Perfecting a Personal Uniform

This week’s Ivy Style post is live! I’ve been toying with the idea of a personal uniform for some time now, and I enjoyed thinking through the process a little more with this post. You can read this week’s column here!

After enduring seven years of school uniforms, I thought I’d left them behind when I started college. For me, clothing is an important way to share who you are with the world without saying a word. Practical as they are, uniforms clearly limit such self-expression.

Recently, I began to think of uniforms in a new light. What if you could create a personal uniform, something that would combine the convenience of always knowing what to wear with the personal statement that prescribed uniforms lack? This combination of ease and expression sounds ideal, but getting there is a process.

Defining a personal uniform requires reflection on your own style–not what’s in fashion, but what works for you, your body, and your daily life. It may seem strange that the bulk of people with personal uniforms work in fashion, but that’s because they know their style well enough not to be swayed by every trend. Take Anna Wintour, for instance. She almost always wears the same silhouette (A-line, belted), the same type of necklace (several gemstone strands together), the same sunglasses, and the same sandals (weather allowing). Any one of these items in isolation says “Anna Wintour.” But what if you’re not a trained editor? How do you develop that command of your own style that a great personal uniform requires?

The answer: self-examination. This is neither a quick nor easy solution, however. The journey to know yourself and your style can take years, if not a lifetime. I certainly haven’t perfected my own uniform, though I do have go-to pairings for certain circumstances (an example here). What I have developed is my wardrobe staples list. I’ve carefully tracked what I wear and when I wear it over each season and am working to distill my wardrobe into a small number of items I can always rely on. When you have fewer options, you make better choices. That leads to confidence and ease: the essence of a personal uniform.

Finding those staple pieces is difficult but rewarding, and leads you to discoveries about yourself and the designers who complement you. The hunt for those pieces led me to start a series highlighting the makers of classically-crafted clothing for women. Once you’ve found that piece that works for you, make it part of your uniform. Buy that pair of shoes, or that shirt, in multiples. Make them your own, so that someday that uniform is as much a part of you as Anna Wintour’s is of her.

Do you have a uniform, and if so, what is it?

This article was written by me and originally published on Ivy Style as part of my Women’s Ivy column. I retain ownership of all text and images included in the original column.

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