, and chandelier earrings. Still a lot of room for variety within a uniform; I’ve become a firm believer that we do better with limits, even if they have to be self-imposed!

    If anyone is looking to cut back on their clothes without going all the way to a uniform, I recommend trying Project 333 (http://theproject333.com/) to help you figure out what you wear and like, and that it’s probably less than you think!

  47. Sarah says:

    I haven’t been trying to create a personal uniform, but I have been whittling down my wardrobe to only the things I enjoy wearing and look nice on me. The pants and shoes stay the same: Jeans and my super comfy black GoWalk Sketchers shoes (no, I’m not a Sketchers employee, but I would advertise these shoes!). The tops have been pared down to a small variety of stripes, solids, and a few with extra fem frill. Add to the mix a couple cardigans, a pullover, and a zip-up fleece, and I’m good to go. Of course, now that I’m pregnant, my choices have come down to about 7 or 8 tops and three pants (2 jeans, 1 black pair of slacks). I’ve had most of these since my first pregnancy, and since I only wear them for 4-5 months at a time, I don’t sweat wearing the same things every week.

  48. Ronda says:

    Many of you who are writing comments here would love http://www.dressingyourtruth.com. You can take a course online that does such an amazing job of helping you figure out how to dress, accessorize and style your hair to fit who you are as a person….your true personality and body type. I took this course last winter and immediately began to implement the very specific ideas given. I went through my closest very carefully to remove what was not right for my Type 3 and started SLOWLY reinventing what I wear. I mostly use thrift shops as those are plentiful and good quality in my town. Now I am very clear on what I do and don’t wear. I have so many fewer decisions. I have a new hairstyle that suits my personality and my features. And I will say this: Carol Tuttle, the developer of Dressing Your Truth, makes a very convincing argument that only one of the four types of people can wear black successfully. Yes, that is right. A bunch of you who say “I’ll just wear black on the bottom every day” are perhaps not realizing that the color black may age you or not agree with the energy in your personality and face. I no longer wear any black and I am so comfortable with that. It was amazing as I made the transition away from it and as I now see others wearing black who look much older and dowdier than they need to look. I highly encourage you to look into Dressing Your Truth if you want to know how to connect what you wear to who you are as a person deep down.

  49. Laurie says:

    Have you all heard of Dressing Your Truth? Someone above commented above about having your colors done. This is a similar idea and there are colors involved but it’s really more about personality. After determining what my types are (dominant and secondary) I got rid of everything in my closet that didn’t line up with those categories. Shopping is now a LOT more fun…I used to hate it! It goes quickly because I know both what looks good AND what I feel good in. I realized that I used to have so many articles of clothing because I kept buying more clothes because I really didn’t like and feel comfortable in what I had. Now I love every item in my closet which consists of (for winter) 2 pairs of pants, 3 long sleeved scoop neck t’s, 3 open sweaters, 1 blouse and I let myself collect scarves for variety. Highly recommend DYT!!

    • Anne says:

      People keep recommending DYT to me! I’ve cruised around the website but haven’t gotten too far into it. I do love how her system generates a formula, so then you follow the rules and you’re set. Drastically reduced decisions = a uniform of sorts, right?

  50. Sarah says:

    I have worn mostly black since I was a teen. People thought I was morbid, but I just don’t like making choices and I tend to spill a lot. Now, at 40, my hair is mostly white and I still wear mostly black clothing. I remember when I first started reading Flylady stuff about 12 years ago, she advocated for a uniform for SAHMs. I used to wear jeans every day, although I’ve started moving into more, um, comfy pants like yoga pants and leggings. Although, I actually find jeans easier to work with for a uniform. Jeans and a black shirt always look put together, classy, and easy to accessorize. I hate shopping, so when I find a shirt I like, I tend to buy a couple of them to make life easy. I have a few high quality pieces (like sweaters) that give me some variety, but really, I’m most happy in jeans, a black shirt, a black or gray cardigan, black shoes or boots, and silver jewelry. I mix and match a bit, but I mostly wear the same earrings every day (big silver hoops). I’ve developed a love of turquoise jewelry, so sometimes I wear a necklace. Sometimes I wear a blue or green scarf. Maybe it’s just age, but I find that while I LOVE color (and I do! Red, Yellow, Blue, Green – I love them all) I prefer it in smaller doses. My “uniform” makes me feel classy and elegant while keeping me away from both trendy and frumpy extremes. My weight fluctuates quite a bit, but I always feel slimmer in black.

