A Do or Don’t : Work Uniforms – Cup of Jo


{Photo courtesy of iVillage.ca. Mom uniform = elastic waist is key}

Carly here!

I found this article about work uniforms really intriguing, despite the fact that the only work I do is freelance work from my “remote office” (which is a fancy way of saying “home office” which is a fancy way of saying “on my couch.”) Since I literally work in my pajamas, in front of the TV, and late at night, I really have no work uniform. But for most people who work in the “real world,” this concept of a “work uniform” might be really appealing. Similar to a wardrobe capsule (see Kacey’s post on a spring capsule), a work uniform exists to simplify and streamline your morning routine.

A lot of the working women in my life are also mothers, so I assume a simplified morning routine would be perfection for them. In fact, I really can’t think of a different demographic who could benefit more from a streamlined wardrobe – just thinking about getting ready to get out the door for work, all while packing up children and snacks and baby supplies for childcare, puts me in a sweat. I feel like there are enough things to juggle in the morning without having to throw in “should I wear pants or a skirt?” or “does this look decent on me or was that just the version of me in my head?”

The idea of uniforms got me thinking about “my uniform.” I feel like my “mom uniform” has a few different looks (you know, for “away games.”) My home uniform is very simple, because it is centered around elastic pants. Everything else is inconsequential as long as I have yoga pants on, which in no way impede any mom-like activities in the home (I’m thinking of the diaper-changing, dinner-making variety.)

Then there is the “outings uniform” which can actually be split into two categories: outings with children and outings without the children. There are the outings with children that call for comfort – a morning of errands, for example. This usually calls for what I dub “formal athletic-wear” – you know, one step up from yoga pants. This is usually a form of leggings and a tunic. Of course, there are also outings with children that involve seeing people you know. These require some semblance of “caring” – a dab of makeup, a wedge shoe, hoop earrings. Finally, there are the outings without children, when you can dress like someone who doesn’t have to be ready to change a diaper on the floor or chase after an unwary toddler. Comfort can take a backseat and you can wear that 75% of the closet that looks beautiful but feels uncomfortable. Yay?

Do you have a uniform? Joanna Goddard from “A Cup of Jo” asks if a work uniform is a “do” or a “don’t.”

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Have you seen Matilda Kahl’s article about wearing the same thing to work every day? The piece has been shared 86,400 times, likely because we all face this daily. At my old job, I used to wobble into meetings in uncomfortable heels and worry if my skirts were too short when I was sitting down. And not just with work — we have a wedding this weekend, and I’m already stressed about what to wear, while of course Alex will wear his standard gray suit. Here, Kahl explains why a work uniform has changed her life:

About three years ago, I had one of those typical Monday mornings that many women have experienced. With a fairly important meeting on the horizon, I started to try on different outfits, lacking any real direction or plan. As an art director at one of the leading creative advertising agencies in New York, I’m given complete freedom over what I wear to the office, but that still left me questioning each piece that I added or subtracted from my outfit. “Is this too formal? Is that too out there? Is this dress too short?” I finally chose something I regretted as soon as I hit the subway platform.

As I arrived at work, my stress level only increased as I saw my male creative partner and other male co-workers having a “brodown” with the new boss as they entered the meeting room — a room I was supposed to already be inside. I just stood there — paralyzed by the fact that I was not only late, but unprepared… This was not the first morning I’d felt this unnecessary panic, but that day I decided it would be the last.

So Kahl came up with a work uniform — a silk shirt and black pants she wore every day from then on. Although colleagues questioned her choice, teased her and even worried about her well-being, she points out, “A work uniform is not an original idea. There’s a group of people that have embraced this way of dressing for years — they call it a suit.”

And it’s true. Men not only have the easy option of suits, they can also get more specific without anyone caring. As discussed in the new Men’s Style section in the New York Times, powerful men often have a signature ensemble: Facebook mogul Mark Zuckerberg wears a gray T-shirt and blue jeans, designer Georgio Armani wears a navy cashmere sweater and navy drawstring pants, and architect Daniel Libeskind wears a black leather blazer, jeans and cowboy boots. In 2012, Obama told Vanity Fair, “You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits. 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.”


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