Uniform Dressing for 12 Seasons

access_time 2015/08/17 account_circle chat_bubble_outline 9 Comments
My thanks to J. whose question inspired this post.
J: I appreciate your blog a lot and would love to see you do a post on “uniform” ideas for the different seasons.  “Uniform dressing” is pretty popular right now (see for example http://www.racked.com/2014/11/20/7567861/uniform-dressing

http://www.harpersbazaar.com/culture/features/a10441/why-i-wear-the-same-thing-to-work-everday/) but it seems that most people’s ideas about uniforms are black and white (good for winters, but not for a cool summer like me).  I’d love to read your take on something like this!
C: Is this idea is to create each Season’s consistent, best neutral background, and change the accessories as desired? The background might be what reads as B&W on each colouring, or might be something else if that looks better? Or do we stick with the B&W equivalent as the background, for this post to have most value to women’s understanding of ‘uniform dressing’?

J’s reply, in which I am now fully on board:
J: I think that the idea behind uniform dressing (especially since it is usually done for work) is to create a versatile outfit (meaning that it is appropriate for almost any work-related situation) that conveys authority.   Authority is especially important for women, more so than for men.  Also, a certain lack of fussiness with clothing while still maintaining a sense of what is appropriate hits that sweet spot of “I know how to dress for my job, but I’m so busy doing great work I don’t have time to pay a lot of attention to creating a new outfit every day.”  These are the reasons that I think black and white are usually appealing for this kind of uniform dressing– black, especially, is thought to be always appropriate and authoritative but somehow still creative and artistic (read: entrepreneurial)!  It is interesting to note that people in caring professions (nurses, counselors– note: traditionally feminine kind of roles) don’t often develop their own personal uniform.  For these folks, either a uniform is given (and pastels are understood to be not only completely okay but preferred!) or not thought of.  I really think that a lot of this comes down to managing gendered expectations and thinking through what it means to be “feminine” or “masculine”.  Uniforms in themselves, especially personal uniforms, communicate a certain “male” approach to dressing– this can be strategic for women to use sometimes in certain settings.
C: Brilliant explanation. This is getting more and more attractive as a post, your words placing it suddenly among my top translation interests for dressing: the story we tell others.

cool white tops for uniforms

I asked a man what he thought of women wearing the same clothing, or clothing theme, to work every day. He said,

“Finally, someone got onto it.”

He has a point. It is not our responsibility to produce a fashion parade at work.

Grey colours for every season

Not sure about Season with neutral colours?

Scrunch up the fabric and look down in the folds, in daylight if possible. Lighting makes an enormous difference because it’s light that makes colour in the first place. If too much yellow is going in, too much yellow is coming out, amplified if the fabric is shiny.

We are not at work to be Friended or Liked, agreed with, supported, or loved. Shared maybe. With my usual emphasis on clarity of purpose, we are there to be hired, re-hired, and referred. Those are the reasons for the wardrobe.

Knowing your white might be the biggest payoff to having your colouring analyzed if you happen to be an Autumn, on whom wearing white every day is a series of unfortunate events – therefore the absence of white-white in the Warm Whites panel below.

When Autumn gets her colours right, no colouring conveys capable strength better. She looks like she can take on anything, gorgeous and fearless.

PCA is a big payoff for Springs. Life is so much better when she knows her ivory and cream. She could wear a small number of Autumn beiges, like the turtleneck marked *1 in the Warm Whites group, but why? Ivory quite literally illuminates her from within. Her pores go away, the skin is smooth as cream, the eyes sparkle.  If you scrunch up her whites and look in the folds, imagining what colour the fabric would be if you concentrated it more, you would see versions of peach and egg yolk, as the blouse top row centre.

See the *2 shirt in the Warm Whites board? Might be fine in either row.  It has a very slight pink tinge that puts Soft Summer thoughts in my head too. I couldn’t place this one without having it in hand.

Warm white colour tops
White is a high maintenance colour. If I had to pick one colour family that is spectacular on every colouring when it’s right, I’d choose blue-green. Green can be unfortunate, but even when it’s close to yours, its greatness can be hard to beat.

Plentiful in stores for all Seasons, blue-green is also hard to beat in professional situations as the colours of Nature and money. It is appropriate and civilized. Below, with the odd could-not-resist, like periwinkle for Spring.

uniform blue green colour tops


Black is easy and may be successful with your colouring; it is also usual. Transform it to be interesting. Eyes like something fun to do. When the appearance just gets better the longer you look, as colour-analyzed appearances do, there’s no incentive to stop looking.

cool print colours for shirts

Work is self control as much as crowd control. In that sense, uniform dressing may fit the bill. —–

9 Thoughts on Uniform Dressing for 12 Seasons

  • "; ?> Sara Beth

    When I think of uniform dressing I think of something more along the lines of capsule wardrobes. Into Mind has been the best blog I have found on this subject and I love the idea of merging capsule dressing with seasonal coloring, but a whole season’s worth of colors is too many for one wardrobe’s palette. The question is how to pick which colors from your season are the best to wear? I guess what I am looking for is a more detailed version of your color equations.