    • Anne says:

      “My “uniform” makes me feel classy and elegant while keeping me away from both trendy and frumpy extremes.”
      Love that. And I love the sound of your uniform. 🙂

  51. Jennifer H says:

    I have really enjoyed reading all these comments. I have the same basic bottoms (black, charcoal, dark brown, and one pair of jeans). All my tops are either black or very colorful. Not just a couple colors either, but they go with most, if not all my bottoms. I also have several cardigans and jackets that can be worn with multiple tops. I never really thought of myself as having a uniform though. I think you might enjoy this book I read many years ago:
    http://www.amazon.com/Simplify-Your-Life-Things-Really/dp/0786880007/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1416961497&sr=8-1&keywords=elaine+st+james+simplify+your+life

    • Silvia says:

      I been thinking to do this since last year, but don’t know why I can’t do it yet. I love clothes and thinking to reduce to less I feel like I’m punishing myself😭. But reading all of these responses I feel better and at least I can try it.

  52. Renee B says:

    Anne, where do you purchase most of your clothes..I enjoy classic styling and I’m thinking if I could narrow my choice of stores to a handful where I like the styling that perhaps that will help. I was especially curious about your simple print long sleeve blouses you mentioned. My home is exactly how I like it..my closet not so much.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve been taking the easy way out for a while now and getting most of them through Stitch Fix and Popbasic. They both do a ton of stripes. 🙂

      • Renee brooke says:

        Seriously, you’ve changed my life. I had never heard of stitch fix or pop basic…wow! That’s why is girls need each other.:)

  53. Kathleen R says:

    I loved reading all the comments!

    I am 47 and work part time as a Nanny. My daily uniform is dark wash jeans. I have 5 pair all the same. I found an inexpensive line of T-shirts that have are a solid color with a sparkly/glitter design on front. It sounds bad as I type that but they are pretty and OK for my age (or so I am told).

    I stick to pinks, purples, grays with a little aqua/turquoise. In summer I wear short sleeves and long in winter – same line of t-shirts. I wear the same pair of gym shoes every day. Previously a leopard print pair, now a snake skin pair. I’ve got my normal day uniform down pat. I’ve been thinking of adding a pair of earrings and some make up to feel a little more pulled together. I loved the comment from someone who said that red lipstick was part of her uniform!

    My 6 year old charge commented on my 2nd week working for the family that I wear the same style of jeans and shoes ever day. People do notice but so what.

    My problem is outside of my normal day. What do I wear to church or dates? I’ve decided I need a second uniform for more dressy occasions. My problem is that I have a small budget and its hard to find things I like in a plus size. But I’m thinking it will consist of dark pants, a more flirty pair of shoes and a lacy top. I really like lace and romantic looks.

    I think I also need an all purpose dress in a neutral color and a few statement necklaces or scarfs for the occasion where a dress is needed (like weddings, funerals, holiday parties and special occasions). Currently I tend to just not go to those occasions or wear slacks and feel out of place.

    • Belinda says:

      Just because you have a uniform does not mean it has to be boring! I wear black bottoms only (dress pant, yoga pant, capris) with black or white tank or 3/4 sleeve t’s all with v-necks or scoop necks depending on season. I have many colorful cardigan sweaters, blouses, vests to throw over. I wear only black shoes but have MANY pairs and I wear all of them. I wear only silver jewelry. I love scarves. I also have jean capris when I can find good ones that fit. I find that I am dressed well every day and can go anywhere (since I’m a minister, this is important). All of my clothes are comfortable! I limit my base color and the styles of my clothes. This keeps shopping super simple.

  54. I have always loved the idea of a personal uniform, but I’m only now getting to the age where it’s accepted (26–but my family always said I was born 40). I’m an English PhD student studying environmental and agrarian literature, so my little corner of academia is more casual than most. My personal uniform is dark wash jeans and a button down (I prefer plaid, but to teach I usually wear a sold black or white oxford). For shoes, moccasins or birks when it’s nice out or cowboy boots when it’s raining or really cold. I know that there might be a University in my teaching future where I will have to swap the jeans for nicer trousers, but this is what makes me feel confident in front of a classroom and yet comfortable while listening to a lecture.

    I love that your post makes me feel more normal about my habitual clothing choices. It’s just easier and I think that when you know what makes you feel confident, there’s no reason to buy anything else!

  55. Karen says:

    Just discovered your blog, and am enjoying it!

    I just cleaned out my closet for Lent. Trying to simplify. Clothing and consumption take up too much space in my head. Now, I find I have all the things I need. That green skirt I pinned? Oh, I have it already! I have a large closet, so the things I am wearing this spring take up just half of it. Some items I like but wear less, I place in the other half of the closet in case I get tired of the “capsule wardrobe”.

    In case you’re interested, my capsule wardrobe consists of:
    – one dress
    – 3 skirts
    – 8 pairs of pants (black, gray, red, khaki, cords & jeans). This includes a great pair of army green hiking pants which look nice enough for casual Friday!
    – 3 cardis
    – a couple of sweaters
    – a dozen tops, half short sleeve and half long (doesn’t include a few t-shirts).
    – a few jackets (blazer, fleece, rain shell, jean)

    I had a hard time finding any such lists so I hope it is useful to your readers. Not as minimal as some but this is what I can do. FYI, I have to look professional for work but not super dressy, so I try to have only comfy clothes that I can wear both at work and around town. I like to buy from LOFT and Ann Taylor. Where would I be without online purchases and easy return policies!

