If you truly know yourself, one outfit is definitely enough.
August 16, 2019 3:28 AM   Subscribe

 
I mean, as a guy, I have one of maybe 10 T-shirts in various solid-ish colors, and several pairs of jeans. Some black pants for super formal occasions. Mix and match as needed.

I'd say she's onto something here.
posted by Quackles at 3:35 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


I'm highly sympathetic to the concept here because I am very much Team Star Trek Unitards, but this is really more You Only Need One Base Layer.

I'm steadily veering towards having a single work uniform. I now have three of the same shirt and skort, just in different colors. I'll probably acquire more. I've finally decided that I don't really care what people think. I found pieces that are comfortable, don't need to be ironed and resist whatever drinks and food I inevitably spill down the front. I do not endorse, however, wearing the same exact item multiple days in a row. That is indeed something you can only get away with in your 20s. Wash your clothes, please.
posted by soren_lorensen at 3:39 AM on August 16, 2019 [10 favorites]


Key sentences: "It was an aspirational move to start wearing anything else" and "I was shamed out wearing the same outfit every day". Bowing to not accepting that what you are is good enough, that what other people think your life should be and look like is what your life should be and look like, that with the right job and the right lifestyle fulfilment will be guaranteed and worth the sacrifices. All this person has done has been moving further away from already being fulfilled and comfortable with herself- it's not just about the clothes, but a whole attitude towards life and work.

(But yeah there's nothing wrong with buying several editions of "The Outfit" so you can wash them, come on.)
posted by Balthamos at 4:17 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


LOL, no. On every level.

1) Let’s take her thesis seriously that the one-outfit is a way to express who you are really are. But we are not the same person everywhere and with everyone. Are you the same person with your mother, your boss and your one night stand? Seems unlikely.

2) I bet she lived in California. Significant weather changes would make only one outfit really impractical.

3) Every variety of “not caring” is an example of privilege, especially privilege grounded in security. While it’s the sort of advantage that doesn’t harm others directly, it is still the result of a system that gives you benefits (or lets you avoid harms) others don’t get.

4) It’s boring.

5) It shows a lack of regard for others.
posted by oddman at 4:27 AM on August 16, 2019 [41 favorites]


Aww. This reminds me of my dad, who favored a Thoreau quote to the effect of, ‘A man, having at last found something to do, will not need a new suit to do it in.‘ I don’t remember exactly when he first mentioned it, but it was probably to comfort me when I was struggling with a feeling that I just didn’t care about clothes the way other people seemed to think I should. That could’ve been at any point during an aeon of childhood.
posted by jon1270 at 4:32 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


I mean, in an ideal world I have multiple copies of the same pair of pants and same shirt and I wear those. In the academic world I basically achieved this with t-shirts and jeans. But I just started my first professional job, so I've bought the same pants in two different colors and four versions of the same shirt and also another shirt because the first one only had those four colors, and I'm hoping nobody notices.

I think that her approach would not fly for most office jobs, at least not for a woman.
posted by schroedinger at 4:35 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I buy almost all my clothes at thrift stores, except for shorts and pants which are tedious to dig around for in my height/waist. They are the only thing I ever buy at (yes, dear reader) Walmart, where I quickly find the cheapest thing that fits comfortably, then toss one of every colour they have into the cart. The life-extending benefit of only having to futz around in a fitting room once every ten years easily eclipses my patronage guilt and fashion shame.
posted by CynicalKnight at 4:36 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


Getting dressed is hard.
posted by Sterros at 4:39 AM on August 16, 2019 [14 favorites]


It shows a lack of regard for others.

I agree with your other points, but I am genuinely interested in your reasons for this one. Why would her clothes affect others? The one thing I can think of is if she wore The Outfit to a wedding or funeral, somewhere where it sounds inappropriate.
posted by schroedinger at 4:39 AM on August 16, 2019 [34 favorites]


I truly know myself enough to know I love clothes and shopping and one outfit will never be enough. In a universe of Trek unitards, I’m Loxana Troi for sure.
posted by sio42 at 4:42 AM on August 16, 2019 [22 favorites]


People will remember you better if you always wear the same outfit. - David Byrne.
posted by thelonius at 5:00 AM on August 16, 2019 [18 favorites]


It can be true that you find a particular cut or shape of clothing works so well for you that you only buy variations on it, and someone really stylish once told me to figure out which decade’s style of dress suits you best (are you 70s slinky or 80s power-shoulders or 20s flapper-y, etc?) and buy clothes that way, but one single outfit? I can’t imagine. Right now I’m buying mostly vintage and nearly everything is floral, so my one outfit is flowers, I guess.
posted by sallybrown at 5:06 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


"Why would her clothes affect others? The one thing I can think of is if she wore The Outfit to a wedding or funeral, somewhere where it sounds inappropriate."

That's certainly one example. Consider also, a situation where a friend gets you a job interview (or your meeting a partner's family or boss for the first time). If you dress in your basic outfit (i.e. you don't dress for the occasion) you are saying to the person that got you the meeting/brought you to the event "It doesn't matter to me what these people will think about you for bringing me" and/or "It didn't occur to me that how I dress will reflect on you and how important you take the context to be."

Another example (of maybe a slightly different affect) is one I see all of the time (I live in a college town). Young couples go out on a date and the woman is clearly dressed in order to signal to the man that the date was important enough to her that she made an effort to dress for the event (this doesn't mean wearing a ball gown at all times, of course) while the man signals to the woman that he thought enough about the date (and her) to put down his game controller and walk out the door. In other words, she made an effort (because it mattered) and he didn't (which signals that it didn't matter). (Sorry about the heteronormative example mix and match genders, etc. as you prefer.)
posted by oddman at 5:08 AM on August 16, 2019 [35 favorites]


See, this in general is pretty much my ideal. I mean, I'd want some multiples and some color variations so I'm not constantly washing everything in the sink, but taking all of the guesswork/mental energy out of dressing sounds amazing.

This year, I've lost 40 pounds so far due to various circumstances. The lines of my body have changed completely. My closet is an overpopulated wasteland of Things That Don't Fit. I have these elaborate daydreams about ripping everything out of the closet Marie Kondo style and replacing it all with simple, washable, wearable, functional, interchangeable pieces. Starting from scratch.

Ideally, such a wardrobe would take up maybe a foot or two of closet space and I could fit the whole thing into a suitcase if I had to. I'm just not sure what those pieces would be -- nearly every tab on my computer right now is a page on capsule wardrobes, or 333, or sensible travel wear, etc., and I'm still completely overwhelmed on how to narrow it all down.

Also, I would also need, like, a whole other section of my closet for the selection of caftans I intend to acquire for swanning around my house in various seasons, but that's a whole other thing.
posted by mochapickle at 5:12 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


I only need two breakfasts - the one I eat at home (oatmeal) and the one I eat in restaurants (pancakes). But it would never occur to me to say you should do that.
posted by ALeaflikeStructure at 5:15 AM on August 16, 2019 [19 favorites]


I have known some people who have Only One Outfit as well as some people who have Essentially Only One Outfit. The people with Only One were young, artsy and broke, and they had one set of things that they wore into the ground and then replaced. The people with Essentially One are scientists who have about five semi-identical shirts (which all look like Patagonia button-fronts) and a couple of pairs of pants. Both groups of people have been of various ages, sexualities and body types - by no means is this only white straight men or young slim women.

Come to think of it, I have a friend who has a limited budget and a desire for few possessions and gets by with Sorta One outfit, in that they have very, very few clothes - about enough for two outfits per season. People don't really notice because the clothes are extremely tasteful and all black or navy.

I've been told that in pre-fast-fashion but post-war Paris, it was common to have a new outfit every time the trends changed - so every season - and just wear most of it to bits by wearing it or some of it most days. So you'd always be very on-trend but also always have a very small wardrobe.

I am a clothes horse, or probably a clothes herd, for reasons have to do with queerness, anxiety, Trouble With Stuff and being difficult to fit. I mean, I have too many clothes.

I tend to agree with the writer a bit that if you know who you are, it's a lot easier to have fewer clothes, since I know that my tendency to have too many is driven by the sense that somehow if I get a shirt that fits better I will be a better, happier person and then the restless search for new clothes can cease. (I mean, new used clothes - they're all secondhand.) That is, I expect to bring out a sort of "permanent self" by finding the one magical way of dressing.

I did partially achieve this with no real effect on clothes volume when I switched to men's clothes - I always wear a button-front and cotton pants, almost always in relatively sub fusc colors. But I'm always thinking "what about a deep purple" or "maybe baggy pants" and then "only black and grey!" and "NOT baggy pants" or "how about florals" and then "never patterns" and that's how I get too many clothes.

~~
I don't think it's disrespectful to have or wear a small number of clothes. I'm an Old now and have known a great variety of people with a great variety of personal styles and a great variety of professions, and I think that real respect is shown through actions and demeanor, and the expectation that it be shown through clothes is wrong. Every time you try to draw a line about clothes being "respectful", it becomes obvious that some people who are perfectly "respectful" will not be able to dress that way due to poverty, culture or class background, and that "respectful" dress also sort of hinges on the idea that other people's bodies should be adjusted for our comfort, especially women's - "too revealing" clothes not being respectful, etc. And of course, it's common enough for someone to dress "respectfully" while being a bigot, rude, self-centered, etc and getting away with it because we lean too much on outward appearance.

Also, now that I'm an Old, I've really come to dislike the concept of "disrespect" as it gets applied in our culture, whether it's the idea that we "respect" a political figure regardless of his actions, that children "respect" parents regardless of theirs, that you "disrespect" someone by, like, talking to their girlfriend or whatever. It's seldom about kindness, mutuality, having morally legitimate goals, behaving in a socially decent manner, etc, and almost always about the mute acceptance of hierarchy regardless of how people behave or what they do.
posted by Frowner at 5:20 AM on August 16, 2019 [85 favorites]


Every variety of “not caring” is an example of privilege, especially privilege grounded in security. While it’s the sort of advantage that doesn’t harm others directly, it is still the result of a system that gives you benefits (or lets you avoid harms) others don’t get.

True, but so what? You should recognise your ability to not care as a privilege, but what difference does that make to your actual behaviour - do you start buying more clothes, or develop an interest in fashion (both of which require other forms of privilege)? It's a question of awareness, not behavioural change.

It’s boring.

