Claremont Core: In Defense of the ‘uniform’

(Mazzy Rosenast • The Student Life)

I still remember the day I received the pair of jeans that would become the most-worn item in my closet. When I first tried them on, I had mixed feelings. The potential was there — the color, the fading, the silhouette — the only thing wrong was the length. They just needed to be hemmed, then they’d be perfect.

That happened a few weeks later when I returned home from school and I barely had any time to get used to it before going abroad. Even before arriving, I knew I had brought more than enough pairs of pants for one semester. But after the first couple of weeks, I noticed that the rotation I had so carefully curated for myself was gradually being replaced by this one pair of jeans. Each morning, as I was getting ready, I would think to myself: “Would any pair of pants sit better on the shoes I want to wear today? Pair better with the rest of the outfit I’d selected? Better complement the silhouette I had established?” And over and over again, the answer was no.

At first, this made me a little angry; I had spent years compiling my collection of pants, all for them to sit neatly folded in my closet at the expense of this one pair? The rationalization “but they just look better” didn’t exactly provide the closure I was looking for. I thought I wanted variety in the way I dressed, but I still preferred these jeans to any of the variety I had.

After purchasing a pair of boots and a coat for the colder weather that I began to wear every day, the quest for variety became much more difficult. While for a time I was still cycling through various shirts or accessories, straying from a base outfit was increasingly challenging. Eventually, I was forced to accept that I had found my uniform.

The concept of the uniform is nothing new, but as someone interested in so many designers and eras of clothing, it felt like an odd stage to be at in my style progression. Sure, everything I was wearing reflected my current tastes, but the simplicity of my uniform didn’t. I used to cherish the days where I could wear whatever I wanted in lieu of a uniform and now here I was returning to a certain look despite virtually infinite flexibility.

“It’s hard to develop a personal uniform without avoiding the stigma of “outfit repeating,” but if you’re like me and have gone through a million different stages of personal style to end up there, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about.”

The main upside to the uniform that helped to assuage these concerns was convenience. Being able to throw on an outfit in the morning that was as flattering as it was versatile saved countless hours of outfit deliberation (and yes, I mean hours). It also made it significantly easier for me to slim down my wardrobe and cut back on any future purchases. After weighing pieces in my current wardrobe and potential additions against my normal uniform, it was clear to me that the majority would not look better than what I already had.

This is a plus for sustainability as well — even if your uniform clothing is of the highest quality, it will probably still be cheaper and more environmentally friendly to repeat that outfit than to go out of your way to wear or purchase clothing that is not as convenient or good-looking solely for the sake of variety.

This isn’t to say that variety goes out of the window once you find a specific outfit/style that you prefer to all others. With weather limitations, comfort concerns and clothing just getting dirty, it’s practically impossible to wear the exact same thing every single day.

Striving for style uniformity instead of outfit uniformity — finding pieces that look good together or work well with the look you’ve already established so they’re easy to integrate into this uniform style — is much more worthwhile. On days where the weather is not conducive towards dressing to your fullest potential (or you just don’t feel like getting dressed up), it’s nice to have weather and attitude-appropriate substitutes. Your uniform can also change with the seasons; to those who are able to wear jeans in 90 degree weather, I commend you, but as much as I love mine, my Claremont uniform is still heavy on shorts.

It’s hard to develop a personal uniform without avoiding the stigma of “outfit repeating,” but if you’re like me and have gone through a million different stages of personal style to end up there, there’s absolutely nothing to be ashamed about. Ultimately, your uniform should be the best stylistic representation of you and confidence in how you present yourself outweighs what anyone else might think.

And to everyone hating on outfit repeaters, try to funnel that energy into a more productive cause: finding something that you’re comfortable wearing enough to repeat. It can be a tedious process, but it’s definitely worth the effort.

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