Love to love... A girl in uniform
Nothing to wear? Yeah right.
Everyday essentials (you should already have).
Chances are you’re standing at an open wardrobe – and no doubt stepping over clothes on the floor – as you say those three words to yourself, over and over. It’s like a mantra, your very own, ‘I don’t know the answer’.
“Water, water everywhere, and not a drop to drink,” wrote poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge.
When faced with this, it’s not the time to take the path less travelled. It’s time, instead, to turn to the fail-safes, to the feel-goods, to the forever favourites, whatever they are for you. Blue jeans, white tee. White shirt, navy blazer. Black on black on black. These pieces, they’re the ones you never want to surrender to the dirty clothes basket – and with very good reason.
A white shirt, always, is the perfect place to start:
The solution to my woes came in the form of 15 silk white shirts and a few black trousers.
Matilda Kahl, a New Yorker and art director at Saatchi & Saatchi, took this single-minded approach one step further: she wears the same thing – with a slight variation – to work each and every day. And she has done for the last three years.
“I wanted to simplify my morning struggle,” she told The Daily Mail.
Her uniform of choice is black pants, a white shirt, a black leather rosette and a black jacket (leather and otherwise). All of it born of a need for that one thing we all chase: control.
“The solution to my woes came in the form of 15 silk white shirts and a few black trousers,” she told Harper's Bazaar.
“I shopped all the pieces in one day. It burned a hole in my wallet to say the least, but in the long run, it has saved me – and will continue to save me – more money than I could imagine.”
GET THE BASICS RIGHT
This is the key. Stock up on essentials. Consider them investments, not expenses. Buy pieces that will last – and that you will love – from here until the foreseeable eternity. Denim, again, is a great place to start.
And: variety in similarity. If you’re going for white shirts, toy with different collars and cuts. Black T-shirts? Try a crew neck AND a v-neck. Jeans? Go for slightly different shades and cuts.
MAKE IT YOUR OWN
Also: no matter what you do, make it your OWN. Kahl’s rosette is the most personal of touches – inspired by her mother’s love of tying her hair with one. This is her secret to getting it oh-so-right, it’s the one detail that makes this uniform her own.
Your personal touch, though, doesn’t need to be a rosette or a belt or a bag. It can be a style, an approach. Think back to eating your lunch on the tennis court: at school you’d do anything to make that scratchy uniform your own be it wearing your socks high (or low), knotting the blazer around your waist (worth the afternoon detention), or whatever it took to make it yours. And you weren’t comfortable unless it was so. Think: cuff your jeans, roll your sleeves, tie your shirt. Or, try it in fit: try oversized instead of just right.
When it comes to a daily uniform, Kahl is not alone in her efforts – as anyone who wears a suit on the regular would attest. But it makes sense, they’re something uniquely intrinsic about making your style your signature.
Buy what you love, wear what you love, be what you love. Theret, and there – suddenly – is a freedom.
“You'll see I wear only grey or blue suits,” President Obama told Vanity Fair in 2012. “I'm trying to pare down decisions. I don't want to make decisions about what I'm eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”
Giorgio Armani is seldom seen in anything but a navy blue T-shirt (he owns more than 40), cashmere sweater and navy drawstring pants; Steve Jobs was forever in that black turtleneck and Dad jeans. Clearly, in having their own capsule collection, these people are onto something.
The uniform, then, goes beyond decision fatigue: it’s something more deliberate. As Kahl told Harper’s, her sartorial same-same was her solution to the pressure she felt to get it right on a daily basis.
“… We ultimately end up with an unscaleable mountain of high expectations. No wonder many people walk around feeling that the world owns them, when it really should be the other way around.
“The thought of reclaiming the driver's seat can feel overwhelming, but even small changes can make a huge difference. The simple choice of wearing a work uniform has saved me countless wasted hours thinking, ‘What the hell am I going to wear today?’ And in fact, these black trousers and white blouses have become an important daily reminder that frankly, I'm in control.
“Today, I not only feel great about what I wear, I don't think about what I wear.”
Karl Stefanovic – TV presenter, host and perpetual prankster – wore the same suit for a year, explaining to daily broadsheet The Sydney Morning Herald the stunt was a gesture of protest at the way his female colleagues were regularly scrutinised for their clothing choices.
“I’m judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humor, on how I do my job, basically,” he said. Women “are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.”
There’s power in the uniform: another NYC creative Alice Gregory, wrote a piece for j.Crew magazine where she absolutely pinned it: it’s iconic. It’s a “cheap and easy way to feel famous,” she wrote.
“A uniform can be a way of performing maturity or, less charitably, impersonating it. A uniform insinuates the sort of sober priorities that ossify with age, as well as a deliberate past of editing and improving.”
She says there’s something of being a protagonist in wearing a uniform: “Characters in picture books never change their clothes.”
Hey, we can all be heroes. And not just for a day.