My friends know that my ideal daily uniform would be absolutely nothing, followed by nothing but my favorite sweatpants, followed by nothing but my favorite sweatpants and my favorite flip flops. But alas, I’m not rich enough (read: at all) to be able to afford to not work, so the next best thing is making my daily outfits as comfortable as possible. It’s not that I don’t care about how I look these days, because I do, but I care much, much less than when I was younger. Why? … because have learned to value myself as both a person and a woman even when I’m not my most conventionally attractive, despite my years of relentless social programming. Go figure that I’m the only one not self-fat-shaming at the office happy hour. SHOCKER.
In my office, the women dress quite differently from one another, based on their roles. Everyone wears makeup, but the non-attorney staff wear pants, sweaters, and general business-casual comfort-wear. The attorneys, however, wear dresses, pencil skirts, and high heels every single day — the stale, trite essence of professional hyperfemininity branded many decades ago.
To me, that’s amusing. Every day as a teenager, I donned full eye makeup, contact lenses, and clothing tight enough to rival Saran wrap. At my after-school law office receptionist job, I also regularly wore “sexy secretary” outfits, complete with sky high stilettos.
But, to put it crassly, I gave that shit up years ago, and my stress level and self-esteem are both in much better places now than back then. I have to wonder if the aforementioned attorneys in my office hyperfeminize their looks because of want — or of need. My compulsive teenage hyperfemininity was fun when it was socially rewarding, but it was also a drive. I felt like less of a person on the days when I wasn’t the epitome of what I felt was expected of me as a female person.
I’ve read articles about the appeal of work uniforms, like this and this, and they spoke to me. As both a creature of habit and a newfound minimalist convert, I love the idea of treating your work wardrobe as an algorithm. For me, the daily grind duds are New York & Company suit pants, a sleeveless or short-sleeved top, an Aerie non-push-up bra, my glasses, eyebrow colorant, a cardigan, a statement necklace, and pointy-toed flats. On occasion, I’ll substitute a stylish dress for the top-and-pant combo, but four days out of five, I’m consistent with my fail-safe model.
The result is that my mornings are easy and time-efficient, and I’m always comfortable at work because I can freely move my limbs. I may not look like my bosses, but I feel like them, and the quality of my work speaks for itself.
Of course, this isn’t to say that the attorneys in my office don’t treat their outfits as uniforms, too. They might. But for me to achieve that look takes a lot of vanity effort, and the point of me developing my uniform was to lessen that self-imposed burden.
Here’s to a bare face, breezy clothing, and more time and energy toward continuing to work my ass off.