Getting dressed for work can be a real pain. How long do you stand in front of your closet deciding what to wear, wondering where your black pants are or trying to determine if an outfit is work appropriate? Do you ever get to work only to be uncomfortable in the outfit you chose? Your bra strap keeps slipping out, you realize your skirt is shorter than you thought, or your pants are itchy?
Have you ever considered constructing your own work uniform? I bet the thought has never crossed your mind. It can be easy to forget that you don’t have to follow the norm and that you have the power to make decisions about your lifestyle and body. The work uniform is a minimalism spin-off, you are accessing your work environment to determine the functional and logistical clothing that will make you the most productive. Have you ever thought of your workwear in this way?
Stick with me here, I am going to go over the many reasons why having a work uniform can benefit anyone and how to make it work for you.
Are Your Work Outfits Holding You Back?
In casual work environments, it can be difficult for women to know what to wear. Men have pretty standard clothing when it comes to the business and the business casual world, not to say they can’t benefit from a work uniform just that theirs is easier to put together, their expectations for dress are clearer.
You don’t want your work attire to take away from the actual work you are doing, right? When people know what to expect from you, you become more reliable in their eyes. For example, if you show up to work every day you are reliable. When you show up to work is your appearance drastically changing from one day to the next? In other words is your appearance reliable?
Depending on your work environment this might not be a problem. However, if you work in an environment where you and your co-workers are constantly interacting with people outside the walls of your company, having a reliable appearance is important. If your boss or company owner is walking around potential clients, customers, or local business partners they want their company to be seen as cohesive, which is why there is a dress code in place.
Example: I have worked with someone before who “dresses up” every few days. I don’t mean suit and tie, I mean like borderline Halloween dress up. Nothing they were wearing was technically outside the dress code, but I do not know what to expect from this person. My first impression from me is they don’t take their job very seriously.
When you are at work, you have a responsibility to represent your company. Wearing things that almost fall in the dress code is not acceptable. Even if no one is saying anything to you, people notice if you are underdressed or not meeting the expectation of the dress code.
In recent years there has been a rise in work uniforms, from both men and women. Think Vera Wang, Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs, they all see the benefit in wearing a work uniform. They have sh*t to do, they don’t need their clothing getting in the way or taking up mental space in their creative brains!
Decision fatigue is a problem everyone who has to make many decisions faces throughout the day. It means that the quality of your decision-making skills deteriorates over time. Your willpower becomes weaker. This might be why it is harder to say no to the second bowl of ice cream after a long day.
More Time for You
Some people do not enjoy shopping, however, that doesn’t mean that they do not want to look stylish and professional at work. Shopping takes time! It can be a frustrating experience if you don’t go out with a plan or clear idea of your work identity. Once you have a work uniform, the frustration of shopping for work clothes takes a back seat. You know what you need to buy and how you want to look.
There are fewer items to find which translates to less time at the mall or browsing online catalogs. Overall you will have fewer clothes to maintain. Less laundry, folding, hanging, and ironing. You will gain more minutes in the morning, maybe to sleep or grab a cup of coffee.
What I Wear to Work
I wear almost the same thing to work, every single day. Since I work in a manufacturing plant my work wardrobe is business casual – but barely. I can wear jeans and t-shirts too on days I am getting my hands dirty.
- 3 pairs of “work jeans” – slim straight fit
- 2 pairs of khakis both are khaki color, slim straight fit
- 7 short sleeve polo shirts* in varying colors of gray, black and blue
- 2 long sleeve polo shirts* in royal and navy blue
- 3 T-shirts*
- 1 cardigan*
- 1 lightweight pullover*
- 2 fleece pullovers** – in pink and gray
- 1 pair of work boots** – steel toe, gray
- 2 True Body Bras** – in black and nude, these bras are AMAZING! More below.
- 2 long sleeve button ups*
- 1 pair black dress shoes
* Purchased from my company store
**Pulls double duty and works in my casual wardrobe
I love that I can buy company gear, but I know this isn’t feasible or affordable for everyone. The company I work for has really affordable items – everything I purchase is in the $20-$35 range. There is the added bonus of knowing they are work appropriate, our HR department is in charge of putting the catalog together so I know I am within the bounds of acceptable workwear.
There are 5 reasons I decided to build my work uniform.
- I get dirty at work – all my work jeans have grease stains or super glue on them. They are still acceptable to wear to work on a normal day. Since my dress code is casual that means I could wear the majority of my casual clothing to work, but I don’t want to risk ruining my favorite sweater or jeans.
- It takes me exactly 5 minutes to get dressed in the morning, no matching and no picking out clothes the night before. Fewer decisions during the day!