No one is required to entertain you.
posted by inire at 5:20 AM on August 16, 2019 [34 favorites]


“I think in summer, it’s nice to never repeat a dress you wear to work.”

wtf kind of rich hell is this
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:24 AM on August 16, 2019 [71 favorites]


Speaking as a woman that has a whole second closet halfway full of formalwear alone that I a) feel weird about rewearing but b) struggle to get tid of because every ruffle/sequin/swish of tulle or silk, in Kondo-esque parlance, brings me so much joy, I both admire this attitude and know that dressing in such a way is not for me.
posted by thivaia at 5:29 AM on August 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


"It’s boring.

No one is required to entertain you.
"

I can see how you would take that as my implication. But the comment is intended to convey the idea that doing the same thing, the same way, all the time is boring. It lacks variety. etc. If you only ever watch one movie over and over, I would say "Isn't that boring?" in the same way I think it would be boring to wear just one outfit. (Also, this was a less serious point, lest we take it too far.)
posted by oddman at 5:29 AM on August 16, 2019


It worked for Charlie Brown.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:37 AM on August 16, 2019 [14 favorites]


Wearing one thing may be boring but unless you are interested in fashion, wearing more than one thing is also boring. Plus, it is boring in a way that consumes more time and mental space and money and physical space.
posted by jacquilynne at 5:37 AM on August 16, 2019 [16 favorites]


Elizabeth Warren does this, because she values her time.
posted by Glomar response at 5:40 AM on August 16, 2019 [10 favorites]


doing the same thing, the same way, all the time is boring. It lacks variety. etc.

I know this is a matter of individual taste (and there are times and areas of my own interests where I feel the same way), but I can't agree with this as a blanket statement - I find the austerity and forced focus of this sort of repetition to be interesting, or at least a prompt to think about interesting things, regardless of whether it's being done with that in mind or just because you're 22 and can get away with wearing a jumpsuit every day.

And apologies for the shortness of my previous comment - it came off as more combative than intended.
posted by inire at 5:41 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


“I think in summer, it’s nice to never repeat a dress you wear to work.”

Repeat on consecutive days or in a single week? Surely they can't mean all month or ... all summer.. How often do they wear dresses? Every day or special occasions only? Is this for work or for weekend BBQs? I have many questions.

I try not to repeat clothing items within a week. Especially in the summer, since I do my laundry mostly on the weekend. In the winter I might wear a good pair of wool pants multiple times in one week. Winters are pretty mild and during the occasional cold snap I might need to recycle some of my warmer clothes.

I once showed up to a girl's night with no makeup and one of my friends was almost hurt about it. We talked about it a little bit and apparently putting on makeup shows people you GAF - to her. To me wearing makeup means you felt like wearing makeup today and had time for it.

ANYWAY. I love the idea of having a simple basic outfit (multiple iterations to allow for laundering) but I think I'd get bored pretty fast and want more colors and shapes in my closet.
posted by bunderful at 5:43 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


You only need one outfit if you happen to inhabit a body that fits culturally approved norms: in the author's case, it sure didn't hurt that she was a young, able-bodied, conventionally attractive, thin white woman.

The outfit was wearing her.
posted by Space Kitty at 5:52 AM on August 16, 2019 [26 favorites]


Also I am that woman who's showed up for a date in a carefully planned outfit with coordinating jewelry and shoes ... to meet a date who apparently pulled his clothes - wrinkled, faded - out of the laundry - or off the floor?

I said "a date". As if it happened just the once. Hah.
posted by bunderful at 5:57 AM on August 16, 2019 [20 favorites]


For many people in Denmark this just seems to be a way of living. Neutral colours, classic cuts, with some on trend stuff for fun. There’s also a trend towards less gender normative clothing, at least for women, so body shape is less of a defining factor in how people dress.

I dress a lot more simply now and when I go back to the UK I feel a lot more fashionable and at ease. Go figure 🤷‍♂️
posted by Spritzu at 5:59 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


The late Amy Krouse Rosenthal experimented with this concept.

Her primary conclusion: No one noticed.
posted by dlugoczaj at 6:00 AM on August 16, 2019


As a service to the Essentially One Outfit Curious, here's my thrilling business casual femme Lookbook for Fall 2019. And Winter 2020. And Spring 2020. You get the idea.

Shirt
Skorts
Mary Janes
Add fleece leggings for colder weather
Weekend wear:
Shirt
Skort

It should be noted that I am not young, nor am I thin. I'm on the medium-frump scale.


Anyway, there's a difference between having a basic uniform and not giving a shit at all whether you're, like, filthy and smelly and look like you slept in your clothes. I present myself professionally because I'm a professional, I just reject the double-standard that my male-presenting coworkers can wear the same damn outfit every day with only variations in color and I'm expected to put on a fashion show.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:03 AM on August 16, 2019 [28 favorites]


This matter of repetition has reminded me of something: when I was fourteen I got made fun of for repeating clothes at school - I wore the same sweater on Friday and, after washing it, on Monday. Kids got made fun of all the time for wearing the same item twice in one week and I remember the anxiety of making sure that I had enough clothes for a totally different outfit every day.

My peers, especially in honors classes, were a lot richer than my family. Also, clothes were way more expensive pre-fast-fashion, and also I was a fat kid and there were a lot fewer options for fat kids than there are today.

