I am about to blog about clothes.
This is something new for me. I don’t think over the ten-odd years I have been blogging I have ever blogged about clothes. But over the last couple of months clothes have been a large topic of thinking and conversation between MsBoyink and I. We’ve been focusing so much on clothes because we’re tired of thinking about what to wear.
We’ve discovered that there are two main ways to think about your wardrobe at a high level and what to wear on a daily level:
- Don’t think about your wardrobe - let it grow organically. Decide what to wear on a daily basis based on what’s available and goes together
- Look at your wardrobe as a system, developing a common base and color scheme. Spend almost no time on a daily basis because the core pieces are the same and it all goes together
I have always taken the (lazy) #1 approach to my wardrobe. It consisted of items bought or received piece by piece. I had a drawer full of t-shirts in a wide array of colors, blue jeans, and the odd pair of khakis. Up top I had a collection of button-up shirts that I liked on an individual basis, but that could only be worn with certain t-shirts. Many days this was fine - especially if I had no meetings or public outings planned. But weeks where I would be teaching or at a conference it meant I had to plan what I could wear daily in advance by finding and creating pairings. Wearing the wrong t-shirt early in the week meant I’d be shorthanded later or have to wear the same t-shirt twice.
Then I ran across this article by a person I had sat four feet away from on a daily basis for over a year. Go read that. I never noticed her basic wardrobe didn’t change. Her reasoning not only makes sense to me but the idea of not having to think so much about clothes on a daily basis sounded freeing.
So I’ve set out to create my own personal uniform. I’m almost there and am quite pleased with the results so far. Here’s my journey:
The Gray T-Shirt
Let me back up a moment. I need to make the context of this wardrobe approach clear. If you aren’t familiar with my story, over a year ago I set out on an year long family RV road trip adventure. We’re currently back in our home town, but have decided that one year wasn’t enough so after a few months of decision making and work projects we’ll be setting out again indefinitely. What this means from a clothing perspective is that I need a wardrobe that can accommodate a wide variety of temperatures and social settings.
I needed to start with a t-shirt, one color that would work for everything. In the past I would have considered white but what we found on our travels is that it’s impossible to keep white white. That’s due to both being more active and outdoors, but also due to doing laundry in places with less than ideal water. Our whites all look pretty bad at this point.
My second choice was black, but when we’re out hiking on sunny warm days in places like Arizona black doesn’t work so well. Navy would have the same problem.
So it was down to gray - light enough to be comfortable in the sun but dark enough to hide dirt & water stains. I looked around online thinking I would buy a week’s worth of t-shirts from a high-quality supplier like Lands End or Woolrich, only to find that reviews of their latest products were poor (and many of those reviews from people who’d been buying the same t-shirts for years). I liked the look of these American Apparel “Military Surplus Tees” but I ended up in a pinch. I was packing for a conference, the laundry wasn’t caught up, and all my t-shirt options were bright colors and didn’t work for the shirts I wanted to wear. I went out and found that the local Target had just placed a fresh display of Jerzee t-shirts and they had seven gray ones in my size for $5/ea. Sold.
Dickies Carpenter Pants
With the basic t-shirts selected it was easier to choose pants. I’ve been a life-long wearer of Levis but haven’t been as happy with the quality of my last couple of pair. It seems like they are about 1/2 the thickness they used to be and just don’t hold up as well. I also wanted something just a bit dressier than basic jeans while staying as comfortable.
I came across the Dickies line being sold at Wal-Mart and found the Relaxed Fit Carpenter Jean in the olive color that would work well with the gray t-shirt. I bought one pair as an experiment and after a couple of weeks and a couple of washings liked how they felt & fit, so bought another pair. Actually this proved out an advantage of a standardized wardrobe - I couldn’t find another pair in my size in the olive color locally so just ordered them online.
Shoes have been a puzzle. For the last few months I’ve had exactly one pair of shoes - some Keen sandals. I love them but even with dark socks I don’t feel quite comfortable wearing them to client meetings. I had thought to buy some shiny black shoes to dress the look up a bit, but then I tried on pair of Skecher Browsers and found them to be the perfect middle-ground shoe, casual enough to wear with just a t-shirt and dressy enough to wear with a button up shirt or more.
Topping It Off
So gray t-shirts, olive carpenter pants, and a pair of Skechers form the basis of my new “uniform”. But maybe it’s not actually a uniform, because from there I can wear any number of short or long sleeve button up shirts that are either solid or plaids with navy, white, black or grey colors. I also have a couple of navy Henley-style pullovers that will work in this system.
Beyond the Basics
I plan to buy two more pair of pants in the same olive color. One a more traditional dress pant for times when I have to meet with corporate clients on their turf. The second a pair of out-door hiking style pants with zip-off legs which will also add a pair of shorts to the mix. I might still have a sport-coat that will go with this color scheme - if it didn’t get purged in our pre-trip preparations. If it’s gone I probably won’t rush to replace it but know I could throw one in the mix if need be.
Coats needed to be considered - I’ve a lightweight black nylon fall coat that will work for mild temps, and a Lands’ End Squall Jacket in navy for colder temps. Nothing new needed there.
Here’s a couple of pictures from a recent conference where I was “in uniform”:
I love it.
On a daily basis I can grab the basics while I’m still half asleep. Up top I can grab anything that makes sense based on the weather for the day. Packing for trips is way easier - I just count the number of days I’ll be gone and toss in enough t-shirts and shirts without worrying about pairings or sequences. Laundry is easier because it all can go in the same load. Purging my existing wardrobe was easy - items either worked with the new scheme or they didn’t. Christmas gift recommendations can be very specific down to item and color.
This particular quote from the article I linked to above has stuck with me:
But the truth is, most people pay more attention to what they are wearing — and whether it’s appropriate, fitting, tucked correctly, accessorized appropriately, or not — and not to what you are wearing. My clothes are not nearly as interesting as the reason my clients want to meet with me — which is them and their business, driving their success. And that’s as it should be.
If I can’t remember what other people wore the day before, why should I worry what they think about my clothes?
I’m not a fashionista. I don’t need to make statements with my clothes. I just want to look “put together” and professional enough that I feel comfortable and don’t look out of place in different social settings. And now I can do that almost without thinking about it.
Comments are closed, but you can read the comments other people left.