My summer uniform

My summer uniform

I’ve long been intrigued with wearing a daily uniform; for nearly two years now, I’ve actually done it.

Well, mostly. Here’s what I’ve noticed: during seasons of life that feel very full, I tend to wear some variation of the same thing every day. This makes sense to me. While everyone’s prone to decision fatigue, I know decisions drain my tank exceptionally quickly. A go-to outfit (or 6) makes for one less thing to think about every morning.

Last summer, I gave a seasonal uniform a trial run and I loved it. This season, I’m juggling several creative projects on top of a tightly scheduled family life. I’m not waiting to see what getting dressed feels like in this season. The day after school got out, I hopped on the internet and ordered the same shirt in five colors. My uniform game is ON.

(My resolve was tested last week: I needed to run to the Apple store, which is dangerously close to my old favorite Anthropologie. I strategically (or foolishly) parked by Anthro so I could pass through the store coming and going. I got sucked in a little bit: I love looking at all the beautiful dresses and interesting tops.

I was thinking it wouldn’t hurt to try a few things on … and then I remembered how often I’ve wound up coming to my senses in the dressing room an hour later, with piles of clothes that don’t quite work. Stitch Fix isn’t perfect—I need to drop off a package off the post office today that contains five rejects on an 0-for-5 fix—but I’m extremely grateful it’s kept me out of the stores and out of the dressing rooms: last week’s experience made me realize I hadn’t been out shopping for clothes for myself in a solid YEAR and that makes me very happy.)

More on what’s working: my default uniform hasn’t changed much since last season.

On hot days, like this weekend’s 95-degree scorchers, it’s tank top and shorts, plus a sweater in my bag for the AC when I’m out. On warm days, it’s a tank and jeans, or a button-down (like this new favorite) and shorts. And on cooler summer days (or very early mornings) it’s a button-down and jeans.

If you know what to look for, you can find great garments (almost) anywhere, but in the spirit of making things easy for my fellow shopping-haters, I’m sharing specific items.

summer uniform collage

Tank

A word about tanks, because it took me years to figure this out. I used to buy the smallest size that “fit,” as many women do. But I never asked myself how I wanted the garment to fit: did I want it to be form-fitting or drapey? This season, I want drapey, and I sized up to get that effect.

I have a half dozen tanks (white, navy, blue, grey) from among these three options:

1. Everlane Ryan tank. ($18) I own quite a few different shirts from Everlane; some are medium and some are large. While my favorite Everlane tees are sized large, I need a medium in this deeply scooped tank to not flash everyone. (I’m 5’9.”) This is a breezy, loose fitting tank, perfect for layering or on its own at a ballgame. Hand washing required. (When Everlane says hand washing is required, they mean it.)

2. Everlane linen tank. ($27) This is a high-neck, tailored tank with a highly textured feel. It’s slightly sheer. This is easy to wear and looks great on its own, but the side vents make it difficult to layer. Care instructions are hand wash cold, lay flat to dry. Mine has washed beautifully. The medium fits me perfectly.

3. J. Crew linen tank. (29.50) This tank feels similar to the Everlane linen tank, but it’s rounded hem makes it perfect for layering. The medium is true to size, but I sized up to a large because I wanted a looser fit. (Oddly, I also love J. Crew’s linen tees, and a medium provides the loose fit I’m after in that style. Maddening.)

Bottoms

I don’t like variety for my bottoms: I wear the same ones over and over again. My favorites are:

• Shorts in khaki, white, and denim. (I love Target’s Merona brand chinos and J. Crew chinos.)

• Boyfriend jeans. (Summer is too hot for skinnies. From Stitch Fix.)

• Black coated slacks for a dressier look. (From Stitch Fix.)

• Citizens of Humanity white boyfriend jeans. These weren’t cheap (although I got mine through Stitch Fix with a discount) but I love the look of white jeans and a dark top for summer, and this is the only style I’ve tried on that was actually flatting.

Pendant

necklaces

I have two basic necklaces I wear all the time from Stella and Dot and Stitch Fix, plus a couple of fabulous statement necklaces from Noonday Collection.

Layers

Even if it’s 90 degrees out, I don’t leave home without a layer so I don’t freeze to death in exuberant air conditioning. My go-tos are:

• an open-weave cardigan (Anthropologie) or a knit cardigan (Stitch Fix)
• a denim jacket (Loft from forever ago)
• a blazer (J. Crew)

my summer uniform

Finishing touches

Flats or silver sandals plus my go-to tote bag.

This look is easy to put on, easy to wear, and easy to dress up (nicer pants, blazer) or dress down (tank, necklace, sandals). Everything goes with everything else; I could get dressed in the dark.

