My early fall uniform (and why I bother).

My early fall uniform (and why I bother).

I’ve long been fascinated by—and a little jealous of—people who wear the same thing every day.

While I’m not (yet) gutsy enough to join those ranks, I’m happiest when I have a loose uniform. About a year ago I realized I’d accidentally fallen into a uniform of sorts; for the past few months I’ve been sticking to one, on purpose.

Uniform dressers are usually drawn in by one of two things—the promise of productivity or identity. We’re all vulnerable to decision fatigue; deciding what to wear every day takes its toll. A uniform streamlines—or even eliminates—a daily, early morning decision.

As for identity: some people have a “look,” you know who they are, and many of us find that appealing. (Raises hand.)

My first stab at a summer uniform went great. I did it for productivity, but was surprised at how quickly identity came into play.

As I dialed in my uniform and narrowed my wardrobe further, I discovered which clothes made me feel great, what outfits made me feel most like myself.

I have a pretty spare closet, and I’m continuing to thin it. I know a lot more about my style, and what I want to get out of my closet, than I did a year ago. This fall, I’m doubling down on the clothes I feel most comfortable in: the things I actually want to wear.

stitch fix september 2015 plus trunk club-4

Right now, that looks like:

• dark, fitted neutrals on the bottom, usually pants
• looser tops: collared shirts, or lightweight tees, plus a sweater or blazer
• mostly neutral palette (I can’t explain why I love this exception)
• ballet flats, often with a pop of color

(Worth noting: this is vastly different from my go-to outfits of ten years ago. Back then I adored full skirts and fitted tees. It wasn’t a conscious change.)

I’ve learned that if I want to feel great in my clothes, shape is key. I can’t stand things that are boxy or too tight. Sleeves and hemlines need to be long enough. The waist needs to hit me in the right place. (If I’m uncomfortable in something, I’m getting rid of it—even if it’s painful in the moment.)

My fall uniform will evolve as temperatures cool. I’ll bring out the boots and scarves, then sweaters. But the foundation will stay the same.

early fall uniform

For most days, I follow a loose uniform. But if I’m in a hurry, need to leave home crazy early, or just have a big day, I have a real uniform: black pants, chambray shirt, colored flats, messy bun. (Unless I was lucky enough to wake up with decent-looking hair, in which case I’ll wear it down—always my preference.)

My sorta uniform is working well for me, but I want to continue to evolve it over the next year, and am flirting (once again) with the idea of giving a bona fide uniform a trial run. Every time I decide I don’t really want to wear the same thing every day, I stumble upon an article like this and start to waver …

Do you have a uniform, or flirt with the idea of uniform dressing? I’d love to hear all about your experience, plus your ideas for go-to outfits, in comments.

P.S. Everything I need to know about planning my life I learned from The September Issue, and the ten item wardrobe.

Ideas for your fall uniform.

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59 comments

  1. Sara K. says:

    My closet is in desperate need of an overhaul! I prefer neutrals (usually gray & black), blues and greens, or black and white print. The trouble is finding what I like available in stores at decent prices! Sigh…maybe this is the season when I will be successful 🙂

    I love that you share your wardrobe tips. It helps to keep me motivated!

    • Anne says:

      “The trouble is finding what I like available in stores at decent prices!”

      Right? Basics are often impossible to find and triple the cost of the trendy stuff!

  2. I am excited that we are getting into fall so I can wear scarves and boots again. I don’t have a uniform, but I do love the idea of a minimalist wardrobe that can be mixed and matched. I really love these posts, so please keep them coming!

  3. Jenn says:

    My wardrobe functions much like yours. I have a “look” for most days. But a lot of times I end up putting on a “uniform”. Mine is typically jeans with a v-neck colored tee. If I’m leaving the house I’ll throw a sweater, a scarf, or a chunky necklace on with it. It makes life so much easier. Sometimes I worry about other people noticing I’m wearing the same thing over and over. But real life is NOT like high school. No one notices what I wear. In fact I often get compliments for “looking nice”. Go figure!

    • Janice says:

      “real life is NOT like high school” Hallelujah!

      Teenage me could not have imagined how thrilled 40-year-old me is that real life is not like high school.

