Create a work uniform that’s equally great for making presentations or fighting dragons….

Regular workplace communications such as reports, minutes and briefs all have templates. And if they don’t have a template, you should make one!

Why is this so important? The template gives you a guide to expressing yourself. It doesn’t tell you what to write, it tells you what you need to include and the style in which you should be writing. You don’t need to start from scratch every time you come to write, and you won’t forget to include a section. In exactly the same way, creating a ‘template’ or ‘uniform’ for what you wear on a daily basis can help give you some structure without necessarily dictating your self expression.

There are plenty of examples of famously successful people who wear the same thing every day. Mark Zuckerberg had his grey t-shirt, hoodie and jeans. Barack Obama had blue suits and white shirts. The reason behind these ‘uniforms’ is that they remove an additional decision making process first thing in the morning, which supposedly reduces decision fatigue. Setting up a uniform for yourself is one big decision, so that you can remove a lot of little decisions in the future.

For me, it also avoids the creation of problems and a source of stress in the very first hour of the day. Having a uniform means that I never have to worry about whether I’m wearing the right thing for the right day, I never feel uncomfortable and I always feel confident. You never have to wait for your favorite outfit to come out of the wash because they’re all your favorites! I also don’t feel as tempted to buy new clothes unnecessarily – I have a uniform that I know works for me and I don’t make purchases outside of that. I can appreciate clothes that look nice on other people without feeling the need to buy them for myself.

Identify what suits you most

Whilst you are trying things on, take a critical look at things you look good in and things that just don’t suit you. Look out for the colours and shades that make you look washed out, and styles that don’t do you any favours. Having an honest friend might help, otherwise try and remember things that you’ve received compliments for and compare everything against them.

Find your basic weekday uniform

Consider your regular work week and what you need in terms of comfort and practicality (including weather), and the image you want to present. We might not like it but the way we dress does affect how people perceive you, even if it is on an unconscious level. Also consider practicality. I never buy anything that needs handwashing, and I don’t iron so I go for synthetic fabrics that don’t crease easily. Overlap what you need with what suits you, and then look at what you already own to come up with a basic uniform. If you really don’t have anything worth basing your look on you can start from scratch, but consider whether or not this is really necessary before you hit the shops.

My uniform is a black jacket and black pants or skirt, where I change the top each day and add a jumper if it’s cold. You might have a different coloured suit, maxi-skirts and blouses or dresses. The point is to find a simple blue-print that you like wearing, and can do variations on this theme rather than having to reinvent a whole new look each day.

Scale your uniform

Figure out the maximum number of each item that you need and inventory what you have
I found this exercise really useful in reducing the amount of new clothes that I bought, as I saw my inventory numbers as a kind of goal to get down to. Think about the maximum length of time you want to go without having to do a wash (I used every 2 weeks) and then calculate how many of each item you would need.

So for tops to wear at work, this was 4 days per week (Fridays are casual) x 2 weeks = 8 tops x 2 seasons (hot and cold) = 16 tops total. When I first did this exercise I had about double this amount hanging in my wardrobe, but it helped me cull any that weren’t my favourites and planted in my mind that I really didn’t need to buy anything new.

Other uniforms

Other than for weekdays, I have a basic weekend uniform of skinny jeans/shorts and a t-shirt, or nicer top for going out in. As with my weekday uniform, I’m realistic about how many multiples of items I need for cold/warm weather.

For those ‘other occasion’ clothes, I’m even stricter. If you realistically only go somewhere fancy once a month you probably only need one outfit, but this should something knock-out! Similarly, unless you have a decorating business you probably only need one set of painting clothes. I also have a uniform for underwear (I stick to black so that everything goes with everything else), nightwear (again with a summer/winter variation) and exercise.

Use your ‘uniform’ when you need to shop for new clothes

If I do need new clothes, I keep my uniform front of mind. This helps keep a clear vision of what you are looking for amongst the cacophony of colours and styles that are presented in the shops. I know what suits me, what is practical and what I already have at home. I can appreciate a nice flowy dress in the store, but I know that they don’t really suit me and I’m unlikely to wear them because they don’t fit into my lifestyle.

Have you had success with creating a uniform for yourself? Share your tips for keeping a minimal wardrobe in the comments!