Uniforms Alexandra

I have always had an extremely strong sense of what I like in terms of fashion. I think I really nail it when it comes to knowing what looks good on other people. As for dressing myself? I haven’t a clue. I have lofty dreams for my personal style, but my reality is firmly grounded in comfort and a very narrow spectrum of clothing that makes me feel even marginally confident.

 

My love for clothes versus my restricted personal clothing tolerance has left me with a paralyzing fear of choosing outfits. Thus, for as long as I can remember, I’ve always sought out uniforms. As a toddler/kindergartener I wore strictly dresses and galoshes. In elementary school it was black leggings, black Reebok high-tops, and a sweatshirt or hockey jersey. In middle school I rocked a flannel over a lace edged cropped tank, jeans, and a big necklace. High school was all about skater pants, a huge T-shirt, and a baseball hat whenever possible. College through medical school was an eight-year era of jeans, turtlenecks, and flats or black boots.

 

Each uniform I have ever made for myself has been centered around making my neck look shorter, lengthening my legs, flattering my pastiness (I can only wear black, gray, and occasionally white or navy with confidence), not standing out, and not being too cold or too hot.

 

Come residency and now, well, life; I have a real uniform. I have been in scrubs almost every single day for about 6 years now. It’s a dream come true and a great excuse not to push myself in terms of style. Scrubs are like pajamas, and they are always a nice variation of blue that is flattering to my eyes. They are also the great neutralizer as far as body type – I dare you to find anyone’s butt in a pair. However, now that I live in that uniform, when it comes to getting dressed for real life I am at a crossroads. I have opinions, and I want to express myself. I spend an embarrassing amount of time on style blogs and The Sartorialist. My computer is home to more photos of Alexa Chung, Geraldine Saglio, Rose Byrne, Clemence Poesy, Francoise Hardy, Sofia Coppola, Jane Birkin, Anna Karina, and Audrey Hepburn than it should be. Yet, if you look at me you would never know. I can’t get out of jeans, a scarf and a sweater. Or stripes. I try to mask it with hot shoes, but I need to face it. I am Kristy from The Babysitters Club. Maybe Maryanne after she got her little makeover (and Logan) on a good day. I am forever wishing I could be a Claudia or a Stacey.

 

This is how silly it gets: I am less stressed out by a patient trying to die than by trying to pick out an outfit to go to dinner with friends. One of my top fantasies is that someone will want to make me over and do a whole wardrobe revamp with me, telling me everything I should and shouldn’t be wearing. I want someone to tell me if I really do have the legs of a corgi (Bless Drew Barrymore’s heart for saying this about herself in an interview- I felt like I found another sister), or if I can ease up on myself? Are long necks awesome even if they are like 65% of your body, or should I keep rocking a scarf? What the heck is my color palate? I am a doctor, and I want the most appropriate treatment for my body. Maybe someone could tell me how to do my hair too, but that is a whole different essay.

 

On the other hand, maybe I’ve got it down and I just don’t know it. Every fashion idol I’ve ever had has always said they go for comfort and “being true to their self.” If anything, that is what I do. Perhaps there is something elegant and nonconformist to having a perpetual uniform. I will stick with my formula of jeans, heels/flats/boots, a simple top and a scarf. I don’t wear much jewelry. I always wear tights. I always carry the same big black bag. It’s just who I am, and maybe that is just fine. We are always our own harshest critics, after all. Maybe my self-imposed uniform isn’t a lack of style, but simply my style. Michael Kors, and Vera Wang have both said they wear ‘uniforms’ (Vera Wang). Many designers and stylists seem to follow a formula; when it works, it works! My uniform allows me to be a fashion observer as opposed to participant. For me the former is divine pleasure, the latter pure terror and stress. In a way, my rigid uniform gives me the ultimate fashion freedom: Freedom from worry.

 

That being said, if anyone comes knocking on my door to do a closet consult… I’ll answer.

 

So tell me… Do you have a uniform??

 

Image via http://amandahouck.wordpress.com/2009/07/28/fashion-branding-create-your-signature-look/

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  1. I’m a long necker myself. :-) My recommendation: Try a boatneck, something that shows off your collarbone. With your elongated neck, it will make you look elegant, the juxtaposition of the long neck with your delicately awesome collarbone I’m guessing you have. My goal in terms of fashion has always been to have the clothing show off me and not the other way around. You’re a stunning woman regardless (if I had those eyes, I would do everything in my power to make them pop!) of what fashion trend is in.

    Anonymous | 11/08/2011 05:11 pm
  2. Ohhhhhh wow. This is me to a T. I never had to wear uniforms growing up but after almost a decade in the US Navy I refuse to ever, ever wear blue. I am very picky about what I wear, but to the average eye, I have a wardrobe of solids – black, white, gray. I own exactly two print dresses, bother black, white AND gray! And yes, to show that I am adventurous, I have been adding stripes to my wardrobe. Yup, black and white, black and gray, gray and white. As for my pickiness-an interesting cut of neato sleeve of a great fabric is what I look for. I always tell my friend ‘I don’t need to wear fuscha to be noticed when I walk into a room”-I believe my comfortable confidence should be enough!

  3. I am Kristy from The Babysitters Club. Maybe Maryanne after she got her little makeover (and Logan) on a good day. I am forever wishing I could be a Claudia or a Stacey.

    That was amazeballz.

    I dont really have a uniform. If I do, it is clearance rack chic.

  4. Every time I go shopping and buy something because “it’s unlike anything I already own!” I never end up wearing it. Personal uniforms work and I’ve learned to just keep buying the same clothing with minor unique differences that stand out to me. When I do this successfully I instantly feel comfortable in a new article of clothing while still feeling like I’m wearing something special and new! It’s the reason my favorite brands are Alexander Wang and Helmut Lang, they do unique and expressive basics so well. If only my bank account liked them as much as I did…..sigh. PLUS you can always punch up a tried and true uniform with accessories, shoes, and purses.