Like most people, I repeat pants but not shirts in a given work-week, although on a practical level I don't think this makes sense. I don't think my shirts get dirtier/smellier than pants based on a single wear.

~~~
As to gender and clothing, I'd much prefer it if women and AFAB people could without consequence choose to be minimalist or sloppy rather than raise standards for cis men and bring them into the whole body/clothing/hair/make-up anxiety fold. I'd much prefer it if "I like clothes and dress up a lot" were considered a hobby rather than a requirement or a sign of deference.

I've spend much of my working life in scientist-adjacent jobs (and hope to stay there). Although research generally has plenty of problems with sexism, racism and homophobia, field and bench scientists are often very relaxed about clothes. Not always, I assume, but in the labs I've worked with, the standards for men and women tend to be extremely similar and pretty relaxed. (I am often the dressiest person, and I'm just wearing a button-down and chinos.) The people who dress up tend to be a bit hobbyist about it - they're ex-punks or they like vintage styles or they collect sneakers, etc. It is perfectly possible, in my opinion, to have a climate where people who want to dress up can dress up and people who don't don't and still achieve things, have woman-headed labs, etc.
posted by Frowner at 6:09 AM on August 16, 2019 [26 favorites]


I wear the same clothes in the morning* when I go to drop my kids off at school. One of our friends apparently has felt the need to defend me by telling people that I'm not unemployed. I don't know if anyone else actually notices that I wear the same thing or speculates on my employment status but my honour is being defended nonetheless.

*I sleep in pyjamas and have work clothes so this is just for that period of a couple of hours in between.
posted by any portmanteau in a storm at 6:13 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Having one outfit would kill ME. I was born to dress for self-expression.
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:14 AM on August 16, 2019 [16 favorites]


It shows a lack of regard for others.

Yes!! I work in Health Care, and I can't tell you how many people feel comforted and validated and heard and supported by being served by someone who dresses appropriately, smartly and evincing confidence and competence.

Do you dress up for a job interview? Of course! We dress with regard for others all the time. And in many cases, we should!
posted by Dressed to Kill at 6:18 AM on August 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


I work in Health Care...

posted by Dressed to Kill


Eponyst...uh...oh dear.
posted by bowtiesarecool at 6:24 AM on August 16, 2019 [54 favorites]


Another thing about clothes and "respect": queer people often get dinged or have to choose between "looking queer" and "looking respectful".

Wearing clothes that cis/straight people feel do not align with correct gender presentation is often seen as disrespectful - lo these many years ago, we had a question on ask where someone was debating whether she would hire a competent and highly recommended programmer because the programmer wore some kind of masculine boots at the interview. Did these boots indicate that this person would be a discipline case or a bad cultural fit?

I often think of this when I think of interviewing. I always have to keep spare "girl" glasses and "girl" clothes and make sure that I let my hair grow out a little if I think I might interview for anything so that I can pass for an artsy middle-aged cis woman. I'm always at a bit of a disadvantage because, of course, I don't wear make-up every day and have to dab some on for interviews, and I don't do my hair in a womanly style but have to do it for interviews, and I am not wearing a type of clothes that are familiar to me, since I don't wear women's clothes except when I need to get over with random regular people.

But this is "respect"!

No one respects me in this process - it's all about deferring to the employer, who I have to assume is homophobic and sexist.

And of course, if I go to certain family events, I'm supposed to show "respect" by dressing "appropriately", meaning like a straight cis person, no matter how I feel about it.

It is for reasons like these that I think respectful dress is kind of bullshit once you get past mere safety/allergy/smelliness concerns.
posted by Frowner at 6:26 AM on August 16, 2019 [74 favorites]


Also see: everyone who just wears all black every day. One outfit - or the approximation of - is a great way to live. Black is a good choice for this because wear and tear is less visible. Ideally, you have multiple versions of the same, neutral outfit sourced from the thrift store. It's relatively easy to find neutral basics at the thrift store, so you can have a number copies of your shirt and yes, wash them. It's easy, at this point, to find brand new clothing at the thrift store, since there's such a glut of fast fashion that stores donate huge amounts of perfectly good deadstock to the secondhand industry.

Yeah, this is normative. Our society has way too many clothes. Benefits to this approach, beyond the time savings and cognitive savings: reducing clothing waste, you're reducing your personal exposure to sweatshops, you're spending phenomenally less money. I don't have much in common with anarchist fads but the anarchist all-black uniform is one movement I can get behind.
posted by ProtoStar at 6:28 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


many people feel comforted and validated and heard and supported by being served by someone who dresses appropriately, smartly and evincing confidence and competence

Of course, but that in no way rules out wearing the same one or two appropriate, smart, regularly washed / owned in duplicate outfits every workday.
posted by inire at 6:29 AM on August 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


People will remember you better if you always wear the same outfit. - David Byrne.

Once I saw the FPP, I was coming in to say this very thing. Of course, this was from the liner notes of “Stop Making Sense,” which also tells us that toast is the national dish of Australia.

That said, every Australian I have ever met at least enjoys toast, and for years my co-worker Paul seemed to be wearing jeans and a grey golf shirt, an ensemble I can now think of only as “A Paul Suit.”

It is for reasons like these that I think respectful dress is kind of bullshit once you get past mere safety/allergy/smelliness concerns.

These same liner notes further tell us, “Body odor is the window to the soul,” and “The best way to get rid of unwanted flying insects is to have strong body odor.” Really makes ya think.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 6:34 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Well, I'll admit I didn't expect this post to out several "users" here as my grandmother's sock puppet accounts.
posted by ominous_paws at 6:35 AM on August 16, 2019 [16 favorites]


Of course, this was from the liner notes of “Stop Making Sense,” which also tells us that toast is the national dish of Australia.

Counterpoint: it says that "cats like houses better than people". This seems irrefutable to me.
posted by thelonius at 6:36 AM on August 16, 2019 [10 favorites]


I think the source of the crossed wires in some of these comments may be TFA itself, because it's both One Outfit (though seriously, it's not really--it's one item layered with a bunch of other different things that are clearly stated as dependent on circumstances) and also the kind of sloppy artyswear that a young, thin, conventionally attractive twenty-something without a ton of gainful employment can kind of get away with but is also clearly sloppy and not well-maintained and washing in a sink every few days is not actually washing your clothes omg.
posted by soren_lorensen at 6:37 AM on August 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


I no longer actually go to the field very often, but a privilege of my work is being able to dress in casual field-suitable clothes (e.g., Carhartt pants are A-ok). So I effectively have a work uniform that rotates colors but otherwise is always the same couple of items. I do own other clothes because there are other situations that require dressing differently, but I don't have "outfits" and my absolute dressiest clothes would not pass muster in an east coast city or anywhere where people truly cared about clothes.

The outfit/uniform she describes in the essay sounds too informal to be useful much past the age of 22, but there's no reason she couldn't recreate a new version that works better for at least part of her life now. But even so, as people have said, life can become more complex and finding a uniform that works for everything from work to dinner with your inlaws to whatever else your week throws at you is not as simple as what worked when she was 22.

Also I am that woman who's showed up for a date in a carefully planned outfit with coordinating jewelry and shoes ... to meet a date who apparently pulled his clothes - wrinkled, faded - out of the laundry - or off the floor?

The brewpub I go to the most often is a place where people go for first dates. It has good beer and food, is accepting and casual, always has parking and seats -- it's a safe and solid first date option. But one of the easy ways to spot heterosexual couples on their first date is exactly what you describe, where the woman is always outfitted beautifully (sometimes in a more conservative way, sometimes in a more sexualized way) and the guy is maybe wearing pants but more likely baggy basketball shorts, grubby shirt, and uncombed hair. It's fairly rare that you see a mixed-gender date-couple dressed more evenly.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:39 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


You can pry my afterpants off my dead body.

Because I probably changed into them right before I died.
posted by srboisvert at 6:41 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


For many people in Denmark this just seems to be a way of living. Neutral colours, classic cuts, with some on trend stuff for fun. See also lagenlook.

It can be true that you find a particular cut or shape of clothing works so well for you that you only buy variations on it


Yes, very much this--I struggle with dressing myself, but I really enjoyed The Triumph of Individual Style : A Guide to Dressing Your Body, Your Beauty, Your Self for its advice about identifying the elements of dress--proportion, color, neckline, sleeve length, etc.--that suit each person. Also, dsime's concept of having a narrative around personal style remains a favorite of mine. Know thyself.
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:41 AM on August 16, 2019 [13 favorites]


Having one outfit would kill ME. I was born to dress for self-expression.
posted by Dressed to Kill


I'd be so fucking booooooooooored with one outfit!
Also, eponysterical again :)
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:46 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


As a gay dude I used to dress colourful and flashy when I could, and then I switched it up and did the all black thing for a while. Just get a bunch of black t shirts, find the cut that works best and buy a stack of those. It was great in a way, you never have to think about what you wear and it always fits and always looks good.

It still lingers but I've started branching out again. It is boring and I realized I was subconsciously minimizing myself and my personality in a relationship where the other dude needed a fair bit of support and attention and my needs ended up a bit secondary. I still love my plain black tees but damn it's been feeling good to get some bright bold colours and prints going again.
posted by yellowbinder at 6:55 AM on August 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


One of the best things I’ve done for myself lately is to have bought like 20 pairs of the same black work sock. I never have to worry about matching or whether one sock’s mate has a hole.

As a cis man with a body type that, though large and overweight, falls within societal norms, I definitely get away with putting less thought into how I dress than do others. I’ve been slowly building a work uniform specifically because I would like to make as few decisions about dress as possible every day. I find it truly freeing to just put on one of the eight or so blue dress shirts I’ve got.

Objectively, I’m sure a man in a blue dress shirt working in an office is the boringest thing in the world — I don’t care. When I have added five or so identical pairs of grey pants I won’t have to think about my work outfit at all and that will be amazing.
posted by gauche at 6:59 AM on August 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


Getting dressed is hard. because ignoring the rules is acceptable only to people with privileges in society or in their situation which they may or may not notice.

I, myself, am in the process of sewing a variety of simple dresses from the same length of cloth. I can't wait until they are all done and I can wear nothing else. Which I won't. But I can pretend.
posted by crush at 7:06 AM on August 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


Elizabeth Warren does this, because she values her time.

For 99.9% of people, clothing is a necessity.

For some smaller group of people, clothing is both a necessity and self-expression.

For some smaller group of people, clothing is a necessity, self-expression, and a hobby, whether that’s because they sew, they like fashion history, they spend time on it like other people spend on reading books or running marathons, etc.

And for another smaller subset, clothing is all of these things as well as their career or way of putting food on the table.

Warren does the one-outfit thing because she understands how she values her time and acts appropriately. For other people, spending literally all day on clothing could also be valuing their time.
posted by sallybrown at 7:10 AM on August 16, 2019 [16 favorites]


If we remember the FPP from what I thought was quite recently, the expectaions of formality and appropriate dress on women are a classist, baroque code that doesn't allow for one outfit let alone brown shoes and black pants. So while many women would like one outfit...

