We make thousands of decisions a day. Stop wasting brain power on what to wear by building a set wardrobe that works for your industry.
BY ELIZABETH SEGRAN
Dressing for the office in the morning takes time and energy, which is why the concept of a “work uniform”–wearing a variation of the same outfit every single day–has become so popular. Barack Obama, for instance, put on the same blue or gray suit every morning while he was in office to cut down on the number of unimportant decisions he needed to make. Then there’s Mark Zuckerberg, whose closet famously consists of dozens of the same gray T-shirt, allowing him to eliminate any sartorial choices so he can focus all his energies on Facebook.
But it’s not quite that simple for women. For starters, it’s not as easy for women to throw on a T-shirt and jeans for work every day. In many industries, women still struggle to be treated as equal to their male counterparts. Wearing polished, professional clothing even in the midst of a casual work environment is an important way to project competence. Case in point: Sheryl Sandberg and Marissa Mayer have never shown up to a board meeting in a hoodie and T-shirt. They’re known for elegant shift dresses and well-chosen separates.
Women are also faced with more options when it comes to workwear. Men generally have two choices: formal, in which case they wear a suit, or casual, in which case they wear jeans. (In fact, many men feel so limited by their workwear that they resort to using colorful socks as a way to express themselves.) Women, on the other hand, can pick from a wide spectrum of choices, ranging from masculine to feminine, modest to risqué, muted to colorful, the list goes on.
I’ve spent the last few weeks testing a range of work uniforms that can help women simplify their morning routine throughout the year. Each outfit on this list is designed to be appropriate for different industries and office cultures. They also span a range of price points. This can be used as a template to help you build a work uniform that is perfect for your particular situation.
BEST IN CLASS: LES LUNES
Appropriate for: Almost anything. A casual office, a board meeting, chasing after your child in the playground after work.
Style Inspiration: Oprah Winfrey
San Francisco and Paris-based startup Les Lunes launched with one objective: to create the most comfortable workwear imaginable. Several years ago, the brand’s founders discovered bamboo, a soft, stretchy eco-friendly material that is now commonly used in sleepwear and underwear. They put this material in the hands of a team of Parisian designers to see if they could transform it into clothing that could be worn to work.
They’ve succeeded. They’ve created a line of jumpsuits, dresses, and separates that look polished thanks to thoughtful touches, like ruching, draping, and lace. The fabric is temperature regulating, making it appropriate throughout the year. If you were to put together one work uniform that you would wear every day, for the entire year, I would suggest going with Les Lunes.
One of my favorite pieces was the sleeveless Casino Jumpsuit ($220) that comes with a belt. The piece seriously felt like a pair of pajamas, but never looked slouchy or informal. It comes with a belt that provides a nice waistline. The Mont-Louis Dress ($245) is a wrap dress that has lace detailing at the neckline and hem. Again, it is extremely comfortable, but always looks very put together. Both are great foundational pieces for your wardrobe and can be worn on rotation.
To add a bit of variety to these pieces, I paired them with the Fontainbleau Jacket, which is also entirely made of bamboo. It drapes nicely over trousers and dresses, and comes with a long belt that you tie at your waist. Pairing the jacket with the outfits totally changes the look, adding some variety on cooler days when you need an extra layer.