  5. Hooray for Audrey, The Babysitters Club, and for uniforms! May we all be Claudias on the inside at least (with our own private phone lines)!

  6. I’m so glad to know I’m not the only one! haha. Growing up, my uniform was just whatever my parents bought me—nothing really stylish or cute, usually the opposite actually. In high school, I went through several different style phases. Now, since I’ve been in college, my regular uniform is jeans or shorts with some cool shirt that’s flattering. The end. I have some dresses and skirts that I occasionally wear to spice things up a bit, but I’ve always wished I could give myself a revamped wardrobe and just magically know how to wear cool pieces together. Maybe this will happen one day, but probably not. I’m glad you made the point that maybe having a casual uniform IS a style. That’s how I feel too. (:

  7. Ten points for The Babysitter’s Club reference.

    I dream of dressing like a model in a Anthropologie catalog (in fact, I’d like to live at one of the stores — they have a kitchen and beds and everything!), but I’m too cheap. So in the mean time, I think the clothes I end up wearing have become my uniform… a shirt + jeans + a colorful pair of flats it is.

  8. Seriously, your prose is the bee’s knees.

  9. Agree with everyone else long necks are great. And Audrey is so classic and one of a kind. I adore her. I am a Kristy/Dawn hoping to become a Stacey. Stacey just always seemed like she had it all together. I however find a uniform I’m comfortable in and sometimes it doesn’t look that great. Right now, Bermuda shorts and a cute (in my opinion) top (tank or tee). Love narrow stripes, and it seems my fav affordable store, J.Crew, loves them too. So I’ve got A LOT of white and navy narrow stripes. I’ve just got more stripes than a person should have, but they flatter me. I think patterns, stripes, and color variation just looks better than solids on some people. Especially curvy girls like myself.

  10. i would LOVE to be audrey and pull off that signature look…black is actually my favorite color because of her :-)

  11. My uniform is tights + shorts – no matter what top I’m wearing, I’m 99.9% of the time wearing shorts & tights (+an awesome pair of boots) :]

  12. First of all having a long neck IS a good thing. I am very short and petite with an unfortunately small neck. Audrey had a beautiful long neck. You should show yours off with pride. Secondly a uniform can be a good thing. Formula’s are great once you have what flatters your figure down. I myself am a huge reader of fashion blogs and am constantly fashion stalking the likes of Katherine Power, Olivia Palermo and so on. I personally wear a lot of neutral colors, adding color and personality with the latest nail polish trends and bright accessories such as a belt or a clutch. These are the easiest things to experiment with first. I have a closet full of of boyfriend blazers and tuxedo jackets, silk equipment blouses and dark denim jeans. And though it may sound repetitious and maybe even boring, I embrace and love it because it is my very own signature style. It has become part of my identity.

  13. Audrey Hepburn is my idol in every way she inspires me to be my best self! Not only was she the epitome of fashion icon, but she was also an incredible humanitarian! I have her pictures plastered all over the walls of my room, I’ve seen or own many of her films, and have read countless books about her life! She perfected the uniform look keeping her style simple, & timeless! So happy to see others sharing my love for all things Audrey :)

    Anonymous | 7/11/2011 11:07 am
  14. I love Audrey Hepburn I finish read a book about her and every day I love her more Breakfast at Tifanny´s is probably one of the most greatest films on the cinema story

  15. This is exactly why I was thrilled to wear a lab coat to work! (although it’s a bit stark and boxy).

  16. oh god you understand! I have settled into a uniform of boot cut jeans or cropped leggings and a pencil skirt with a v-neck and cardigan. Even my jewelry is mix and match–necklaces the same length with a small charm and 2 rings one on the same finger every day. 12 years of catholic school uniforms and dress-code based hobbies (ballet and volleyball, I prefer ‘broad range of interest’ to ‘weird’) did not give me a sound basis for understanding how to wear clothes in the practical every day world. and the worst part about owning many things in stripes to attempt to prove you have a sense of fashion is that not many striped garments mix together.

    When I look at well-dressed women, the kind I wish I was put together and clothes-savvy enough to emulate, even then I see patterns emerging and that I’m drawn to the same look as reinvented by different people. Oh uniforms, how comforting and yet frustrating you truly are

  17. Love the Babysitter’s Club description – I feel like a Maryanne on the outside and a Claudia on the inside. *sigh*

  18. I love Audrey <3

  19. Not only do I relate to this dilemma, I also thoroughly appreciate every bit of The Baby-sitter’s Club analogy. I am a Claudia trapped in Dawn’s style: California Casual.

  20. I can definitely relate to this. All my school years were spent in uniform, in primary and high school we always had strict summer and winter and sports uniforms. Where we’d be punished if we didn’t wear them correctly, even if we wore the wrong socks! I also had uniforms for most of my out of school activities ballet/choir uniforms etc. So I hardly had any ‘normal’ clothes while I was at school because I didn’t have the need for them because I would be wearing uniforms all the time. Once I left school jeans became my signature look just because they were the only thing I wore when not in uniform at school. I don’t really wear jeans anymore, now my ‘uniform’ is back tights or leggings with dresses or skirts because I find them more comfortable. It’s not that I don’t own jeans or pants (I have several pairs!) but because I got decided I preferred wearing tights and leggings I just don’t feel comfortable wearing anything else. I think that’s why people tend to wear the same things over and over because they feel confident and comfortable in them and will always default to wearing them even if they have a large wardrobe, familiar/favourite clothes give us confidence!

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