I see the idea that caring about your dress is caring about Fashion, or at least that's how it's being put. I just had to say no? I like to have fun with my clothes and find it enjoyable to create an aesthetic. But I don't care about fashion. As in the industry, the trends, what other people are wearing, or it's ever changing rules. I like my clothes being another avenue for self-expression. Expression of both my queer identity and personal sense of whatever. I am a plus sized poor person so this fun is hampered by what's available, what I can make etc, but still pursuable. I have the privelage to have a job that doesn't care what I wear and allows this. If you have this sense of fun and identity through outward expression AND have a less hippie-dippie (lovely but low paying) job you are gonna need more than one outfit. You still won't care about Fashion(tm).

And that's not even getting into the need for religious or culturally specific clothing that you may want to wear on certain occasions or contexts. That's more outfits, that's identity through dress, that's not caring about fashion. Caring about clothes can be very meaningful.
posted by wellifyouinsist at 7:19 AM on August 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


Getting dressed is hard. because ignoring the rules is acceptable only to people with privileges in society or in their situation which they may or may not notice.

True enough to certain values of wishing to fit in with the rules, but for many who are poor, old, or have accustomed themselves to existing outside the demands of polite society, the "respect for others" that clothing choices are charged with can become "lack of respect" for oneself and burdening oneself with trying to humor attitudes that only serve to reinforce the same social pattern of class discrimination or "appropriateness" is a trap that is happily ignored as much as possible, save for absolute necessity such as some job interviews when one really needs a gig and you temporarily need to impress to get it and then can set those "good" clothes aside again until the next instance of need arises, without wearing them in-between.

Clothing can indeed be a form of self expression, but it isn't the only one that matters, nor should it be. I think people who dress for their own sense of self and style are great, it can be delightful to see, but I also find many who don't know anything about clothes or can't dress to the occasion to be every bit as kind and respectful generally as those who have different outfits for every event. There's no denying that some people and places will demand certain fashion choices, but that doesn't then mean that those people and places are the arbiters of success and operating outside that frame is somehow proof of privilege. One's own values measure success and how you fit yourself to opposing pressures is up to you. Respect isn't a one way street after all.
posted by gusottertrout at 7:30 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


Do not underestimate the power of personal branding. And that branding works best if you wear the same outfit repeatedly.

After starting to wear pink shirts at work and when speaking at events, people now recognize me as "the pink-shirt guy" and are a little disappointed if I wear anything different. People who don't know my name yet, know of me or remember seeing me before. Depending on your line of work, this can be a huge asset.
posted by Triplanetary at 7:31 AM on August 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


Getting dressed is hard. because ignoring the rules is acceptable only to people with privileges in society or in their situation which they may or may not notice.

From another point of view, even understanding these "rules" is a form of privilege.
posted by thelonius at 7:47 AM on August 16, 2019 [15 favorites]


So much of this stuff is structural and needs to be solved on a structural basis - the more dependent we are for mere survival on white supremacist capitalist patriarchy, the more we have to do our best to comply or else take pretty serious consequences. While a welfare state (right to housing, right to medical care, right to food, right to retirement) wouldn't solve all these problems, it would lessen them because it would mean that if you really, really didn't like your options, you could tell society to go screw. There would be a percentage of people who would do that, and that reduces the reserve labor army, so to speak, and so standards would have to be loosened for everyone else.

There's no fleshly reason that a fat elderly queer man of color can't walk around in a leotard and jeans every day if he wants to, for instance - the reasons are social, not that his body literally can't handle the clothes. The fewer social consequences people face for their clothing choices, the more choices they can make.

~~
Somewhere I read a couple of things about how the post-war welfare state was essential (oh, I think it was Owen Hatherley!) to the cultural explosion of the sixties and seventies in the UK and that low rent and unemployment benefits were essential to the artistic flourishing of New York in the seventies and eighties. Young creative people could spend a lot of time on art and music because they didn't need a lot of money to live in a densely settled artistic community, and they could produce art that didn't make a lot of money.

On balance, I would prefer to move toward a society where people have more material security so that they can make more of their own choices.
posted by Frowner at 7:48 AM on August 16, 2019 [20 favorites]


I see the idea that caring about your dress is caring about Fashion, or at least that's how it's being put. I just had to say no? I like to have fun with my clothes and find it enjoyable to create an aesthetic. But I don't care about fashion. As in the industry, the trends, what other people are wearing, or it's ever changing rules.

I used the word fashion above, but I didn't mean fashion in the following trends and models and designers and runway shows sense, just the more general "interested in clothing and personal style" sense. Some of the people I know who are the most stylish are the least on-trend -- their style barely shifts over time, rather than going through dramatic changes.
posted by jacquilynne at 7:48 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wearing clothes that cis/straight people feel do not align with correct gender presentation is often seen as disrespectful - lo these many years ago, we had a question on ask where someone was debating whether she would hire a competent and highly recommended programmer because the programmer wore some kind of masculine boots at the interview. Did these boots indicate that this person would be a discipline case or a bad cultural fit?

This this this this this.

I feel like this has been one of the big trans tensions of my life, even before I knew it was one. Could I wear pants to my cousin's Bat Mitzvah or did I have to wear a dress and pantyhose? If I somehow added more edge(tm) to my outfit--a long flashy skirt with a pleather top, say--I'd feel more like Myself, but also be read as That Weird Cousin. The truth is, the outfits I felt most myself in would have been fine for an AMAB relation but were't for me and so there was always this attempt to kind of shave the corners off--in middle school, for example, when I always wore boy's clothes and I had to find some kind of excuse for it. I finally told my mom that I liked wearing long boy's shorts because I thought my legs were fat, even though I did not actually think my legs were fat. Forget the workplace (the one I felt most like myself, an IHOP where everyone wore the same black slacks, white shirt, and a tie). By the time I got to a "business formal" workplace where pantyhose were required (in fucking FLORIDA) I was framing it in my head as Joan Holloway cosplay. It was the only way I could get through it.

And a big part of it is that men's clothes are often just more comfortable for my body, ironically, even though I am substantially curvaceous in every conceivable way. Take underwear: I have never found a pair of "panties" that don't either give me wedgies or roll down under my stomach. I'd try to reverse engineer the function and comfort of men's briefs or boxer briefs by purchasing expensive equivalent underwear for AFAB bodies (tomboyx etc) but I could rarely afford it, or I'd buy substantially less comfortable but similar clothing, like bike shorts which inevitably had an uncomfortable center seam. Now I buy boxer briefs or even tighty whities from walmart for $10 a pack of 5 and never have any of these problems and don't have to worry about the design suddenly being discontinued, like that one time Hanes' women's line sold comfortable boxer briefs for women for five years and then redesigned them to be like every other pair of "boyshorts."

The irony is that I love fashion but my attempts to feel embodied in fashion were muddled until I said fuck it and started buying men's clothes outright. I do wear a uniform now--pretty similar to the one my cis straight AMAB spouse wears. Jeans in modern cuts, band t-shirts, sneakers. Boxer briefs or briefs and sports bras purchased from Amazon or walmart for very little. Caps. I often ask myself how much my spouse would be willing to spend and what his concerns for comfort would be before I make a purchase, something that seems to be an unspoken component of cis male privilege. I get a lot of my clothes from outlet retailers like five below and Peter Harris or walmart. It's in the little touches that people perceive these things as fashionable--stonewashed jeans or retro t-shirts or sparkles on my hat. It's helped that I've recently adopted a revolving variety of huge Elton John glasses (purchased cheaply, online) as my signature. I no longer wear make-up and have cut my hair into a crew cut requiring zero daily styling. Pretty much everything mixes and matches well. I seem to be perceived as someone with youthful, loud, interesting fashion.

And I am also perceived as pretty gay.

Which is fine 90% of the time. I'd rather that--it's actually beneficial to my career as opposed to when I presented as a cis woman with streaks in her hair. I like it that people don't assume my gender or the gender of the person I'm married to. I am occasionally mistaken for male and it makes me feel euphoric.

But it SUCKS to be the way and, say, have to sort out a medical problem. Or make a complaint at a business place. Last year I had a bunch of health things going on and the supposedly queer-friendly med center I went to refused to order tests for me and repeatedly treated me as drug seeking. Now, I throw on cis women's drag for doctor's appointments, right down to the underwear because you never know what kind of tests they'll want. I put on contacts. I try to hope that they don't read anything into my prolific and ungroomed body hair. I wear make-up again. And I'm treated like a person worth speaking to and working with, but as I present as myself more regularly, I feel increasingly awful and dysphoric doing this. The clothes are fussy in cut and hard to match to each other. Every wedgie, bra strap slip, moment where i have to root through a purse to find my wallet stands out to me as that much more wrong, a reminder that I'm not myself. The last time this happened, I ran to a thrift store directly after to buy some men's clothes and changed in the car. And it was a bone deep relief that is difficult to articulate. I mean, I dressed in cis woman drag for 34 years. You'd think a few hours would be fine, so I can get better medical treatment. But it's fundamentally not.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 7:51 AM on August 16, 2019 [23 favorites]


I mean, in an ideal world I have multiple copies of the same pair of pants and same shirt and I wear those. In the academic world I basically achieved this with t-shirts and jeans.

I do this. Years ago I found one shirt that I absolutely loved and wore it frequently until it was threadbare. A couple of years ago I took it to a seamstress friend of mine and she made a pattern from it, with a couple of slight modifications to make it fit even better. Now I pay her and give her fabric and a little while later I get another copy of it. Slightly heavier quilting fabrics for fall and winter. Thinner cottons for summer. Linens. Subdued colors, absurdly loud prints. A shirt for every occasion, all the same pattern that fits like it was made for me, because it was.

I frequently get complements while walking down the street and coworkers (of both sexes, (I’m a dude),including guys who would never usually notice what another coworker is wearing).

Definitely something I’d recommend if you have the opportunity.

As for jeans, again I found a pair that fit me really well so I have those in a number of different washes.
posted by mikesch at 7:51 AM on August 16, 2019 [8 favorites]


I definitely favor a variation of the “Essentially One Outfit” look (thanks Frowner for that description!)... at least as far as my everyday routine goes. If you work with me, you’ll find me in some combination of jeans, button-downs, and polos in neutral colors, with choice mostly determined by laundry order. Because when I’m at work, I’m mostly trying to express... “I’m at work.”

I do, in fact, own more clothes, but those are reserved for special occasions and don’t make it into the regular rotation. My closet includes clothing appropriate for weddings, funerals, fancy parties, and so on. Those clothes tend to come out of the closet less than thrice a year, as called for.
posted by a device for making your enemy change his mind at 7:52 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Another thing about clothes and "respect": queer people often get dinged or have to choose between "looking queer" and "looking respectful".

Man, this. I am currently en route to my sister's baby shower, which (I have been informed) is to be "non-traditional" (because the men will be present!) but will still have a dress code: men are to wear collared shirts with jeans, while women are to wear floral sundresses. The outfit I am to wear in order to show "respect" for the occasion is explicit and specific.

I am butch, man. Last time I had to go to a straight person event--the same sister's wedding, in fact, although these expectations are mostly imposed by my mother--I had to wear a flowing chiffon dress. It was like being a pit bull among a crowd of salukis. I normally wear skirts or dresses only when I feel like making people who know me uncomfortable or I feel uncomfortable in my own skin and like being myself is going to get me rejected. I don't object to dressing up a bit or making an effort to show respect to a person, but the expectations of what that looks like are usually incredibly disrespectful to the way that I preferentially perform my own fucking gender. My idea of formal is tailored slacks or dress pants, neatly shined loafers or boots, a collared shirt or waistcoat or blazer. Gel in my hair. Maybe a red lip, if I feel like it. I can't actually afford much of that, but it's the direction I'm ambling in when I make purchases to acquire formal items of clothing that reflect my own sartorial self.

