Ode to the daily uniform

1:58 PM

If we were in a room together, there is a very high chance that I'll be seen wearing palazzo pants and a very basic t-shirt. There is also a very high probability that this t-shirt will be either black or a striped t-shirt.
If you only saw me once, you probably wouldn't think much of it, but if you are part of my regular social circles, you would pretty much notice that it's what I wear about 95% of the time. And the other 5% might be me wearing a pair of jeans, or shorts to go with the same basic t-shirts. I only really dress up for spacial occasions, and surprise, surprise, there is a high chance that my most elaborate outfit might actually be a variation on the flared pants / palazzo theme simply because this is a style I feel very comfortable in.

There is a name for that kind of approach to everyday wear: it's called the Daily Uniform

And you'd be surprised at how many people actually have one, and I am not just talking about Steve Jobs and his black turtle neck and jeans. You don't have to be that high profile to give in to the Daily Uniform.

For me, like the many people I know or read about who fall into that pattern, it's really just a way of minimising the effort you put into something that is not really something you really care about a lot in order to give more time to things that do.

Just this morning I was watching Josie Lewis, a talented artist I follow on Instagram explain why she sticks to a certain wardrobe style. She rightly explain that by automating the tasks you aren't really into you do save your willpower and decision making muscle for other things. We all have a certain amount of decision making power waking up in the morning, and the more we are using it to make trivial choices : Mini skirt or yoga pants, Latte or Cappuccino, salad lunch or sandwich, read a book or watch a movie... the quicker we mentally exhaust ourselves.

Mental exhaustion is the number one enemy of creativity. If you spent your whole day figuring out if you can eat this or that, or wether you should or should not go to that party on the weekend, or if you should start that new juice detox, or if you should buy those shoes in black or brown, you don't have much energy left for the things that matter : Creating awesome doodles, or spending quality time with friends.

Like Josie Lewis said, and I agree, it's not about forcing yourself to just dress the same everyday if you are one of those people who are deeply passionate about fashion and style. If you are a fashionista, chances are you probably automate and minimise another aspect of your life.
You might be collecting lipsticks, eyeliners and eyeshadows the same way I collect Copic markers, acrylic paints and washi tape and it's fine.

The Daily Uniform is for you...

If you are the type who groans every morning at the prospect of getting ready for the day and can't seem to find anything to wear in your wardrobe, that is a sign that clothes aren't really your cup of tea, and that probably means you are one of those people who would highly benefit from just sticking to one style of clothing or color palette.

I've been there all my life! And the few times I tried to conform to a societal pressure of always looking stylish were also the times I was the most miserable and stressed out for not particular reasons. 
My mom told me that as a child, she often had to ask me to just go change because I was the type to just grab whatever came first in my wardrobe and put it on, wether it matched or clashed. 
As a teenager I had that awkward magazine reading phase and pressure to wear that was in, it was a brief, frustrating phase, because as skinny as I was as a teen, I still had curves, in the 90's that body type was a no no. Nothing fashionable really fit, and by the age of 16 I was confident enough to no longer try. 

High school is probably the first time I found value in the "Daily Uniform", I spent most of my time in one of the 6-7 pairs of totally identical jeans I owned and either a basic t-shirt or a loose sweat-shirt. I completed the look with either my black or my red high top converse shoes which I had to trade for a basic pair of leather boots in the Winter months. 

Some of that choice was partly dictated by the fact I was responsible for buying my own clothes out of my monthly allowance, a deal that most kids in Switzerland had when I was growing up (and probably still have today). 
Allowances are a limited amount of money for a kid, I just didn't like spending mine on clothes and cosmetics because it was seriously putting a dent in the amount of stationery supplies and books I could buy each month. 
I was that nerdy kid who loved to read, and also loved collecting notebooks, pens and stickers...as you can see, not much has changed between 16 years old me and 40 years old me. 

I often tell people that back then, I only really wore clothes because not wearing any was illegal. 

Giving the finger to societal norms

If you are a rebel, and have a serious disdain for misplaced authority, the Daily Uniform is oddly freeing and empowering because that is a choice that comes from you. 

I spent my entire life rebelling against stupid rules, authority I didn't care much about, and pretty much beat my own drum and carved my own path, reclaiming the right to wear what I want has always been something liberating. 

As I said, the few times I gave in to certain norms, were the times I felt the most out of place and the first thing that took a blow was my confidence. As an early teen it was trying to fit a fashion standard my body was clearly not made to fit. 
As an adult, I had that phase after moving to India. The expectations placed on women in general are ridiculous, but as a foreign women married to an Indian guy it was a no-win situation. Dress in western attire and you are disrespecting your husband and culture, dress in the full Indian regalia and you are trying too hard. 

The first few years, I pretty much dressed in salwaar suits everyday, and I hated it most of the time. It was like the 90's all over again : 

Have any sort of body shape and you are to be ashamed. In the 90's you hid it in oversized t-shirts, in India salwaar suit were pretty much telling women that curves are evil and must be hidden in baggy clothes. 
I don't like my clothes to be tight, but I also don't like being drowned in the amount of fabric that would be enough to make a parachute and get in the way with each movements. 

I gave the finger to fashion in the 90's and did my own thing, and when I got pregnant with Ishita I gave the finger to social expectation of that a good wife should wear once and for all. 

My Daily Uniform changed over the year, but there has been a very recurring theme over the decades : basic top + comfortable pants in a palette that mix and match effortlessly.
As a kid my favourite fashion trend was in the 80's with the long t-shirts and leggings, says it all! 

