Personal Uniform: My Closet Cure

My husband has had a personal uniform for a few years. Although I tease him about having five of the exact same pair of pants, I guess it made sense since he was in the Marines when we got married and wore a real uniform everyday. I, on the other hand, thought the idea sounded like a snooze. My style is bohemian, gypsy, anything flowy, gauzy, colorful, vintage, eclectic. Are these words that you normally use to describe a uniform? I certainly don’t!

Personal Uniform: My Closet Cure

Unfortunately, it turns out they aren’t necessarily great descriptions for a mom wardrobe, either. Colorful is fine, but flowy equals tripping on the stairs with my hands full. Gauzy equals caught on someone’s velcro coat. Vintage means please don’t touch this one-of-a-kind item; oh look, now it’s ruined forever. Eclectic means the one thing that matches this is in the laundry again.

I’ve minimized my wardrobe quite a bit in the past few years for various reasons, which resulted in more wear and tear on the now more frequently worn remaining pieces. I recently started to have that good old-fashioned, “I don’t have anything to wear” feeling.

Emptying My Closet

I’ve dabbled with the idea of capsule wardrobes, but I don’t really like the idea of swapping my clothes around seasonally. I ain’t got time (or storage) for that. Taking some of the closet cleaning ideas I’d read on Cladwell and other sites, I tried sorting my clothes into piles like “love and wear” and “don’t wear.” I had to make more piles. I added “love but don’t wear”, “don’t love but do wear”, and “broken”. I cheated, as in, “Well, I love that and I do wear it. It’s for special occasions and I wear it on special occasions.”

I had about 50-55 pieces of clothing, but only about 5 almost-but-not-quite-practical everyday outfits. The amount of practicality was inversely proportional to the amount of love I felt for any given combo. I could make do with frequent loads of laundry (because clothing items were not interchangeable) and tripping over my long skirts, or I could figure out a better solution.

Choosing My Personal Uniform

In the end, I decided to adopt a modified personal uniform. What this basically means is that I wear the same clothes everyday. It is galling to buy new clothes when you have clothes already, but I packed the old stuff up and moved on. This is an experiment, however; my old favorites are stil waiting for me in a box for the time being. Since my wardrobe is already pretty minimal, that wasn’t a big deal. Here’s what my new uniform consists of:

Seven long, flowy shirts, identical except for the colors, which are: berry, teal, dark green, black, grey, navy, and floral.

Three cropped cardigans in grey, dark green, and orange. (These have 3/4 sleeves that stay happily out of my way.)

8 pairs of leggings/jeggings, mostly interchangeable with all the shirts.

Of course, there are other things in my bureau and closet: socks and underwear, swimsuits, pjs, workout clothes, accessories, shoes. These are all kept to minimal amounts as well. I have three dresses for the occasional wedding that might pop up (and because I was too attached to them, let’s be honest.) I also have two additional sweaters because I live in Maine–sometimes a serious sweater is necessary.

Is the Personal Uniform Working For Me?

I’m a little bit shocked to say yes! It has not been monotonous, my biggest fear. I have plenty of flexibility with different combinations and accesories. So far, no one has said, “Hey, why do you wear the same clothes all the time?” I am able to feel good about my outfit every day, and I have received compliments. I enjoy having something appropriate for everyday wear. I’ve always eschewed wearing jeans and a t-shirt every day and my new uniform is essentially a slightly dressed up version of that. However, it works well for where I am now in life. I value the simplified morning routine that comes of a wardrobe where basically anything works for anything I am likely to do.

For summer, I plan to adapt my uniform by ditching the sweaters and perhaps acquiring a few capri leggings. I expect to be able to replace my staple items as they wear out. I am also taking care to launder them carefully and air dry them to minimize wear.

Sometimes I am able to get away for a weekend of writing. Maybe next time, I’ll haul out my box of impractical clothes, more suited to sitting at a desk or in a bed and breakfast dining room than my regular running around days. For the most part, though, I’m happy with my uniform and I think I’ll stick with it.

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