    I agree, it’s too much to think of every possible combination of clothes with a capsule wardrobe. But it’s nice to reach a point where you can choose a top and a bottom, and you know it will match AND fit well and doesn’t require much thought. It has taken me a few years to figure out my style and colors (classic/ preppy, bolder jewel tones – love red/ purple with black), and then to acquire all these items!

    I have been so tempted to get Stitch Fix, but honestly, since cleaning my closet I feel much more at peace with my wardrobe! I’ll stick to Pinterest and save my money!

  56. Jacki M says:

    I recently changed over to a minimal wardrobe. I found that I was enjoying wearing dresses with leggings (the dresses a tad short for me) so I downsized to 25 hangers of my favorite items. I take about 2 minutes picking out my clothes and I feel good every day.

  57. Anna says:

    I love this whole idea just like I love the idea of a minimalist wardrobe, but I have never done my hair the same way two days in a row and I feel the same about my clothes. Do you think it’s possible to just be “that type of person” or not? Like I said, I kinda wish I could do it, but I don’t think I’d really be happy wearing the same type of thing every day! I like too many different things! I mean, I basically stick to neutrals and blues, but besides that, everything is different. Not to mention the month that would go into revamping my wardrobe!

    • Anne says:

      It seems that some people daily dressing feeds some people’s creativity, and hampers others’ ability to be creative in other ways. Once you know which type you are, you can go from there.

  58. DJC says:

    The smartest thing I ever did was read a book called ” Color me beautiful ” by Carole Jackson. Based on pictures and questions in the book, you are assigned a season, winter, spring, summer or fall. ( I’m a Winter, I look best in deep ,rich jewel tones, silver jewelry ,etc ) Also suggests styles for your body type.This book saved me tons of money, no more making mistakes buying the wrong things ! I buy 90% of my clothes from Goodwill, get lots of compliments, and at 57 years old I’ve found my fall /winter “style “, black, gray or blue jeans, long or short sleeved T shirts,(solid) a lite cardigan or jacket (solid) and a patterned scarf,boots or flats, silver hoop earrings, colored bracelets. Spring /summer is lighter clothes, less layers. Getting dressed is a breeze !!

  59. Elyse Snow says:

    In her iconic book, Edith Head suggests the same: find three colors (two neutrals + 1 color) and base your wardrobe on it. Hers was black/beige/white, which is really 3 neutrals, but… I have limited my closet to black/white/gray + blues, red, violets–I know it sounds unlimited, but I’ve eliminated greens, yellows, oranges, beige, browns… that’s a lot. I also focus on the blues and have more clothes in the range between pale/pastel blue to navy while red=RED (true, blue-red and wine) and violets is the least present. Additionally, I do have a fairly simple plan: (top + skirt/pants) or dress + cardigan/pullover. Again, sounds more involved than it is; I add patterns thru scarves and jewelry, while having my clothing mostly solid color with some texture. I have found this to be a neat, professional, and attractive solution to teaching in a relatively informal university department but also attending administrative/creative meetings.

    • Patricia Lee says:

      I went to a Catholic school and was required to wear a uniform, this included regulation shoes and socks. We didn’t have extra money
      to spend on clothes, so I was saved the embarrassment of “keeping up”. When I had my first job in a large office it was tough to have to dress to impress, or keep up with the fashion. When I worked in a lab with standard lab uniforms, I was relieved.

  60. Janna says:

    I wear a tremendous amount of black and almost always black or denim on the bottom. I only own black shoes, (not counting sneakers)–much less expensive as I’m a hard to fit shoe size. My tops are almost all v-neck–much more flattering to the older face. My tops are black or white whether t-shirts or sweaters or blouses. I do wear color in my scarves and jewelry. And my all time favorite, I will never buy another brand of jeans–Madewell–and I still blame you! 🙂 🙂

  61. Mary says:

    Greetings modern Mrs. Darcy,

    What a fun topic! I do have a I ”personal uniform”. (And a meal plan too. LOL!!). I wear denim bottoms every day, except for dress up – for those times I wear black bottoms. For tops I wear button up the front shirts with a feminine t-shirt underneath (I agree…I Love scoop necks). This layered look works for all year long given that I live in central Texas. (My For dress up I’ll wear a silk blouse, nice sandals or heels…and if it’s cooler evening weather…some sort of shawl.) On my feet I wear sandals or clogs, depending on the weather. Or occasionally sneakers. And then I usually top of everything with an apron. That’s it. It requires very little thought. It’s perfect. (For the meal plan I assign each day of the week a theme…a la The Food Nanny. That way I know what will be served for dinner every night. It streamlines meal planning.). Love, Mary😘

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