- Fewer colors equal fewer clothes. I let the colors the company store offers be my guide on this. I mainly wear black, gray and blue, and it works for me. Like I said above I get dirty at work, while I like wearing bright colors I like getting more wear out of clothes more.My work wardrobe has 24 pieces that I wear regularly and 3 pieces I do not. Of the 27 pieces total, 5 of them can be worn in my casual attire as well. When you don’t have to match tops to bottoms the amount of clothing you need for a single week shrinks. That means less money is going into your work wardrobe, and we are always looking for ways to cut spending excess money, am I right?
- I am always dressed appropriately, no matter which item pick (besides the T-shirts) I know I am A-Okay. When it get to work I am focused on work, not my clothes. There is also the added benefit that my boss and co-workers know what to expect out of me.
- Everything is comfortable, shout out to my HR department on this one. All the clothing they pick is breathable and functions well for the work environment. I only wear a specific brand of jeans – they fit me well and last forever, so I know they are comfortable.
Side Note: Once they sold WHITE pullovers and I loved them, but I could not buy it in white, I mean in general me and white don’t get along well, but it would be super dirty in 2 hours. I told our HR director my issue and they released them in black and gray!
If my company didn’t sell polos I would probably purchase something like this polo or blouse. Again, I cannot afford to be super invested with my clothing. My typical shirt lasts about a year before I get a stain on it that won’t come out. It can be anything that works for you.
Make it Work for You
Buying 5-10 work outfits all at once is a bit of an investment, but it is one that will give you peace of mind and easier mornings. In the long run, it will also save you money. Since I adopted my own work uniform I have only spent $600 in the last two years on work clothes, and this includes $150 steel toe boots.
Side Note: CAT makes some seriously CUTE work boots. They are busting into a market that has been overlooked for women who need tough work boots. I hate big, heavy clunky boots! I want to feel like myself at work. I even wear them out and about with skinny jeans.
- Figure out an outfit you love, are comfortable in and adheres completely to your dress code. If you are unsure ask someone else in the office!
- Decide on a color palette. Do you want to wear the same thing every day or have a few colors? Make it easy on yourself, start with a single color for pants.
- Shop around and see what is out there. If you hate ironing, look for easy care shirts.
- How often do you do laundry, 2x a week, once a week, every 2 weeks? Plan to get enough clothing for in between washes.
- Add customization, if you want more variety adding colorful scarfs, jewelry or a different colored blazer can change up your look.
When you debut your look people might wonder what you are up to, especially women. For some reason, society is extremely focused on our appearance but that is a post for another time. Remember men do this all the time and no one questions them. There are multiple men I have worked with that wear the exact same thing every day. No one questions them or thinks it is abnormal! So rock it!
Formal Business Dress Environments
If you work in an industry that requires dressier outfits, the work uniform can still work for you. In fact, it might be even easier to put together. Do you have a favorite suit combo? Make that your base, dress it up with a different scarf, necklace or colored top. Easily change it up with a patterned skirt, dress, flats, and heels.
Look for breathable fabrics that don’t easily stain and are neutral colors, this will make it easier to match blouses and button-ups if you want to have a broader color palate. Take a cue from the men in your office, they probably wear the same thing almost every day, why can’t you?
If you are into high-end fashion that never goes out of style check out MM.LaFleur. They make high-quality formal and casual business pieces for women that don’t like shopping but want to look amazing at work.
A note about undies. Blush.
Until about six months ago I struggled with finding bras that were smooth underneath my work clothes, meaning you couldn’t see the clasp in the back, straps or cup outlines. The only way I could get around this was by layering a tank top underneath my work polos, which wasn’t very comfortable. I then found True Body Bras by True & Co, and I can honestly say they have changed my life! I am so much more comfortable in anything I wear.
They are lightweight and basically invisible underneath your clothing. They provide good support and have light padding. I tried them on a whim after reading all the positive reviews on their website. I am not getting any sort of commission for this post, so you can be sure that they really are amazing. They just came out with a few more versions and a full-length tank + bra if you need some more coverage.
I love my work uniform because it works for me and it is comfortable. At work I am already the youngest and only female in my department, I have more worries than what I am wearing. I never want my clothing to be distracting or take away from my abilities and unfortunately in today’s society that means I have to be careful in how I am representing myself at work.
Many people probably wouldn’t recognize me right away if they saw me out and about because they are used to seeing me in the same clothes but it doesn’t bother me. I actually get teased on the rare occasion I wear a flannel or sweater that isn’t part of my uniform. Remember – when you are at work, you are responsible for representing the company with your work and how you present yourself. Make sure you’re putting a well-dressed foot forward.
Thanks for stopping by!