I’m curious to see how my personal experiment goes.

Do YOU have a personal uniform? What does it look like?

P.S. The ten item wardrobe and dress for the life you want to have. Also, get 30%-50% off women’s sale styles at J. Crew with the code SHOPEXTRA.

My summer uniform.

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32 comments

  1. Florence says:

    Yes! I have a summer uniform and a winter uniform. I don’t like to shop so I order most of my clothes online. I love LLBean because I know how their sizes will fit and because the clothes are well made and durable. For summer I have 2 pairs of shorts, and 4 different colors of the same pants and a wide variety of their Pima cotton tees. Winter uniform is a mock turtleneck, Bayside pants, and a vest. I even have a more or less Sunday dress up uniform. I like Chico’s pants, sleeveless top, and light jacket. I love your summer uniform and I’m looking forward to reading about how others manage their wardrobes.

  2. Anne says:

    I love this, Anne. I remember last year’s post, and I always meant to get to Target and J. Crew (well, order J. Crew, though we do have a Mercantile now) to try on the shorts you’ve mentioned. I’ve wanted a pendant necklace since watching Mad Men this spring. But! Hand-washing…….maybe it’s easier if you’re only wearing five tops. Fun post. Love to see how people make their wardrobe fun and functional.

    • Anne says:

      I’m also on the hunt for tank tops that don’t show bra straps on your shoulders. (I don’t want to use those doodads that hold straps in. Too much fuss. I just want wide enough fabric on the shoulder.)

      • Lindsey says:

        Yes to hiding bra straps!!! I just hate that, but it’s such a challenge. (Especially since the bras I’m wearing tend to have wider straps…I need the support.)

  3. Bonnie says:

    Love these posts! Your uniform doesn’t work for me because I work in an office, but still fun to see. (BTW, your “bought five shirts” link doesn’t seem to work, and the Target shorts seem to be unavailable so that link isn’t helpful now.)

    • Anne says:

      I hear you: this never would have worked for me in my office days. (Although it was similar: dark pants, neutral top, jacket.) The link (which works for me, weird) is to the linen tank, and I’m bummed that the Target shorts are gone already because they’re great and the price is right (although they’re quite similar to the J Crew chinos).

  4. dianna says:

    Tell me about that bag in the last photo!! Love when you slip in a fashion post between all the great book recommendations.

  5. theresa says:

    i moved recently and am all freed up about looking a certain way for certain people. for the texas summer heat, i bought myself lots of black vnecks and black capris. i have a few black and grey skirts, black and grey sandals, and lots of large sterling jewelry pieces and a black leather tote with silver hardware. i never worry about my makeup since i always wear black on top. i never forget something in another purse. laundry is a breeze when everything is dark. for me, life is too short to spend it on clothes.

  6. Corby says:

    Funny that you mention you stitch fix box. My last stitch fix box was an 0 for 5 too. They normally don’t miss the mark that much. Yep I love my uniform. Never really thought about it but I’ve been doing it subconsciously I guess for 10 years. I added stitch fix to at least change it up a little

  7. Jess says:

    I think the capsule wardrobe is a little harder for those of us with eclectic tastes. I have limited things that I wear, but they don’t all match each other because I like to have visually interesting things. If it gets too matchy-matchy I find myself completely bored with the outfits, it’s not enough to dress it up a notch or two with different jewelry. I read the book Lessons From Madame Chic, and it was fantastic and helped me to go through my clothes and if it doesn’t fit and look good and complement my skin tone, get rid of it.

    • Anna says:

      I have eclectic tastes, too, plus I move between continents and what is considered appropriate changes with the setting. I read Lessons from Madame Chic, too, and it helped me think of the principles, but I’m not going to do a 10 item wardrobe.

  8. Jill Foley says:

    I wear a lot of dresses and skirts in the summer. They are all different, and I don’t have a lot, but it feels like a uniform of sorts because it’s the same idea over and over. It’s more along the lines of Jennifer Scott’s 10 item wardrobe.

  9. Jillian says:

    I do this too. I just bought four simple dresses from Loft and plan to rotate them heavily on the hottest days with flat sandals or espadrilles. I tried Stitch Fix for a while and had some really terrible results. Then I tried Trunk Club, and it was awesome. I emailed back and forth with my stylist. The box shipped super fast. It contained more than five items, and there was no styling fee or minimum. They also offered a discount. I highly recommend it.

  10. Johnna says:

    My kids laugh at me because when I find a tank that I like (or a sweater, or basically any top) I buy one in every color. I then have basic colored skirts, shorts, capris, pants, and jeans that I can mix and match with them. I also have a large assortment of cardigans, light and heavy.

