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??