  • "; ?> Paz

    Interesting you think of uniform dressing as wearing the same color. I think of it as wearing the same pieces in different colors. I buy the same layering piece in 6 colors and combine it with the same pants bought in 3 colors, etc., with different scarves, jewelry, shoes and bags.

  • "; ?> Hilary

    I agree with Paz, I think of uniform dressing as a tight formula for dressing, with different colours or details that one can swap in and out. If you nail your silhouette, your accent points, and where you introduce visual interest (e.g. colourful shoes, a statement necklace, a scarf habit) then you can mix and match different versions of the same look without having to reinvent the wheel. After all, men don’t literally wear the same suits everyday – they might have a slightly different wool, a few different shirt shades, and a spectrum of ties to combine – but they all work together, they are all flattering colours and the best cut, and they are designed precisely for the occasion. No thinking needed in the morning.

    There’s lots of great advice on professional dressing in here, thank you.

  • "; ?> LauraH

    Very interesting post, I could certainly have benefited from your perspective and ideas during my working years. Retired now and very busy, uniform dressing is about looking good without a lot of decision making in the morning. For cool/cold weather I pretty much wear comfortable pants in a dark neutral, navy or dark chocolate, a colourful camisole and a contrasting colour sweater. Then I ring a few changes with scarves and jewellery. Hot weather is linen pants + loose linen shirt + necklace, etc. The in-between seasons are more challenging and I haven’t quite worked out my uniform, the weather mandates a wider range of potential pieces as flexibility is needed. I don’t find the idea of a uniform limiting at all, it makes my life easier and more pleasant.

  • "; ?> Lena

    Good post! I’m a TA who works with pediatric cancer patients and their families. A basic uniform of my brown, ivory, and camel in relaxed good-quality separates conveys the calm and comforting look I need in my job. I don’t find it boring at all; as LauraH above said it makes life easier and more pleasant. I go light on the accessories at work as too much just gets in the way. I think when choosing a work uniform, appropriateness is important, unless one works in a very creative field; then feel free to play.

    • "; ?> Christine Scaman

      Thank you, I am glad you found value here. As a person who can’t think about the same thing for more than a week, which may be why getting the DONE stamp on jobs matters so much to me, capsule dressing was something I thought about but it didn’t come easy or naturally. The Searching I did covered a lot of variations on the uniform theme. I tried to think of which one I could enjoy wearing – and find in stores. The woman paring down her closet is probably not the one dying to scour shops for hours.
      About detailed colour equations, Sara Beth, I’m happy to find a person who found those useful. I’ve always thought of them a bit the opposite, maybe because I’d need about a thousand of them to show all the possibilities. Where they could be quite useful might be with a true capsule wardrobe, like a closet spreadsheet come to life. If ever we work together, you’ll find I’m nearly not capable of working that way. Very free form. Has had many scratching their heads 🙂

  • "; ?> Lena

    Interesting to know that some people are disturbed by the color yellow. I rarely wear it, but when I do, I find that the children are usually drawn to it in a good way.

    I am a curvy Romantic, btw, and definitely play that down at work.

  • "; ?> Trisha

    Fascinating stuff! That bit about white was especially interesting to me. Thirty old years ago, shopping for a wedding dress was painful when it should have been exciting. The problem – all those bright synthetic whites made me look washed out. Eventually I adapted a sale bargain ballgown, which was made of ivory taffeta – not as deep as cream, but a very gentle off white shade. Years later, I got done as a deep autumn (although the juries out, as I’ve been done as deep winter several times too, as well as a bright spring!). Now, I can wear white T’s, as long as I have a teal or lime green or other very slightly warm colour over it, such as a cardigan or jacket. I live in capsule units though, the easy option. At present, all my clothes seem to be soft peachy pink and olive green combos, slightly boring but it works.

  • "; ?> Amanda

    I think of uniform dressing more as a minimalist decision. From that perspective mixed with business, it’s about limiting decisions on something that’s unimportant and saving your thinking power for what’s truly important. I wish that I could site the articles but the information was about studies comparing how many choices are made prior to getting to work and how it relates to the choices and creativity that you produce once you get to work. Those that have a routine that limits decisions, such as what to wear, eat, etc, end up being more productive and creative. This signature “uniform” becomes another tool that propels them forward. I have been tossing out clothing ridiculously over the past decade and have moved towards this minimalist concept, and I love it. Now I’m trying to determine what really looks amazing on me so that I’m portraying myself and what I want while at the same time limiting the excess. I haven’t been able to figure myself out in regards to colors and I hope to be able to have a color analysis done within the next six months. I look forward to having a capsule style wardrobe where I still have some room for creativity being able to interchange items that all look good on me.

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