      I should tape that line in my closet since I love to wear the same outfits repeatedly, but there is that little voice wondering if I’m known around town as the woman who only has one shirt….

    • Anne says:

      “But real life is NOT like high school. No one notices what I wear. In fact I often get compliments for “looking nice”.”

      This made me chuckle. (Funny because it’s true!)

    • Katie says:

      Where do you buy your tees? I’m having such trouble finding higher quality tees that feel good and hold their shape after many washings.

  4. Tana says:

    I am a knitter so my handknits are my “accessories.” Underneath them is a pair of jeans or dark pants, a tee, and my Birks. The tees change from SS to LS with the weather. Birks are either clogs with handknit socks when it’s cool or sandals in the summer. I buy colors I like (think berries with green leaves thrown in for good measure) and generally everything coordinates well together. I love your posts about a uniform because it makes me not feel so dumb wearing the same things day after day. Some clothes just work.

  5. Linda Stoll says:

    For me, it’s all about fleece vests, starting this week and heading right through the winter. Right now over a short sleeved shirt. Later over long sleeves and then finally turtlenecks.

    Add a great scarf and I can often go without a jacket, even in the dead of winter in the northeast.

    I think I have 6 ready to roll …

  6. Meg says:

    I’ve been loosely doing this myself. My weight has fluctuated greatly over the last few years (down 40 pounds, pregnant, up 20 pounds, etc.), and replacing a wardrobe is costly. When I buy new clothes, I stick to “classic” pieces like neutral tops and cardigans that I can easily pair with other foundation pieces (black slacks for work, one or two pairs of nice jeans). It’s not the most exciting way to dress, but I’m okay with having a simple look. In the fall and winter, I add scarves or statement jewelry to spice it up a bit!

  7. Margie says:

    I have a fall uniform but not a summer one, so I always look forward to fall! I have three pairs of boots, all cognac leather that get rotated, dark blue skinny jeans and dark blue boot cut jeans and an assortment of striped tees, button downs and cardigans. I live in the south so cold weather dressing isn’t really required except for q handful of days.

  8. Katia says:

    This fall, I finally created a capsule wardrobe for myself by choosing 34 pieces that I enjoy wearing, that feel comfortable and look good on me. I work 9-5 and spend the majority of my time at work. So, the capsule wardrobe only applies to my work wardrobe. On weekends, I like to wear comfy casuals (jeans and cozy sweaters). Scarves and cute accessories can transform an outfit, so 34 basic pieces don’t seem as daunting with the various options. I love playing with clothes, but decision fatigue can be quite overwhelming. Now, I’m just working on letting go of the guilt I sometimes feel when I look at the other items in my closet that I love and could potentially wear, but I can always reserve them for the winter season. 😉

  9. Samantha D says:

    I’m just not a uniform person. Going into the office every day and working with clients there’s a bit of a game to be played in terms of changing up my outfits. But, to avoid decision fatigue I regularly scan Pinterest and save pictures of outfits where I have the same or similar pieces in my closet already (I’m also a minimalist, it’s a small but well curated wardrobe). In the morning all I have to do is pull up Pinterest during the 15-30 minutes I’m lounging in bed before getting moving and find an outfit I want to wear for the day. When I buy a new piece I go to the website and typically save some of the pictures to my Pinterest page, that way I never have to wonder how to style a particular piece that I obviously loved enough to purchase.

  10. Alicia Greaux says:

    I have a uniform b/c I hate clothes shopping (Stitch Fix didn’t work for me) and once I find something that fits, I buy all the colors & then am done. Ha!!! For fall, I am rocking out some cute corduroy pants (I have 3 pairs) with bright Land End flannel shirts (I have 4). Sooooooo cozy. I have some other nice shirts I have thrifted and am always on the look out for that magical pair of jeans that will fit + feel comfortable!

  11. Uniform? Does jeans and a Batman/Star Wars t-shirt count? Because, if so, I’ve been uniforming for years! It’s what I’m most comfortable in, it’s what I gravitate towards, and it’s perfectly “me” – it’s what I grab most often out of my closet, though there are a few normal t-shirts in there somewhere!

