work-uniform

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.”

Even crazier: Australian TV anchor Karl Stefanovic wore the same blue suit every day for a year — but nobody even noticed. He explained that he was trying to reveal the double standard against the female anchors, whose clothing was regularly critiqued and criticized. Needless to say, his experiment worked.

Would you wear the same ensemble to work every day? Our shared workspace in Brooklyn is super casual, but we still want to look professional when we have meetings or people drop by. I often wear this exact pair of black jeans, a silk shirt and comfy heels.

For a more formal office, a pretty dress like this or this could fit the bill. But if you don’t want to worry about short hemlines (or shaving in the winter), these cool slouchy pants and a shirt with rolled sleeves would look great with rosy blush and middle part.

Thoughts? What do you wear to work right now? Would you consider wearing the same thing every day? So freeing, right? If you were putting together a uniform, what would it be?

P.S. Best spring nail polish and 15 career tips from smart women.