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Create a Work Uniform with One Dress

by Freedom FIter

Guest post from: Freedom FIter

My wardrobe was a mess

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen you in jeans!” Viv’s daycare teacher remarked the other day. This is funny to me, because for most of my adult life, my aesthetic has been “clearance rack from Walmart.” If I could find something under $5, I would buy it, regardless of cut, color, or fit, and I pieced together my wardrobe from that.

I had drawers and drawers of ill-fitting t-shirts and sweaters, and probably ten pairs of saggy butt, cheapo jeans. I didn’t care what I looked like (and it showed). I felt like I was saving money if I bought a ton of clothes at 95% off. I also had a few professional type pieces – also always found on clearance – that looked okay but mostly looked like “I found this on clearance and am trying to look professional.”

I’ve been drawn to the idea of a capsule wardrobe for years now, but the logistics are just too complicated for me. In theory, I would have ten pieces that all look good together …or whatever. In practice, the one skirt that I loved the most didn’t really go with exactly everything.

Do I need a suit jacket? Am I supposed to have jewelry for all of this, too? Do I need to start completely from scratch and be intentional with every purchase? When I would start a list, those ten items quickly became twenty, and then I threw away the list.

The one dress that changed it all

My family and I were going to take a trip overseas and I decided to splurge and buy myself a dress a friend had mentioned – the “round trip travel dress” from Betabrand. (If you’re interested, you can use my referral code to the site, which will then get you and me $15 off). The draw was that it could be worn four different ways (front, back, inside out) and didn’t wrinkle, so I could get a lot of wear out of it and only use a tiny bit of suitcase space.

That was the plan. One expensive dress.

Except when I put it on and looked in the mirror I understood that I was never taking it off (metaphorically. I didn’t actually want it tattooed on my body). I was tired of looking like I worked as a garbage collector and the answer was so simple.

I bought another version of the same dress, and another a few months later.

Starting in August of last year, I wore it every single day to work.

The Dress comes in vibrant colors (sorry to everybody else that I haven’t worn anything other than blue or black for a decade) that somehow look like they can match with any scarf. I now have five of the dresses, which means there are 20 options that fit on five hangers.

At the end of the day, I pull it off over my head so it is inside out, and place it on the hanger at the end of the line. The next day, I take the dress from the front of the line and put it on my body.

I have become the kind of evangelist for this dress that when people say, and they often do, “I love that dress!”, I say, “sit down because I have to tell you more.”

It doesn’t wrinkle. It looks amazing. The colors are bright and cheery. It is stretchy and I feel simultaneously like I am at the prom and like I am in my pajamas. I have slept in it and gardened in it and taken the nutjob puppy for long walks, and it’s fine.

It has pockets.

To wear The Dress year round, I pair it with leggings, boots, and a scarf in the winter, sandals in the summer.

The freedom of a minimalist wardrobe

Almost immediately, I got rid of 80% of my clothes. Ugly. Nobody-wanted-them t-shirts, jeans, and jeggings that were almost but not quite the right size. An entire outfit that I bought three years ago in a rush because Viv threw up all over me.

I didn’t make a flowchart with arrows connecting different pieces, but instead, decided to keep a couple of things that I knew I would need:

  • Running outfit
  • A pair of jeans
  • Two hoodies for the weekend
  • Pair of capris (because people need to know somehow that I’m a 40-year-old frazzled mother of three)
  • All the socks and underwear I can fit into my drawer
  • A couple of pairs of leggings
  • A couple of tank tops
  • A couple of pairs of shorts
  • Two t-shirts
  • Some pajama pants

It all fits into two long drawers, a small underwear drawer, and five hangers.

I could wear The Dress on the weekend. Sometimes I do, but often I wear more casual clothing. Not because it is more comfortable, but because I want to spare The Dress from the grass stains and armpit sweat that comes with afternoons watching soccer games.

Oh, I wear clear deodorant and have never had a problem with the underside being stained. I’ve lost and gained (and lost and gained) the same 15 pounds, and the dress still fits perfectly fine.

The beauty in this system is not just that it takes up less space (it does). It’s not just that I no longer say “HEY HAS ANYBODY SEEN MY GRAY SKIRT” because clothes are never buried under other clothes.

It’s not just that it’s easy for me to get dressed in the morning in the dark, or that I look and feel dozens of times more confident. There’s a freeing of the mind that comes with a letting loose of the stuff.

I put zero thought into my clothing in the morning, which leaves me a lot more mental headspace for screaming that ‘I really mean it’ and ‘it’s time to brush teeth’. I get to participate in “I’m a person who is wearing clothing, which I guess is kind of like a public art display,” without having to dedicate any energy to it.


Moriah Joy May 31, 2019 - 2:13 pm

Oooh, I love this idea. I recently simplified my wardrobe. Bought some expensive clothes that actually fit. And now everything (basically) matches. It’s wonderful not to think about clothing as much in the morning. I think it’d be even more magical to not think AT ALL about clothing. So, props to you!

Bethany June 3, 2019 - 3:32 pm

Bethany here, I am so in love with a simple wardrobe, but also feel like I am missing a system like she has with the hangers and order. What brands did you end up going with for your wardrobe re-do?


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