  12. I love the uniform idea, and I usually find myself slipping into one even if I don’t do it intentionally. My biggest problem is that I get bored with things quickly. I’ve realized that I have three cold-weather uniforms: flannels/chambrays/button-ups that can be dressed up or down; a constant rotation of cardigans, t-shirts, and scarves; and a smaller selection of big sweaters and cozy dolman-style shirts. It’s just enough variation to keep me from feeling like I’m in a rut.

  13. middle class says:

    Even though I don’t have a uniform per se, I like having a certain style that someone can say to me “oh, you would like this.” I like clean classic looks with a European twist — a dash of color or pattern. I love stripes, dots, plaid, tweed, etc.. I consider this more of having a style than a uniform.

  14. Sarah Alves says:

    Yep, over the past couple years I have developed a uniform of sorts for work. Ankle pants, flats (Tieks!), loose knit tops with sparse jewelry and light make up. Throughout the year, I only add a few pieces to my wardrobe (a top or two, one new pair of pants, etc.). We are strict budgeters and even though I really enjoy spending money, I feel better when I know I am living within my means 🙂

  15. Sarah says:

    My uniform is very similar to yours, though I have limited myself to black, grey, and blue for my colors (less choices = happier me). I am in need of a good blazer right now though, to get me out of my fall cardigan rut. I am also toying with buying one great pair of skinny jeans to replace two pairs of cheaper ones.

    For church, I have limited myself to one well-made black linen shift. I bought it for $1 at a yard sale, and I have worn it probably 48 of the last 52 weeks. No one has ever noticed. I just change up the necklace or the shoes, and occasionally wear a short cardigan with it. Once, after wearing it for eight Sundays in a row, I asked my husband if he liked it better than the dress I wore the previous week. His answer: “I don’t remember what you wore last week.” It was then that I realized I could get away with wearing it every week.

    • MK says:

      This! I finally fit in a favorite grey shift dress and the baby can make it through church without nursing. I’ve worn it two weeks in a row out of excitement, but getting ready last Sunday was so easy, I’m not going to change a good thing!

    • Anne says:

      “I don’t remember what you wore last week.”

      That story made me laugh! (I remember a stylish woman telling me once that if you wear classic clothes—like a black linen shift—every week, people never notice the clothes. But you could never do the same thing with a lime green pantsuit. 🙂 I think of that when I’m debating which clothes to put in regular rotation. 🙂 )

  16. Cassie says:

    I just realized this year that I’ve had a uniform all along. Sundresses & strappy sandals in the summer. A fitted tank, light sweater, skinny jeans and flats in the fall and spring. Then I switch out flats for boots, add a jacket and scarf for winter. The colors change (rich colors and plaids in the fall, brighter & happier colors and prints in the spring) but the basics stay the same! It’s so good to know what just looks good & fits well so you can stop hanging on to things that just aren’t “you”.

  17. I am definitely a uniform dresser. I actually wore a uniform all through grade school (Catholic), and I loved it! I was kind of mad when my Catholic all-girls high school did NOT have a uniform.

    For weekends or working from home, I wear jeans, a t-shirt, a hoodie, and sneakers. I blogged about my workday uniform a couple of months ago: http://momsradius.blogspot.com/2015/06/my-workday-uniform.html. I will need to get some warmer clothes for fall and winter, but the formula is always the same: black pants, shirt, and cardigan. I know what I like and what I actually wear. It’s best not to deviate; otherwise it’s a waste of money.

  18. Grace says:

    My closet is a major source of stress for me. I never had a lot of clothes, but my issue is that none of my clothes go together. I love patterns and lots of colour for everything which make putting individual pieces into an outfit impossible. I’ve been trying to plan and make a capsule wardrobe (I recently wrote about that here: http://www.heartfulhabits.com/plan-a-capsule-wardrobe-with-these-resources/), but when I’m shopping for basics I just feel so sad and blah when I’m try them on.

  19. June says:

    I love the ballet flats but gasped when I saw the price. How long do a pair last you? I’ve had my danskos almost 8 years and so the $100 price tag was worth it to me, but not sure ballet flats would last that long? Thanks for the info!

    • Anne says:

      I know, major caveats required about the shoes. Here are mine: 1. Shoes are tough for me. I have gigantic, freaky wide feet and most brands don’t come close to fitting (or even make my size). 2. Because they’re tough, I only buy 2 or 3 pairs a year. No closet full of $20 Target shoes. I have to pay $$$ and I take my shoes where I can find them. 3. I’ve only had these flats 9 months, so I’m not sure how long they will last, but I wear them 4 times a week, easy.