I will be wearing jeans and a collared shirt, knowing full well that I may communicate "I don't respect you" to my mother or sister, but, well. That dress code is already a communication to me that I am not worthy of respect, either. My comfort is not worthy of respect. My finances--you think I own a floral sundress? are you shitting me?--are not worthy of respect. My identity is not worthy of respect.

Now, I mentioned my apprehension and distaste about this event the other day to a queer friend who really does like dressing up for events and loves events with a formal dress code, and his perspective was really interesting to me: what he wants to see is an intentional decision to look good, not specifics of how a person chooses to go about doing that. He wants to see that the event matters enough to put in some extra effort, but what that effort is varies from person to person, and he thinks the important thing is to show up looking good, whatever that means to you--putting the kind of effort into your appearance that makes you step a bit neater, feeling like you are the best-looking version of yourself. It's a very different perspective from mine, since formal wear has been so poisoned by expectations that I perform a gender expression that I find anathema, and we had an interesting conversation about it.

But like. Straight people, cis people, y'all need to step the fuck off about this shit. Formal wear is conservative fashion almost by definition, and you need to consider when you're wistfully hearkening for a sartorial past in which I don't exist: do you think that invites me to come and sit at your table and feel like I am worth your effort? If so, think again.
posted by sciatrix at 8:07 AM on August 16, 2019 [53 favorites]


Previously - the little brown dress.

As a concept, this works if you
* Live in an area with fairly limited weather shifts (or, as noted above, you treat your "one outfit" as a base layer),
* Either are not employed out of the home, or are in an industry where you will not be penalized for looking "boring" at work (easier for men than women),
* Find variety in clothing a nuisance you have to put up with, rather than a way to express your mood for the day.

I would have an easier time eating the same meals every day than wearing the same outfit. But I've considered getting 2-3 color-shift versions of the same outfit to wear to work every day, because I want my appearance at work to be unnoticed. But when I'm spending time with friends or family, I want to enjoy color and texture changes. Also, I want to wear lightweight things in the summer and heavier things in the winter.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 8:09 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Clothing can indeed be a form of self expression, but it isn't the only one that matters, nor should it be.

Clothing , among other elements of personal presentation, absolutely communicates something about us to others -- regardless of whether we want it to or whether it communicates accurately. Indeed, personal presentation continues to communicate strongly even to those people who get to know us well. Wishing it weren't so won't change that fact.

That said, I don't think there's anything good, bad, wrong or right about choosing to have a relatively unchanging "uniform" that one wears most every day, although I would hope that the uniform is sufficiently flexible/configurable to be appropriate in the variety of contexts in which is it worn, and that it communicates what the wearer would like to communicate. That said, I have a hard time imagining a single outfit that would really work at both a funeral and a day at the beach. Personally, I find clothing fun, I like to wear things that make me look my best, and I try to be mindful of what my personal presentation communicates to others. But others feel and do differently, and that's cool too.
posted by slkinsey at 8:10 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Indeed, personal presentation continues to communicate strongly even to those people who get to know us well. Wishing it weren't so won't change that fact.

I've no argument with clothing communicating something about us to others, how we each might care about that and in what way is something different. The more important distinction is that if the clothing is saying something more or opposing a set of other values someone you know well might be trying to share, then any fault in the communication might well be on the end of the person looking as that judgment may well be coming from a prejudicial or restrictive social construct rather than providing useful information or showing the limitations on/of the person themselves.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:21 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Formal wear is conservative fashion almost by definition, and you need to consider when you're wistfully hearkening for a sartorial past in which I don't exist: do you think that invites me to come and sit at your table and feel like I am worth your effort?

I'm not sure what you mean by "conservative." I would certainly disagree that it's politically or socially conservative. I don't even know that I'd say it's sartorially conservative, depending on what one believes that would mean.

"Dress codes" are meant to be guidelines or boundaries within which there should be room for individual expression. They exist so that everyone has an idea as to what is expected (and there is usually a reason the codes are the way they are, for those who have the curiosity to find out). Requiring that "men are to wear collared shirts with jeans, while women are to wear floral sundresses" strikes me as a serious misunderstanding of how that sort of thing is supposed to work, especially considering that the "code" does not indicate a level of formality that would make such a narrow specification appropriate. It's a baby shower, not a gala with full formal dress. Moreover, in today's day and age, if a woman or female-presenting person wanted to come to a white tie gala in a cutaway tailcoat instead of a gown, that would be perfectly okay. I get that the hosts of the baby shower wanted to encourage dress within a certain range (not too casual, not too dressed up), but it seems to me that there were much better ways to do it. Even putting aside the incredibly reasonable example of a woman who would prefer to wear pants rather than a dress, what about men who would rather wear chinos than jeans or women who don't own a sundress in a floral pattern? That whole spec just seems overly controlling.
posted by slkinsey at 8:27 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


Indeed, personal presentation continues to communicate strongly even to those people who get to know us well. Wishing it weren't so won't change that fact.

An anecdote about clothing communication from my personal past: When I was fifteen, I had a long black skirt with many, many tiny buttons down the front. I loved that skirt. Well, one day I paired it with a dark purple tee shirt and went off to school. I came home to a good solid yelling-at from my father because I had upset my mother by wearing dark colors together - I was trying to "look like a witch", it was inappropriate, etc. Now, wearing a dark purple tee with a long black skirt was not weird or disrespectful and did not make me look like a goth. My parents just really, really didn't notice fashion and tended to apply the norms of their childhoods in the fifties/early sixties to mine. Also, I wasn't allowed to wear cut-off shorts to school even though this was perfectly normal and common - cut-offs were disrespectful. And when I cut my hair short, well!

To be fair to my parents, they loosened up about all this by the time I was done with college. And they also bought me several for-us-expensive things (an outfit for my high school graduation, some glasses) because my mother remembered being made to wear really awful, unflattering things by her family for various screwed up family dynamics reasons. It wasn't that my parents were monsters about clothes, but because they were totally uninterested in clothes themselves, they sure weren't interpreting what I wore in any accurate way.

It's perfectly possible, too, for someone to be dressed in their best, doing their best to conform to social norms and be as respectful as possible and still get read as a slovenly rude person because of cultural, regional, class or age differences. For this reason, I really like to try to dial back the "I can know things about people because of their clothes" unless I am really, really sure of the situation and the person.
posted by Frowner at 8:31 AM on August 16, 2019 [12 favorites]


What I actually mean is that formalwear trends typically follow a conservative fashion evolution: the most formal possible wear is clothing that was most recently fashionable a century ago. I don't mean politically conservative, although I do think I mean socially conservative, because dress codes for increasingly formal events have increasingly less room for people who are not gender conforming. This is in part because they are increasingly restrictive, and in part because of that "traditional" rider. The more formal the event, the more traditional the garb, and gender-non-conforming presentations are almost by definition ruled out of "traditional."

Of course this particular example is overly controlling, that's my point--although the reason it is overly controlling is that there is a certain terror of not performing the Done thing, and of therefore revealing oneself to not have the appropriate levels of taste. People who have that taste, of course, generally have the confidence to experiment with it, but if you're... say... engaging in a social class you were not born into, and terrified of having to admit that you are translating everything into a second language, you may not have that confidence and security. The anxiety spills out in strange ways.

The most rigid person I know about dress codes and what is Done and what is Correct is someone who grew up rural and poor, and is now very wealthy and concerned with performing that wealth such that no one ever realizes she wasn't born to it. It is internalized classism, but it happens. That insecurity is so deeply wrought into the marrow of actual, real dress codes that many of us have to negotiate that decrying it as Doing Dress Codes Wrong makes no sense: the point of a dress code is to restrict the avenue of potential presentations in order to conform to a greater or lesser extent. Just because you think that someone else is wrong in how they are approaching it doesn't mean that the experience and knowledge of these approaches don't inform the way that other people react to and expect dress codes to apply.
posted by sciatrix at 8:35 AM on August 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


A unitard? She wore a UNITARD for 18 months? Jeez, I wouldn't be able to wear that for one day. So uncomfortable.

My outfits are chosen based on 1. what shirt or dress will allow me to minimize bra-wearing (hate bras, have to wear them to work and when out and about in order to be "proper") 2. most comfortable bottom half possible. I don't think I've had pants with a zipper in years. The outfit that hits the mark best is usually a halter dress.

I like looking hot, and since I have a cis woman body what generally gets me the reaction I'm looking for is dressing/grooming that's very femme. Clingy dresses, long hair, eyeliner, heels, etc. It's not really an expression of my inner being or whatever at all, it's just a costume. But I do like how I get treated when I'm wearing it, so. What can I say, I like to flirt.

If I were dressing for myself and not based on what reactions I want to elicit in others, I would wear a hoodie, gym shorts, and no shoes every day of the year. Honestly, I do wear that every day of the year, just only at night or in the morning, when I'm not leaving the house.

When it comes to work in particular, I tend to recycle clothes a lot because you CAN'T try and look sexy for work, you have to try and look as sedate as possible. Who is going to put in anything but the absolute minimum of effort if the end goal is just "sedate"? Bah. So what usually happens is that work clothes gradually rip or fall apart or get horribly stained somehow and then I have to throw them away, and eventually I'm down to 0-1 pairs of pants and maybe a shirt or two and then I have to pick something up next time I'm at Costco or wherever. Work is the worst, man. Right now I'm down to one pair of burgundy stretch-y work pants, which I wore four times this week (a dress today) and I was just thinking I'd have to try to find some other pair, especially as fall comes on.
posted by rue72 at 8:48 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


It's perfectly possible, too, for someone to be dressed in their best, doing their best to conform to social norms and be as respectful as possible and still get read as a slovenly rude person because of cultural, regional, class or age differences

Yes, and some of this is really beyond all control save for the personal characteristics of the people involved. I had a friend who could go to any thrift store or bargain outlet chain and come out looking like he was made to be in those clothes. His body type, carriage, and general demeanor would sell almost any outfit as a good look, where other friends or I could buy virtually the same clothing and look utterly foolish. There simply was no way I could wear clothes as well as he did in any circumstance, save perhaps for personal tailoring and sartorial selection by professionals, and even then it'd be doubtful.

I've had friends who had all sorts of different personal connections to clothing and those connections, by choice, body type, self consciousness, history and general demeanor can't be duplicated, which leaves how people interpret appearance as something more than clothes alone define, but we nonetheless end up having to fit our different selves in similar wrappings and then pretend we're going to be saying the same thing to others when we know it doesn't work like that.
