Has the time come for the self-styled "work uniform?"
|Photo: Harper's Bazaar.com|
Kahl commented that suit-wearing men have used this approach for ages, and tartly said, "...I couldn't help but notice that it appeared as if I needed a male authority to legitimize my choice of clothing in order for others to truly accept it."
Recently, she refreshed the pieces, ordering 15 identical white Zara shirts (at a discount). On weekends, she wears whatever she likes, including "lots of dresses".
I did a half-Melinda for awhile: in the early 2000s, when I worked for a global telecommunications company, I wore as the bottom part of an outfit only black pants or skirts. I found the formula liberating, professional yet simple. I wouldn't have had the nerve to wear but one full outfit, and am impressed by her resolve and equanimity.
Secretly, I've always been drawn to uniforms (and I admit, to men in uniforms; pilots, naval officers in dress whites. Now, where was I?) I spent my junior high and high school years in uniforms, and though we suffered itchy grey wool, I didn't envy my friends at other schools who waded through stacks of discards to find a different look, the right look, each day.
At only one other time was I issued a uniform of sorts, a lab coat, when I worked in hospitals in the 1970s. I liked the lab coat; it didn't much matter what you wore under it.
By 1980, I had moved to corporate life with its formal business attire: jacket-and-skirt, hose, heels—the whole kit on my dime, a steady drain on the paycheque for the next thirty-five years. I learned to enjoy the business-world fashion show, but by the 2000s, was disenchanted with the continual expense and upkeep. Hence, the black on the bottom gambit.
There was definitely competition in the corporation. One woman executive made it known that her female direct reports should buy their suits from a designer she favoured. (Men, I noticed, might compliment another man's new suit but no one sniped that Jim's blue pinstripe had been seen for several years.)
Many companies specify a dress code so that employees wear all but a uniform, but have some choice regarding fit or quality. Some retail apparel stores specify that staff wear only clothing sold there, and offer attractive discounts.
Kahl, though, marches to her own elegantly emphatic beat, and I love it! She reminds me of certain designers (Calvin Klein, Yves St. Laurent, Marc Jacobs before he went into kilts and kohl) who worked in austere, self-styled uniforms, such as jeans and a white shirt. In photos of Coco Chanel in her atelier, she's usually wearing her classic suit and brimmed hat, with low heels (like the classic Vivier) or flat-heeled boots.
This post was interrupted by my Canada Post carrier, in her regulation navy and red pants and parka, topped with a jaunty toque. She didn't have time to discuss her clothing, she's a working woman headed out in -12C/10F weather.
Have you ever worn a uniform? Would you welcome its comfort and constancy, or find that a dispiriting way to face the world?