Maximise what feels comfortable

The point of a Daily Uniform is that it takes away the agonising decision making process  of what to wear at the start of the day and makes you feel cozy, comfortable and awesome at the same time. 

This is something very internal as things goes, it's not about how people think you look, or what is in or out of fashion but how you feel in that fabric skin. If you like the feel and your appearance in the mirror pleases you, then you've got a winner. 

One of my most recent biggest regret was that I only bought one oversized cotton striped t-shirt in H&M two years ago. I love that silly t-shirt so much that it never ends up in my awrdrobe...EVER. It's the first thing I wear the instant it comes back from ironing, and more than once I actually forgo my absolute hating of ironing to iron it myself. I have another striped t-shirt (the one I wear in the picture on that blog) and a striped cotton dress I were on Summer days. Stripes have always been my favourite.

The reason why my more formal attire also goes on the whole palazzo/flare pants and well cut top theme is that it's really the type of outfit I can forget I have on and stand tall and confident in any situation. 
The best way to make me fail at making a solid impression is to trap me in a well tailored suit, add a button down shirt and I'm MISERABLE because shirt buttons make me gag and disgust me. Don't laugh or roll your eyes, it's a real thing! It's called koumpounophobia and in severe forms it leads people to conceive things like the iPhone, a near button-less device. It probably also explains why Steve Jobs stuck to turtle necks a lot.

It doesn't have to be frumpy

When people think of Daily Uniforms, they either think of frumpy looking moms in their shapeless clothes and messy hairs or people who are too boring to wear anything but the same old boring shirt. 

First, I think that there is such a thing as frumpy or boring to begin with, it's just that what people feel comfortable in might not necessarily work for us and that is ok. Besides, having a Daily Uniform is much more than just the stereotype mom jeans or black and white suit. For some people, it's all about just wearing one type of outfit, like Brittany who write on "The House That Lars Built" who only wears dresses. There are people that will only wear a certain color but in different styles and outfits, then there are those who own the same t-shirt by the dozen, or people that will live their lives in black leggings and only focus on buying t-shirts and tunics in colors. 

The point of the Daily Uniform is to be comfortable, and just take one decision making bit away from your day. 

There are certain days like today when I spend the entire day in my almost night wear, like today. I woke up and swapped my PJ pants for a pair of sweat pants because we are having one of those blissfully cold Mumbai Winter days. I only did so because I had to drop my daughter to school. I plan to change outfit only by the time I have to pick her up and conduct my classes, at which point I'll be in a pair of...you guessed...palazzos and a t-shirt! 

It's not that I don't care about my appearance, it's just that I don't care what people think about it. To me the very idea to have to worry about looking good for other takes energy I'd rather spend on another creative project. 
It's an extension to my whole approach to minimalism which is all about simplifying the things I don't care much about in order to make more space for the things I love.


What is your take on having a to-go style or outfit in your daily life? 

 

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6 comments

  1. Anonymous7:56 PM

    Interesting post. To each his own. Also i don't believe in the notion that art is something one just hangs on their walls or tables and mantelpiece. People express differently and i believe we all have the interest to express through different means even if we're not aware of it. Be it food, makeup, clothes, bake decor etc. The possibilities are just endless.

    ReplyDelete
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    1. Yes exactly, there are many creative paths, and usually not everyone is good at all of them or care about all of them. I have zero interest in fashion or makeup, but I love interior decoration and design, and I love painting. I'm all for good food as long as I am not asked to pull a gourmet meal and plate it nice because this is really something I don't enjoy doing.

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  2. I'm another "daily uniform" wearer for the same reasons.
    It's just incredibly difficult to find clothes if you're anything other than "average" height and weight distribution. I've only found one brand of jeans and churidars that are long enough for my above average height. A long tunic top typically hides my short waist and covers my bum (conforming to the South Asian idea of modesty.) Black is the color my wardrobe is based on because it is simple to dress up or down - just add or subtract accessories like necklace, brooch, or dupatta!
    I thought things would be different in South Asia with so many tailors. I thought I'd finally have "tailored' clothes that fit. Nope, South Asian tailors can only fit triangle and pear shaped figures.

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    1. This is exactly my problems with tailors here, they just don't know how to stitch clothes for my figure, first their proportions are based on a shorter torso, then when they take my measurements which are around 40-33-40 they seem to rectify it later probably thinking that a 33 inch waist can't go with a 40 inches chest, every time it resulted in me being squeezed in something that is closer to 35 inches at the chest. I never asked to have tailored pants made, I'm sure it would have been a disaster.

      I was happy when H&M first came to India because of the sizes finally fitting my frame, but they changed that. Now all the basic t-shirts I love in H&M come in "Petite frame" which they re-labelled "Asian fit", a size medium t-shirt still fits me nice at the shoulder and chest, but it hangs wrong because it has been deigned for a more compact and shorter frame, as a result a t-shirt which in their regular sizes would go at my hip, and probably would go at the hip of someone with a petite Asian frame barely make it to the belly button on my tall European frame...darn!

      But yeah my biggest problem is that curvy is still associated with obese, and apparently nobody can have a 40 inch hip or chest without having a 38+ waist, it's like the 90's in Europe all over again :-)

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  3. I could well imagine that plazzos would look good on you. I like you is fashion averse and wear what I feel is comfortable.

    The term everyday uniform did strike my mind. Men have been struck in their shirts and trousers since eternity. Women have the option to look slightly different from each other, but all men look identical. So, I guess we have a daily uniform by default.

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    1. That's true, men have a lot less options than women, and for men the notion of what is considered formal wear hasn't changed at all, it's still a shirt, trousers, a tie and possibly a blazer or suit jacket.

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