  20. MK says:

    I am seriously toying with having a Monday outfit, a Tuesday outfit, etc. As a previous commenter mentioned, it works for church on Sunday, it might just work the rest of the week. I could put together seven outfits at the beginning of a season change, look stylish (or as close as I can get!) each day, and not think a thing about it until the season changes again. Once Little Rock really yields to fall, I’m going to try it.

  21. Ruth-Anne Hayes says:

    Love, love, love the idea of a uniform! I have been following The Minimalists and others for several years now. My husband and I are working hard at the painful process of peeling back the onion skins of our excess. My only vise is plaid. Other than that I could handle black, navy and gray every day. ♡

  22. I love the idea of a daily uniform and each season I am narrowing down what I like and reducing items in my closet to things I really love. Speaking of, where is that chambray shirt from? It’s on my list of things to add to my closet this season. 🙂

  23. Liza says:

    My “uniform” is shorts in the summer, blue jeans in winter. Solid color knit tops, mostly green, royal or navy blue, or turquoise. I have a few tops in other colors – a couple of black, a deep purple, but I don’t wear them as much. Always v-neck or scoop. The tees may have some details to dress them up a tad and make them unique, but they’re still solid colors. I do get the basic tees from Target in all the colors that look good on me. That’s my thing – if I find a shirt I like, I get it in as many colors as look good on me.

    Last year, I started branching out some and bought a couple of striped tees and some nicer tops that are better fabrics and are patterned with brighter colors. My favorite of those has tiny sailboats all over it, although I’ve realized recently that I don’t like the shape of it much. I’ll wear the nicer things on the days I’ll be out running errands (or on the days I work, even though I don’t have to dress up at all).

    I do have a few dresses and skirts but I rarely wear them. I’m not going to wear a dress to do housework, and I’m not going to change into one just to go to the store. I wear them mainly when I get tired of the shorts or jeans.

  24. Anna says:

    I have a pretty basic wardrobe, and a uniform of sorts. Jeans or dark pants, long sleeve knit shirt, cowboy boots. Then I can make it more interesting by adding a necklace, scarf or other accessories. I also have 2 sleeveless sweaters and some jackets that can add extra warmth. I get bored if I’m wearing the same thing repeatedly, but the same shirt & pants with different accessories is enough change for me.

  25. Jocelyn says:

    This is such an interesting concept. I’ve never considered a uniform before but I bet if I take a good look at my closet my clothes will all fit into the same basic uniform. I’m all about getting rid of the uncomfortable and only keeping what I regularly wear.

    Bossyjocie.com

  26. Jane says:

    I love uniforms! I wore one at school, and so after I left, it was hard to figure out what I liked to wear! Now, with my work – which is active and outdoors – I wear yoga pants, t-shirt, and runners every day pretty much. While not at work, I wear skinny jeans, blouses, and pretty flats. I always go back to these kinds of clothes, and they made me happiest!

  27. Alyssa says:

    On days when I have to do something outside the house, my “uniform” usually consists of sundresses & sandals in summer; jeans, nice top & boots in fall. But if I’m being honest, a lot of times I wear workout clothing all day, whether I’ve worked out or not! Since I’m at home a lot, I have a hard time motivating myself to put on ‘real’ clothing when I’m not going to see anyone besides my kids and my husband (who doesn’t seem to care what I wear).

  28. Now I want to decide on a uniform! I have often bought something I ended up loving and wished I had bought a dozen so I’d always have the item. Once, years ago, I did buy about 4 or 5 shirts in the same style but different colors. Paired with jeans or black pants they were comfy and practical. Maybe it’s time for a wardrobe overhaul.

  29. Paula says:

    I definitely have a Fall uniform. I wear tall boots and skinny jeans with either a graphic tee/tank top and cardigan, or a button down shirt. And in Fall I love to wear my olive or raisin colored skinnies. So simple, but it makes me feel put together. 🙂

  30. Sarah says:

    I LOVE striped tops. But what’s ironic is that the stripes exacerbate my husband’s vertigo when he sees them! In search of another style, I guess!

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