  11. Anna says:

    I do a type of uniform, too, for the days I don’t want to really think about my clothes- or I’m just too tired/busy/overwhelmed. It tends to change from place to place, depending on weather and cultural appropriateness. I like variety, though, so coming up with new “uniforms” is always fun. I’m working on a summer in Mali one now- buying local fabric to have clothes made by the tailor or sewn by me. I need long skirts, and looser tops with a little bit of a sleeve. I can wear T-shirts, but then I have to change if I go visit someone. To really be dressed well, you wear matching fabric on top and bottom. So I’m working on getting some outfits that are comfortable enough to wear around the house, and nice enough to wear out places. Unfortunately, they aren’t mix and match.
    Like with your tank tops, I like to find one style and get it in multiple colors (here multiple African fabrics.) I had one shirt that I like, so I had 2 more like it made. One of those is to go with an A-line skirt, the other I’m going to make a wrap skirt. Along with things I already had, I have 3 complete outfits that fit the bill now, and 3 other things that I need to alter and they will complete 3 more outfits. That will be enough, although I may add a few more for variety.

  12. Nancy B. says:

    I pretty much wear jeans and t-shirts, winter and summer. But in September, I’m going to an outdoor wedding of a very dear nephew in colorado. I’m determined to wear a cheerful dress, possibly floral. I’m also sun-sensitive (lupus) and need to wear sleeves. I love your fashion sense. A post on casual (a casual dress will feel dressy to me!) dresses that are simple and loose (to be worn with capri leggings) would be great. I’m not finding what I want in the usual places online. My tastes are more hippie than sophisticated. Just an idea…

  13. I really really REALLY wanted to like Everlane tanks. They had a delightfully drapey fit, but were just too gapey in the armholes. I’m OK with a little exposure, but it was just too much.

    I found the Madewell muscle tee (gray), and it has been in heavy uniform rotation. Either with jeans or drapey pants for now. (Italians are just now getting out of puffy coats.)

    https://www.madewell.com/it/madewell_category/AllProducts/PRD~E3942/E3942.jsp?Nbrd=M&Nloc=en_IT&Nrpp=48&Npge=1&Ntrm=muscle+tee&isSaleItem=false&color_name=HTHR%20PEWTER&isFromSearch=true&isNewSearch=true&hash=row0&styles=E3942-GY7319&color_name=HTHR%20PEWTER&styles=E3942-GY7319

  14. Exuberant air conditioning. Yes. That is a good way to refer to the polar vortex some places seem to be trying to create.
    I stopped my regular Stitch Fix shipments and got a few from Nordstrom Trunk — I’ve generally been happier with it.

    • Anne says:

      I’ve only gotten two shipments from Nordstrom Trunk. I love the idea … but they sent me $400 tops (which were nice, but yikes!) and blue suede shoes, no joke. I like to know I could always try again in the future though …

  15. Definitely jeans and a dressed up top. But looking at how my co-workers dress, I am starting to look for a few more professional pants that will spruce up everything else. Perhaps a few blank pants and some dark colored jeans will work for everything and make dressing up seamless every morning.

  16. Lori says:

    I totally get the tank/tee fit thing. For years I’ve done the same with fit. I’m normally a size small but now I go for large or even extra large.

  17. Not sure if you know about this, but the USPS will pickup packages at your front door for free. You can check their website to see if it’s available at your address. I do this with every Stitch Fix return and it saves me a trip to the post office!

  18. I KonMari’d most of my clothes and shoes last year. I had finished having babies, and nothing fit right anymore, including my shoes. I had gone up a half size when all was said and done. I telecommute from home part-time, so my uniform is yoga pants and T-shirt that allows me to hop on and off the treadmill desk during the workday, and otherwise jeans and a V-neck T-shirt. I have a couple dresses and a nice top and shrug for when I go out.

  19. Elizabeth says:

    I love the way personal “uniforms” and creativity are so tied together. Remember the article about that creative professional a while ago? The one who wore the same type of outfit every day to her job and felt freer than ever before to do her best work? I LOVED that. I also find that I do my best creative work not worrying over what to wear in the morning. Creativity comes with too many decisions already!

    P.S. You look great in that outfit. And I love the pendant 🙂

  20. Marie says:

    I have to say that I was inspired by your uniform post last summer and picked up a couple of the Everlane linen tanks. I practically loved them to pieces!

    An important note– they are NOT messing around when they say hand wash. I have had good luck with mine in a lingerie bag in the washer on the Hand Wash cycle, but one accidentally snuck in with the regular load last summer and came out with a hole.

    That said, I bought 2 more charcoal ones this summer. Love love love! Totally worth setting them aside in the laundry piles. Thanks for your simplifying inspiration!

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