Workzone: A Personal Uniform Can Be A Stress, Time Saver

By Stephanie Ritenbaugh
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.

Matilda Kahl had an epiphany after a particularly stressful morning trying to get to a meeting on time.

It started out the way mornings do for many office dwellers picking out what to wear; a time-consuming process of mixing and matching pieces in the closet and tossing aside what doesn’t feel right.

When she finally reached the office at Saatchi & Saatchi, an advertising firm in New York City, “I realized I was not only late, but with my sweater inside out.

“I saw some of my male colleagues in a meeting room that I was supposed to already be inside,” Ms. Kahl said. “At that point, I looked down at my clothes and thought ‘This clothing thing. It’s not even important to me during my working days. Why do I spend so much time on it?”

Ms. Kahl, an art director for the firm, found an elegant solution that would simplify her life. She chose a look she could wear every day: a white silk shirt with a diagonal button line from Zara — 15 of them, in fact — and a few pairs of black pants.

“To add something extra, I had the black neck bow made by hand as a tribute to my mother, who always put bows in my hair as a child,” she added.

She started getting international attention when she wrote about her decision for Harper’s Bazaar last month.

While many employers require some kind of uniform — whether its a company-issued outfit for a fast food chain or even a corporate dress code — the practice of a personal uniform can be unusual, especially for women.

Apple CEO Steve Jobs had his signature black turtleneck. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg has been questioned on whether he wears jeans and a grey T-shirt every day.

Many workplaces have allowed employees to take an informal style to workplace attire, which lets people showcase their personal taste.

But maybe sartorial choices get too much attention.

“People take great effort into what they wear and think people will judge them upon their appearance,” Ms. Kahl said. “This is exactly what I am trying to step away from.

“When I’m at work, I want to be able to focus on that, and just that. I have so many creative challenges that I want to dedicate myself to, so why should anything come in the way of that?”

An added benefit, it has saved her the time and money of buying clothes out of panic when “you have an important day coming up and you feel like your entire wardrobe is boring.”

“Cutting down on my yearly consumerism has definitely been a huge plus in all of this,” she said.

The choice to wear the same ensemble every day may not be for everyone, she noted.

“People who work in fashion, for example, probably love to spend time on their outfit every morning,” Ms. Kahl said. “A uniform would probably be suffocating to their creative channel.”

But for others, where clothing isn’t a big deal, “I’d absolutely recommend it.”

“You don’t understand how much time and effort you put into clothing until you don’t have to think about clothing at all,” Ms. Kahl said.

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