posted by gusottertrout at 8:49 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


What I actually mean is that formalwear trends typically follow a conservative fashion evolution: the most formal possible wear is clothing that was most recently fashionable a century ago. I don't mean politically conservative, although I do think I mean socially conservative, because dress codes for increasingly formal events have increasingly less room for people who are not gender conforming.

Yes. Standard dress codes for formal events are incredibly gendered, even if you "allow" AFAB women to wear pants; the fabrics used for pantsuits designed for women are thinner and more revealing and therefore more likely to require shapewear or specific undergarments to be socially acceptable (see: the fear of pantylines and therefore the necessity of thongs); the tops are often low cut and require certain undergarments; the shoes that you're expected to wear are smaller in cut , less supportive, and more likely to be physically painful; everything is less likely to have pockets, meaning you must carry a purse or a clutch for just your keys or wallets. I just wear menswear now but while casual menswear fits me fine, formal off-the-rack menswear is often too big in the shoulders or too long in the arms or doesn't close over my breasts. I feel good enough in my ill-fitting formal wear that I have felt free, for the first time, to actually dance at a wedding. But I can't afford something tailored to me and worry about what that experience would be like for an AFAB person.

Formalwear for AFAB people, whether they conform to gender expectations or not, is complicated to a level that I suspect most gendercomforming cis men don't understand on any level.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 8:50 AM on August 16, 2019 [14 favorites]


There is something to finding Types of Clothes that are You and types that aren't. And if she wants to fill her closet with black bodysuits plus things to wear on top of them, I don't see why she shouldn't.

But one is not enough!

Anyway, I decided to try one of those clothing subscription services where you only pay for what you keep and they try to send you things tailored to your preferences. It's not perfect, but it has been helpful and I've kept more of the clothes than I thought I would. Things I would probably not have tried on in a store. They cost more but then again; I don't have to drive to a store, they're already my size, and there is no penalty for saying "nah." It's a good deal in the long run.

I don't think I've ever had one vision of myself so strong that one outfit covers it. I like different looks.
posted by emjaybee at 8:53 AM on August 16, 2019


I used to be a black work pants and dark or black long or short sleeved t-shirt with no accessories person. Totally fading into the background. Given that I'm a tall white (apparently) dude, this was basically dressing for my own comfort and convenience and doing nothing for those around me.

Lately I wear skirts and loud shirts and linens and jewelry and rainbows because I feel it's my duty to not only represent myself as someone who is not normal, but also as someone who it is safe to be around if one is also not normal, and also, and most importantly, to push the fucking buttons of those, usually conservatively dressed white people, either business people, or aggro dudes in t-shirts and jeans, who think that another white "dude" who is not in the "dude uniform" is someone worthy of disdain, mockery or scorn.

You cowardly motherfuckers, I've dyed my hair and am wearing a skirt and a shirt with cute cats on it and a rainbow belt and blingy bracelets because I have more confidence and courage in my public appearance than you could possibly imagine. I'm more of a "man" than you will ever be, and I don't even identify as one. This is me smashing the Overton window, it's what I do, it's my job as a tall white "dude" with the enormous privilege that comes with it.

I just feel like it's my role now, to stand out, to be a lightning rod, to make the streets safer for the wierds, queers and folks with fears.
posted by seanmpuckett at 8:53 AM on August 16, 2019 [18 favorites]


Clothing is a form of discourse, and part of my survivance involves intentional code switching. I pass at work using a fairly standard business-casual uniform. That likely falls into the single-outfit paradigm since I have increasing anxiety when it comes to shopping and haircuts. As soon as I'm no longer at work, I get out of it for whatever gender-affirming clothing I feel like wearing at home. That is very much a matter of managing the stress of meeting straight expectations vs. the stress of being seen as queer around straight people.

On the other hand, a large chunk of LGBTQ culture is dedicated to creating safe spaces for affirming clothing expression. I don't have high hopes for the current trans rights case before the Supreme Court, so those spaces and code switching are likely to be a form of survivance for the forseeable future.

And writing this, I had a memory grenade go off of being told as a teen that it's just a shirt, jacket, and hair cut, but it communicates how I'm educated and hard-working (unsaid: middle-class, white, protestant, and straight).

Anyway, there's a certain degree of smugness to the conclusion. I respect clothing minimalism, I don't think it implies a higher-degree of self-knowledge, and I'm not convinced that knowing yourself to that degree of static identity is necessarily a virtue.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 8:55 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty sure Byrne was cribbing from Tom Wolfe, but didn't find the quote.

One attitude I've run into is that poor people shouldn't have any style or dress to draw attention to themselves, which I have always found simply baffling. I've heard this (often couched in racist/classist undertones) pretty much my entire life.

At least part of the reason I became a librarian is that we're sorta expected to dress funny.
posted by aspersioncast at 8:55 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


I remember a commenter here on MeFi (sorry, I don't remember specifically who) talking about how it can be freeing to dress up for work at a strip club, because you get to wear all kinds of things that wouldn't be considered "proper" out on the street but are really beautiful or make the wearer look really beautiful. That sounded so awesome to me.

I don't think that code switching via clothes is inherently a bad thing. You have to dress for the relationship with others you want to have, because people are going to take their cues for how to treat you from what you're wearing. You don't want everyone to have the same relationship with you, so you have to change your clothes based on what you kind of interaction/relationship you want to have.

It's a PITA and expensive but at the end of the day, at least it's one fairly efficient and unobtrusive way to influence how others treat you out in the world.

This is making me think about how I dress like such a scrub for work. I don't want to be treated like a scrub, so I had better change that. But it's such a pain in the ass, especially since there's no world in which I could wear what I really wanted to here.
posted by rue72 at 9:05 AM on August 16, 2019


2) I bet she lived in California. Significant weather changes would make only one outfit really impractical.

Ding, ding, ding! So many ideas/things are designed just for Mediterranean climates that never change.

I'm not one to think that one outfit is practical and I like changing up my clothes - especially when I have cool things like a dress shirt with jelly fish on them. But I'm also the kind of person who does have a set uniform pattern - dark loose trousers, 3/4 or full-sleeved shirt over top, probably with a collar.

But a ST:TNG uniform? NEVER. Those things weren't even flattering to incredibly fit and attractive actors. The spandex uniforms rode up constantly - thus the "Picard Maneuver" - and apparently smelled terrible. They were replaced with that "fabric of the future": wool gabardine.

----

If we're going to suggest an actually incredibly versatile and comfortable outfit, I propose the shalwar kameez, aka a tunic loose over trousers.

It's good for all genders, flattering on different body types. The blouse can be short or long, fitted or loose - and the same for the trousers, too.

They layer beautifully with other things like sweaters, shawls or long vests for colder climates, and are open to all sorts of personalization in colour, patterns and details of style. (I would add a western-style collar to my kameez, or maybe a mandarin collar, because that suits my neck). They work wonderfully in a variety of fabrics - cotton, linen, wool or silk. (I hate the plastic fabrics, myself).

I have also never been so comfortable at a formal event as the time when I wore a shalwar kameez to a wedding. It was like attending in elegant pajamas.

So here's my vote for the clothing of the future: if we're really serious about comfortable and practical clothing, drop all the talk of t-shirts & jeans (stiff and binding, and knit fabric is bad in the heat) or one piece jumpers (does no one use the toilet during the day?) and let's get serious about wide adoption of the shalwar kameez outfit. This is what actually makes sense on our climate controlled spaceships which also have perfect artificial gravity.
posted by jb at 9:08 AM on August 16, 2019 [20 favorites]


I have a literal Uniform for work and I love it. Depending on the day and shift, i will frequently leave work and change into a black t-shirt or polo for the rest of the day.
posted by ericales at 9:08 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I just wear menswear now but while casual menswear fits me fine, formal off-the-rack menswear is often too big in the shoulders or too long in the arms or doesn't close over my breasts

I've struggled with this too - even a lot of clothing made for AFAB people strains over my chest. But I've recently discovered minimizer bras designed to reduce breast size, and it's been a great improvement (short of binding). I don't know how I went decades without knowing these existed.
posted by jb at 9:14 AM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


TBH I feel like real people do not mind homogenous dressing as long as you commit to it. It seems like a made up fashion magazine thing to me. I could be wrong or in some kind of bubble but I have never in my life heard anyone complain that anyone else wears the same kind of clothes all the time.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:16 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


When I was fifteen, I had a long black skirt with many, many tiny buttons down the front. I loved that skirt. Well, one day I paired it with a dark purple tee shirt and went off to school. I came home to a good solid yelling-at from my father because I had upset my mother by wearing dark colors together - I was trying to "look like a witch", it was inappropriate, etc.

My favourite skirt at the same age was long and green with many, many tiny buttons down the front. But I suppose I was trying to look like a witch, especially after I painted the pagan symbols on it with silver fabric paint :)
posted by jb at 9:18 AM on August 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


Pants: I own Jeans (and am so excited by stretchy comfortable jeans!), cargo pants, & Cargo Shorts. I also have swim trunks and running clothes.
Shirts: t shirts, and polo shirts. I used to have a few nice button downs but somehow when I moved the new washer dryer setup makes them all wrinkly so fuck that noise.
I have 1 pair nice black pants for dressy occasions, and a tuxedo shirt, remnant of my server days.
I have several leather jackets, and riding pants and shoes, because I've come off of my scooter 3 times and I've learned gear over fashion.
Shoes, most of my shoes are a version of Nike running shoes, since I run and they become useless for that, but not useless for walking after a bit.

If you feel disrespected by how I dress, then let me know so I can go the extra step of actually disrespecting you.
posted by evilDoug at 9:26 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


I am currently en route to my sister's baby shower, which (I have been informed) is to be "non-traditional" (because the men will be present!) but will still have a dress code: men are to wear collared shirts with jeans, while women are to wear floral sundresses. The outfit I am to wear in order to show "respect" for the occasion is explicit and specific...I will be wearing jeans and a collared shirt.

Oh my unspecified-gods. That is a completely ridiculous dress code even before you get to the gender policing! My cis & straight husband doesn't even own a pair of jeans, and hasn't in 20+ years. He's never found them comfortable and prefers to wear trousers (chinos, etc.).

As for the gender policing: I would be right there with you wearing a collared shirt. I have phases of butch and femme, but I haven't worn a sleeveless dress in years and I haven't done floral since I was 8 years old. But my collared shirt has jelly fish! They are like flowers of the sea, so that would count, right? (Still no jeans - they wear out so fast, so I also switched to non-denim trousers).
posted by jb at 9:29 AM on August 16, 2019 [11 favorites]


Requiring that "men are to wear collared shirts with jeans, while women are to wear floral sundresses" strikes me as a serious misunderstanding of how that sort of thing is supposed to work, especially considering that the "code" does not indicate a level of formality that would make such a narrow specification appropriate. It's a baby shower, not a gala with full formal dress.

Yeah, this is some insane kind of gender obsession thing. I'm cis and straight and I would wear something cute to the event but a floral sundress? I don't even fucking own one.

Clothing is, unfortunately, communication. I don't think that can be willed away. I work in a profession (the law) where the appropriate kind of clothing is explicitly premised on the function you're performing or event you're attending, and I don't think that intuition is wrong. If you're coming to court, you are invoking some of the most grave powers of our government, and you should look like you give a damn. But of course there is no separating that from all kinds of misogynist and classist bullshit that gets layered over it, from jury expectations of what a female lawyer should look and talk like, to witnesses getting taken less seriously because maybe their nicest clothes are ill-fitting and from Walmart.

