What to Wear When You Kinda Hate What You're Wearing
We recently got new uniforms at work. In the interest of keeping one's job, I'm not going to go over the gritty details of said uniforms beyond the above arty-vague photo, but let's just hypothetically say that when I put it on, I feel a little piece of my fashion soul die.
I am no stranger to the wearing of a uniform. Quite the contrary. I have successfully worn many different uniforms over the years without incident. More than I can show you in one sitting. I consider myself somewhat of a connoisseur. Consider exhibit A.
It must truly be Karma repaying me for my vanity that a person who loves clothes and fashion as much as I do would have to spend so much time wearing various permutations of institutional-grade clothing. The joke is not lost on me. I get it Karma…you're a bitch. Yet the question remains, how does a person who holds self-expression through fashion in such high regard live with herself when she is forced to wear something so….nondescript?
There is certainly not a fixed solution for everybody, but here is what I try to bring to the sartorial table as I toil my day away, pulling up my trousers every 15 minutes or so (note to uniform pant makers….it's either a drawstring or an elastic waistband. Not both. They do not work well together). Here are a few of my survival tips.
Give yourself a waistline any gosh darn way you can
if you are wearing a shirt that can be tucked-in successfully, do it. Even better if there is a belt in the equation. If tucking-in is not an option, make sure your shirt fits well, and isn't baggy. Get it tailored if you must. If it is a cheap, terrible, flimsy, un-alterable fabric that just kind of lies there (like mine), invest in a cardigan if you're allowed. Choose one that is a quality fabric, but that you can wash in the machine, like a lot of the merino or cotton blends out there. Find one that tapers and hits right at the waistband. If you want to look even more streamlined, button just the middle button or two to draw the eye inwards and create the illusion of a waist. This is what I do, and it works. Come to think of it, it's a good all-around tip for layering. Added bonus, the cardigan hides the unconscionable fabrication of whatever might lie beneath if you feel the need to minimise the damage.
Wear High Quality Jewellry & Accessories
You would be surprised how often people notice your accessories when you are wearing a uniform. I suppose it has to do with the fact that you are essentially a walking blank backdrop. The trick is to keep it balanced and appropriate for the type of uniform you're in (in other words, loads of bling and camouflage …not so good). You also have to find that balance of what's allowed per your uniform policy and work within the constraints. I have been known to push the boundaries on this one a wee bit in the interest of creativity and sartorial flair, but you have to pick your moment. This comes with experience. To me, wearing high quality accessories with your uniform hints to the world at your exceptionally good taste, despite the fact that you may be wearing flame-retardant polyester with an elasticised waistband.
I know, this sounds like the advice your mother might have given you, akin to wearing clean underwear in case you get into an accident (also true, trust me).
I should also state here that I am not a wearer of socks outside of my work environment. I very rarely wear them, even in winter. For me, they are for work, and for wearing with boots. However, in a uniform, they are de rigeur. While I'm not bothered with finding the silkiest, most luxurious silk or cashmere socks to wear to work, I am always on the lookout for something fun. Just to give me a lift. Again, you have to work with your uniform policy. If you are in an environment that requires something specific, you're kind of tied to that. If you can get interesting ones for work, do so. I never thought of myself as a fun socks person until I accidentally bought some once, and then found myself reaching for them every time I got ready for work. Because I rarely get to sit down at my job, it's kind of like a subtle wee surprise when I do, with this little flash of polka dot or fair isle (or whatever) sticking out the bottom of my pant leg. Call me cheesy, but somehow it makes you feel better, because you picked it out.
Make it Happen