Stop me if you’ve heard this one: Influential CEOs wear the same thing to work every.
Many people read that statement a different way: Influential male CEOs wear the same thing to work every day. Steve Jobs wore jeans and a black turtleneck. Mark Zuckerberg wears a hooded sweatshirt. President Obama wears only gray and blue button-downs. Very rarely do women get positive attention for re-wearing clothing, let alone a work uniform, even when those women include German Chancellor Angela Merkel and designer Vera Wang.
However, women wear work uniforms just as much as men do. An expert in establishing a work uniform, Lorrie Thomas Ross, wears her uniform so she can focus on her work.
“I need to be focused on my clients, not stressing over clothes.” Ross said. “Before I was in marketing, I worked for Saks Fifth Avenue. There, black was my self-imposed uniform. Wearing black made it about the couture clothing and the client, not me.”
Today, Ross’ closet is still mostly black clothing.
There’s no science that says a work uniform is or isn’t better than changing your outfit every day, but on a personal level — choosing to wear a work uniform makes their day to day lives easier.
Rachel Charlupski, founder of The Babysitting Company, started her company while she was in college. Because of her hectic lifestyle, she found that she needed a uniform to transition her from work to school and back to work.
“My uniform was sweats or pajamas,” Charlupski said. “It would take me so long to change and shower or go back home to dress appropriately, so I decided that every day I would still dress comfortable but be ready at any time so that I could leave on a moment’s notice.”
As her business expanded, Charlupski found that she needed to focus her energies on work instead of on clothes. Once she found a uniform that provided her a balance between client meetings, office work and babysitting, she streamlined her morning routine.
“I had little time in the morning to think about what I was going to,” Charlupski said. “Daily, I wear an all-black Lululemon outfit that I can easily add a blazer and heels. I do, however, never wear sleeves because we do so much typing. They get in the way!”
“Women have enough issues to deal with, stressing over wardrobe should not be one of them,” Ross said. “It is so wonderful to walk into a store and know that 98 percent of what is there is not something I want or need.”
Looking to create a work uniform of your own? Here are Ross’ tips on how to get there:
1. Talk to a style expert.
Ross’ previous fashion experience was a huge help in deciding what silhouettes she should focus her wardrobe on. “It is so worthwhile to have an expert educate you on the right styles that fit,” Ross suggests. “There are even personal jewelers who can make the right jewelry shape tips. When you wear what looks good and what you feel comfortable in, it makes you feel and be your best.”
2. Limit your color palette.
Similar to selecting a silhouette, focus on the colors that you feel the most confident in. For instance, Ross is most comfortable in black, white and shades of gray, but if you love prints — continue to rock them! These are clothes you’ll be wearing every day, so make sure you love them and are comfortable wearing them.
3. Buy investment pieces.
Even though Ross has a “grab and go” kind of style, she only purchases pieces that will last her the long-term. “I buy what works and now instead of ‘spending’ on clothes, I am investing,” Ross said. “Because my look is so understated, I can wear and re-wear things. I wear what I buy for years.”
4. Don’t force it!
Wear what you’re comfortable in. Don’t try to squeeze into something that doesn’t feel like a good fit for you — personally or professionally. “I never woke up and said ‘I have to wear a uniform,’” Ross said. “It happened organically.”
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