(I worked for a while at a firm that had a casual dress code outside court/client events, and it was great for me, because I am lazy and cheap, but there were always a handful of people who really struggled to understand that "casual" does not mean "clubwear" and that the extra-sexy stuff is for your own personal fun time. No one wants to get an eyeful while reviewing a draft. Again, can't will away the fact that certain types of clothing are used to signal receptiveness to amorous adventure.)
posted by praemunire at 9:40 AM on August 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


doing the same thing, the same way, all the time is boring. It lacks variety. etc.

Or, the reverse: it's freeing! I wore a uniform to school for a while and then I didn't, then I did again, then a different one, then I didn't. When I finally got a Real Job, I was delighted to fall back into Uniform Mode again.

Every night I lay out a pair of khakis, a shirt, socks+undershirt+shorts, and line up my shoes. Sometimes it's a golf shirt and sometimes it's a crisp white shirt & tie -- but usually it's a combination I have worn before and will wear again many, many times. I often wear the same khakis for a few days, too. (Don't look at me like that: I only had two pair of uniform pants for each school year, and it was fine back then.)

The extra mental space not spent thinking about clothes is valuable to me, and I wish my kids' schools had uniforms so they could be freed of dress codes, peer judgements, and all the other crummy consequences of fashion culture.

(And yes, I do recognize this is a privilege or working in a business casual office and being a white, middle-class guy. Heck, I wish it was open to everyone who wants it. Free yourself! Call it the "capsule wardrobe" if that makes you feel better about it, or Garanimals, but go for it!)
posted by wenestvedt at 9:43 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Wearing a dirty unitard to work is the kind of thing you can get away with when you're young, thin, and white. I've never been two of those things, and to be completely honest, I've probably never been young either.

Anyway, the minute the weather changes, I'm going to Steve Jobs it up, black turtleneck time. I'm mildly curious as to whether anyone will comment on it.
posted by betweenthebars at 9:45 AM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


My mom got so weirdly bent out of shape every time I wore black when I was in high school. It was utterly incomprehensible to me because, like, it's just a color? Like any other? We had big fights about how dressing "properly" (according to fucking who?) is showing people you respect yourself and big time nah on that one. That argument was so absurd to me even at 15, I couldn't even think of a way to cogently counter it.
posted by soren_lorensen at 9:45 AM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I have never in my life heard anyone complain that anyone else wears the same kind of clothes all the time.

Maybe not complaints, but I've certainly heard mockery. Teasing in high school (implying you were too poor), subtle shade in my 20s (basically slut-shaming), gradually fading away with age.

I live in the mid-Atlantic so wearing the exact same outfit twice in a row is inadvisable without laundering in between, although I usually can get a few wears out of a pair of pants, as long as they get a day in between to air out.
posted by aspersioncast at 9:58 AM on August 16, 2019


I hardly notice what other people wear. I have seen my wife and son several times today together and separately and I have no idea what they could possibly be wearing. Clothes, I presume.

I wear minimal changes of don't-notice-me clothes seven days a week. It takes me a minute to get dressed: choose something from the clean pile, sniff it to make sure, and put it on if it passes the sniff test.

I know some people are forced by circumstances to regularly wear certain costumes (something to make them seem sexy, something to make them seem serious, something to fend off judgmental peers, etc.) and I'm glad I'm not them. I was totally stressed just last week because I could not escape buying a jacket, button-up shirt, and tie. I hadn't worn such things in many years and had forgotten how to tie a tie. Now we'll see whether the moths eat the jacket before the worms eat me.
posted by pracowity at 10:23 AM on August 16, 2019


So I have one basic work outfit. On my last day at my previous company the team all came dressed in variations of that one outfit. I honestly thought "ooh, those shoes look good!" before I slowly realized there was a pattern.
posted by mdoar at 10:36 AM on August 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


Yeah I find clothes shopping stressful and uncomfortable, picking out outfits boring, pretty much anything to do with getting dressed to be unpleasant unless it's a day off and I get to wear a fun t-shirt - so having a basic "uniform" for work is the only way to go for me. I'm lucky in that my wife a) totally "gets" me and b) enjoys buying clothes for my absolutely-do-not-want-to-read-as-very-feminine ass, so there are some fun things in my closet (cardigan with rainbow buttons! Cardigan with tomatoes!). When I was single and working a corporate job my closet pretty much looked like a cartoon character's, with many iterations of the same work-appropriate outfit (though in a few different colors) and I was fine with that. The most my work clothes were meant to express of me was "I am here at work," just like the most what little makeup I felt I had to wear at the time was meant to express "I have smeared shit on my face like you expect," and frankly I truly didn't and don't respect the judgment of anybody who was offended by that.

I am currently en route to my sister's baby shower, which (I have been informed) is to be "non-traditional" (because the men will be present!) but will still have a dress code: men are to wear collared shirts with jeans, while women are to wear floral sundresses.

I literally started clenching up just reading this, sciatrix - I've been in similar though less explicitly mandated situations and totally feel for you. Good on you for going with jeans and a collared shirt - I, too, would be right there with you.
posted by DingoMutt at 10:50 AM on August 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


I get the sense that baby showers and gender reveal parties have joined weddings on the list of cis-centric ceremonial events that prop up a gender binary. And my more paranoid side suspects that the increased demand for ceremonial costume for those events isn't entirely a coincidence. While reading this thread I saw this article about the financial cost of attending weddings (average £391), and down at the bottom you had this little fact that's relevant here, "62% of those who sent an RSVP to say “no” said that not attending had cost them their friendship with the couple." Which points to the tradeoff between doing whatever you want and losing social capital for not meeting ceremonial expectations.
posted by GenderNullPointerException at 11:08 AM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


Those terrible baby shower rules seem designed for Instagram rather than formality.

I was assuming that the expensive weddings were designed as photo opps for the couple, but the article above says they're intolerably expensive because the guests think of it as an Instagram opportunity. I am perplexed.

There's some famous quote from someone good at clothes about fashion being a language, but mostly muttering -- can't find it. Anyone?
posted by clew at 11:36 AM on August 16, 2019 [7 favorites]


I have decided to have a work uniform -- well, two, depending on the season. For warmer weather, it's a short-sleeved knit swing dress and a nice pair of sandals. For colder weather, it's a long-sleeved knit swing dress with either tights or leggings, and either flat shoes or boots. I have several of each style of dress, in different colors and prints, so I can just grab one and throw it on without having to think too much about it. Add earrings and a necklace, and poof, I am presentable for work/ family visits/ going out to dinner or whatever, comfortably and without much fuss.

Part of it, for me, is that I am very plus-sized, so it's really, really hard for me to find comfortable, attractive clothing that I can afford. I can't spend $100 per work dress, I don't have the money for that at all. And I loathe trying on clothing with the fire of a thousand suns, so if I know a particular dress will always fit me and be comfy, I am going to order that dress in as many colors and prints as I can get my paws on.
posted by sarcasticah at 11:39 AM on August 16, 2019 [6 favorites]


> Skorts
Mary Janes
Add fleece leggings for colder weather


soren_lorenson I like this very much but how do you wear leggings with skorts? (I know you're invisible but this still seems awkward.)
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:56 AM on August 16, 2019


The US has an absurd oversupply of consumer goods, much of it in the form of clothing. It is an environmental problem. Thrift shops like Goodwill can't sell all the donations. Other countries increasingly don't want the leftovers. Many people I know are fussy about what GW will do with their precious unwanted stuff. But Goodwill is doing you a favor by taking your stuff to recycle it. I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops because it's environmentally more sound and pretty cheap. Also, I can buy stuff, wear it, and if I don't like it, just donate it back. Low commitment, and I don't have to save receipts.

I only wear shapes I like, colors I like, so stuff goes together, though if you wear baggy khaki shorts and an olive drab tshirt, you will be taken for a Ranger at most parks. I'd rather wear cotton, which won't dry overnight. I'd rather not have to wash clothes every night. In Maine you need hot, medium, and cold weather clothes. Often several layers. And I like some variety.

Where I agree with the article is that I dislike having special clothes for activities. I try to only own/ wear clothing in which I can walk, dance, sit, crawl under a desk to unravel cables, hold a baby, etc. I have to have a set of yard clothes sprayed with bug dope because ticks and mosquitos. I have several skirts for dancing because that feels nice. I have a couple items of velvet and sparkly because they are fun for events. Most clothing I own is very easy care, and I take care of it because that makes sense. If you don't use the dryer, anything with elastic will last way longer.

I own a bathing suit, but have discovered that a comfortable bra, light poly top, and nylon skort are easy care and functional, and peeling a wet lycra suit off my body is an unpleasant task, so screw it.

I am almost never in fashion, and almost always extremely comfortable with that. I moved 11 years ago, so it's easy to verify that I have some clothes older than that, in fine shape, that I feel great in. Except for weight changes, it may be more items, but a static wardrobe is fine.
posted by theora55 at 12:18 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


soren_lorenson I like this very much but how do you wear leggings with skorts? (I know you're invisible but this still seems awkward.)

Leggings on first, skorts over top. The shorts part of the skort is fairly loose and no one sees it (as far as anyone is concerned at my office, I am wearing a skirt), so it's not awkward to throw on a pair of leggings first. My jogging skorts I wouldn't wear leggings under because the short bit is tight, but with these Eddie Bauer skorts, the skort bit is more like loose boxer briefs than, like, bicycle shorts.
posted by soren_lorensen at 12:30 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


I enjoy clothes and constructing outfits and I don't care even a little bit if someone else goes the one outfit route, but being proscriptive about it is shitty (like, fuck the sentiment from the quote in the title forever) and ethno-culturally exclusionary in a way that is entirely orthogonal to the (completely valid) concerns about the waste, colonialism, and harmful psychological programming that comes with the corporate clothing industry.
posted by invitapriore at 1:02 PM on August 16, 2019


If anyone thinks my clothing choices communicate anything beyond "I would like to be read as a woman, also don't pay attention to me at all, and I'm bad at clothes and don't really care" then they're reading too much into it, like trying to determine the exact intent behind the subtleties of a particular stroke or colour choice in what is clearly a shitty crayon drawing on a napkin.
posted by Dysk at 1:14 PM on August 16, 2019 [15 favorites]


And to be honest, much like with so much art by young children (crayon drawings) you probably won't recognise the things I am trying to communicate unless you know me already (I can see that that squiggle in my little brother's early drawings represents a tractor, but I would not expect anyone else to, without already knowing him well).
posted by Dysk at 1:19 PM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


"I would like to be read as a woman, also don't pay attention to me at all, and I'm bad at clothes and don't really care"

My aesthetic.
posted by soren_lorensen at 1:25 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I buy most of my clothes at thrift shops because it's environmentally more sound and pretty cheap.

I used to buy most of my clothes at thrift shops; I stopped when I got to size 2X, because the selection of clothes for large women tends to be awful - heavy on polyester in uncomfortable cuts, and often for women much taller than me. And because it's very frustrating to go looking for clothes and find two dozen shirts or skirts I'd love to wear if they were in my size, while I'm trying to find the one skirt I could wear that still has functional elastic.

...now I buy clothes from eShakti.
posted by ErisLordFreedom at 1:58 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


I know the one outfit thing is evil because that is exactly what Mark Zuckerberg wears.
posted by Ber at 2:36 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


I wear Essentially One Outfit to work and it works for me. I found pants I like which come in capris (for summer) and full-length (for winter) and four different colors, and I wear them with about ten different blouses which are all the same blouse in different patterns (mostly florals, a few are solid colors, and two are geometric shape patterns). Everything matches everything else. I look put-together and am appropriate for my business-casual office without having to make very many decisions in the morning (beyond "is this clean?" and in the case of the coral-colored pants, "can you see my underwear?").

I care about being respected at work and because People Suck that means I have to dress a certain way, but I mostly don't care about clothing itself and I also resent that I'm supposed to spend at least five times as much energy on my appearance as the men in my office. This solution feels like it passes all the external pressures and tests without requiring me to actually spend pretty much any time on it (once the pieces are purchased - I do have to update the color palette periodically as beige neutrals make me look jaundiced).
posted by joannemerriam at 2:52 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


but being proscriptive about it is shitty (like, fuck the sentiment from the quote in the title forever)

To me, that line, the last line of the article - "If you truly know yourself, one outfit is definitely enough" - seems less proscriptive and more . . . I dunno, like, missing the point of her own essay?

Like, the whole thing is a sort of nostalgia - for a time in her life probably not very long ago - when a combination of life circumstances and various axes of privilege (as others have pointed out, being young, white, thin, urban, artsy and possibly underemployed but still able to afford NYC) meant that she could, well, "get away with" a certain style rooted in one piece of clothing, the bodysuit.

But then rather than consider how her various privileges may have allowed this, or how our societal standards of "professional" clothing complicate life as an adult woman, she just kinda goes, "Welp, I was happy at 22, I wore one piece of clothing, therefore 1 piece of clothing = happiness."

Which is just like, "wait, what?" I mean, I was drunk a lot at 22, but I certainly didn't come to the conclusion that being drunk equals being happy.
posted by soundguy99 at 4:50 PM on August 16, 2019 [3 favorites]


What I’m really saying is: If you truly know yourself, one outfit is definitely enough.

FTR i am friends-of-friends with a dude who knew her at the time and has mentioned that she smelled "like shit"

I was generally very hot and cool in those days

word on the street is that she had fuckin ratty-ass whitegirl dreds
posted by Greg Nog at 5:39 PM on August 16, 2019 [9 favorites]


Ignoring the weird non-laundering stuff in the article, I am definitely on board with the uniform thing. To work, every day, I wear a black undershirt, a long-sleeve black button-down shirt (I own several of the exact same one), a slightly A-line black skirt (I own several which vary from a couple inches below the knee to a couple inches above it) and a pair of black tights. If I need to do something More Businessy or if it's cold I put on a black suit jacket with it. In summer the tights and undershirt are lighter, in winter they're heavier.

I used to wear black shoes with this but I now work somewhere that I can get away with a fun pair of faux-oxfords in red.


Where I live, all black is not seen as dour or morbid, but rather a bit serious and very customer-service-y, which is exactly my vibe. I also happen to look good in it and not have to think about it when I get dressed in the morning, and it's very low-maintenance. When I need to replace bits, almost everything comes in black, in a variety of sizes, and my laundry is very simple.

When I first started doing this at my previous job I got a couple "haha you wear the same thing every day" comments (as those who present on the feminine side tend to get with a voluntary uniform) to which I just said yes, it makes my life much easier, and I was left alone ever since. (At my current job, I was doing this from the start, and if anyone had any feelings about it they didn't say anything. I think when there's no prior behavior to compare it to it's a little easier.)
posted by gloriouslyincandescent at 6:34 PM on August 16, 2019 [4 favorites]


But hang on, if she cut it up in the summer to make it a shorts&tank, that means she has to buy it again in autumn, right? This is not the same outfit for a year and a half. I feel misled.
posted by inexorably_forward at 7:08 PM on August 16, 2019 [5 favorites]


My job requires me to wear slacks, shirt and tie (suit not required, thank heavens). I have three dress shirts, two pairs of slacks, and a couple dozen ties (for non work, I have a pair of jeans and a number of plain t-shirts. I also have a suit, which I haven't worn since my interview for my current job, almost eight years ago).

I have three pairs of shoes: work shoes (black leather, Rockport), a pair of sneakers, and a pair of hiking boots. Oh, and a pair of slippers.

I wear the most comfortable of the shirts (light blue, the one with the loosest neck when buttoned) three days a week. I alternate between the teal shirt and the cream on the other two days of the week. And I wear ties with cartoon or pop culture themes on Fridays.

So I feel fairly minimalist in my wardrobe and can sympathize with the writer of the article.
posted by lhauser at 7:28 PM on August 16, 2019 [1 favorite]


Right now the statement I'm making with my shoes is "these are the only pair of shoes that aren't excruciatingly painful to wear." I've got short and wide feet, and both Brooks and New Balance redesigned their shoes with more narrow toe boxes, probably to make them look more fashionable. Dress shoes are even worse. So if someone wants to interpret my choice of footwear as disrespectful or boring, maybe it would behoove them to consider that not everyone has an abundance of fashionable choices available to them.
posted by creepygirl at 8:17 PM on August 16, 2019 [2 favorites]


Summer shoes; Lowa Renegade GTX Lo for the summer; and Lowa Renegade GTX mid for the winter. And that would be 98% of the foorwear regime.

Not unlike this lady's singular outfit; it helps to more or less work at home too...
posted by buzzman at 9:09 PM on August 16, 2019


For other people, spending literally all day on clothing could also be valuing their time.

I prefer to be a walking art exhibit, myself.

After starting to wear pink shirts at work and when speaking at events, people now recognize me as "the pink-shirt guy" and are a little disappointed if I wear anything different.

I think I have had similar issues about being known for wearing purple and/or rainbows a lot.

You cowardly motherfuckers, I've dyed my hair and am wearing a skirt and a shirt with cute cats on it and a rainbow belt and blingy bracelets because I have more confidence and courage in my public appearance than you could possibly imagine.

*applauds, also asks for pictures :)
posted by jenfullmoon at 9:18 PM on August 16, 2019


Years ago, I found this one skirt pattern that I really liked, and was pretty flattering on my particular shape. I ran one up in pretty much any fabric I had two yards of. I paired the skirts with this one design of v-neck knit top, that I collected in every color Old Navy put on clearance. I was seriously bummed when they stopped making it. I got a lot of outfits out of mixing and matching those skirts and tops.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:10 AM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


I don't do one-outfit, but I take some inspiration from the idea.

I live in a relatively casual-dress part of the U.S., and I have both a biz-caz kind of job and, mostly, a biz-caz kind of life. If I'm not wearing exercise-specific clothing or dressing up for a more formal whatever (not my favorite), it's pretty much always five-pocket pants (mostly navy, gray, or black, though I have some brown and tan ones I don't wear much), a button-down shirt (likely blue, plaid, or blue plaid) over a t-shirt (black), and either sneakers (I don't have a lot of other clothes, but I have a lot of sneakers), barefoot shoes, or Birkenstocks. My goal is to be selective when buying clothes so that I don't have to think very hard about what to wear each day.

I'm not quite to the point where every single item matches, but I'm getting close.
posted by box at 7:44 AM on August 17, 2019


If we're going to suggest an actually incredibly versatile and comfortable outfit, I propose the shalwar kameez, aka a tunic loose over trousers.

There was a thread on the topic of the shalwar kameez on Making Light a few years back.

The 'front page post' was on Nov 9th, 2004 — there were about 74 comments that month, and sporadic conversation for several more years. The thread seems to have petered out a little more than 6 years later at 895 comments.
posted by rochrobbb at 8:35 AM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


But as a straight cis white dude who thinks it sucks that I have the privilege to wear jeans and t-shirts in situations where women and minorities are required to spend more time and money on cis-gendered dress clothes, does it make things better for them if I also dress up, trying not to set myself apart from them but maybe reinforcing the whole stupid "you must spend lots of time and effort and money on formal clothes" culture, or is it better to dress down hoping to help drag the Overton window in a less expensive, less prescriptive, and more comfortable direction for everyone?
posted by straight at 11:17 AM on August 17, 2019


To the extent possible, move the Overton window through treating women (and queer and GNC people) with respect regardless of their clothing; shut down clothing policing where possible and don't engage in it yourself; push back against unequal or unneeded dress codes in work and social situations; support the hiring of more women/queer/GNC people into positions of authority regardless of their dress or gender presentation; try to avoid frequenting businesses and social scenes where unequal dress is unreasonable and mandatory. (Ie, if you go to a lot of drag events, the performers will be way fancier than you, and that's reasonable; if you're in a scene where the men are schlubby and the women are expected to very dressy, that's a crummy scene.)

Consider and bring up where appropriate the social and environmental costs of mandatory elaborate dress - sweatshops, pollution, unequal expenses for women, time commitments that don't make sense, etc.

On a larger scale, we need a gender-equal, racially equa and sorta-classless society so that everyone can have more or less the kind of clothes that fit them and that they want, and no one can use their power to force stupid clothing choices on people, and the narratives about "respectability" are no longer useful and lose their power.

The worst possible outcome would be if everyone of all genders were held to the most unjust standards of dress that are imposed on women.
posted by Frowner at 1:11 PM on August 17, 2019 [9 favorites]


still get read as a slovenly rude person because of cultural, regional, class or age differences.

For this reason, I often appreciate really specific dress codes.

Like, imagine if you're kind of new to working, and either your dress code can say,

black khaki or chino trousers, 1" black leather belt, button-up shirt in a solid color other than black or white, tie in a contrasting solid color other than black or white, black leather dress shoes, no visible tattoos or religious symbols, no text, all hair neatly styled and a natural color

or it can say,

clothing appropriate for a professional work environment

The first policy can still be terrible, if, e.g., the manager decides that an Afro is not neatly styled, but it provides so much less opportunity for that sort of manager discretion than the second one.

The second one is basically, "If you have to ask, you're not our kind."
posted by meaty shoe puppet at 2:23 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


This is wandering from the original essay, but formal dress is being blamed for some extravagances that were introduced by advertising and consumer culture. It is not unusual in Anglosphere novels (and Balzac, I think) for a 19th c woman in a family that dresses for dinner every night to only have one dinner dress, and to wear it every night until it wears out. If she can easily afford more, it's a little odd, more odd with guests or when visiting than at home, but only a little odd.

Some people got into competitive display, but according to my grandmothers that was slightly more odd than thrifty dressing. Gatsby wasn't normal.

My Yankee grandmother had a whole line of gentle jokes about the Boston lady and the New York lady in which it was clear that the Boston lady was a bit dowdy and the New York lady was a bit extravagant and they got on anyway. The only one I remember is: "Why, the Easter hats are in! Are you looking forward to buying a new hat?" said the New York lady, hopefully. "But I have my hat." said the bewildered Boston lady.
posted by clew at 4:42 PM on August 17, 2019 [3 favorites]


I dunno. Didn't get through all the comments, but I'm glad most people agree that wearing the same item of clothing all the time is a bit squicky.

I have two wardrobes - a-list clothes get worn socially, b-list clothes are sweat pants and old t-shirts and other things I wear on public only to signal "I don't care enough to impress you, leave me alone". I also sleep, lounge around the house, shop, and work out in b-list outfits, which means I spend 95% of my time in them.

When I dress socially, I like to dress how I feel, which means I can't really do One Outfit. But, black jeans and a blue button-up can handle that in most situations, with a few accessories that template and variations of the style of items within it can do a lot, so I've turned it into a uniform of sorts. Black & grey t-shirts and a few pairs of blue jeans fill in the rest. If my body and the world's fashion continue to support it, I'll be happy to be buried in that uniform.
posted by saysthis at 6:20 PM on August 17, 2019 [1 favorite]


I had an extensive description of my wardrobe typed out, but then noticed Frowner's post:

One are scientists who have about five semi-identical shirts (which all look like Patagonia button-fronts) and a couple of pairs of pants.

*smiles* *waves*
posted by BrashTech at 4:38 PM on August 20, 2019


« Older A Walk in Hong Kong   |   This playground has no children chasing butterfly... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments