Why do men have one power suit and women twenty different outfits?
The world of fashion looks entirely different for most men and women, especially in the workplace. While a good power suit has universal appeal, there’s a fundamental difference. As a woman, if you show up in the same blazer and pants day in and day out, you’re going to get some serious looks. But as a man, all it takes is a couple of suits and a handful of shirts and no one will blink an eye. How has this happened, and is it necessary for women to spend a sizeable chunk of their salary on clothing? Or could the walk-in-robe be swapped for a work capsule wardrobe?
Keeping up with the runway
Unless you’ve got a supplier on the inside getting you garments at cost, keeping up with the latest trends is an expensive business. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American woman spends nearly $2,000 a year on clothes, and research has shown a lot of this is driven by women feeling self-conscious about repeating outfits at work. With women still earning only 84% of what their male counterparts do, it simply doesn’t add up.
Dollars aside, there’s also a huge environmental cost to consider, thanks to our obsession with “hot new looks”. Fashion production accounts for about 10% of annual global carbon emissions – it dries up water sources and pollutes rivers and streams. And keeping up with the runway leads to a huge amount of clothing being dumped. The volume of clothing Americans throw away has doubled in the last 20 years – with each individual currently ditching around 81 pounds annually – about the weight of an 11-year-old!
Embracing the power of the work ‘uniform’
It was good enough for Karl Lagerfield, one of the fashion industry’s most decorated designers, it was good enough for Barack Obama in his position as President, and it’s good enough for Mark Zuckerberg with his $74 billion net worth. But can anyone rock a work uniform, or is it just reserved for the world’s (male) elite? And why would you want to?
What’s behind the idea?
We make an average of 35,000 decisions a day – ranging from what to put on our toast to handling a sticky situation with a co-worker – that all take up some of our cognitive capacity. It’s thought that by removing the simple decision of what to wear from your daily equation, you’ll have more space for the thinking that counts. And if it works for A-listers, it’s worth a try!
Women in uniform
It’s not only powerful men who have adopted the work uniform – female fashion mogul Vera Wang, business founder Arianna Huffington, and big-name celeb Angelina Jolie have also all claimed ‘uniforms’ have become a fundamental part of their daily lives.
The not-quite-work uniform – the capsule wardrobe
If the thought of wearing a drab black t-shirt and the same old pants every day fills you with dread, there is a halfway point. And that’s the capsule wardrobe.
What is a capsule wardrobe?
A capsule wardrobe is a carefully-curated (small) selection of clothing items that all work well together. They’re often classics that won’t go out of style, meaning you spend more on them with the intention that they’ll last longer. While the concept has been around since the 1970s, it’s risen in popularity as we become more environmentally aware.
How to create one
There are plenty of apps around, like Smart Closet and Stylebook, that can help you plan and build a capsule wardrobe, and you’ll need to check your current wardrobe before you get started. Here are our top five tips for curating a capsule wardrobe successfully:
- Don’t go cold-turkey if you’re a shopaholic – allow yourself a new item now and then, but stop and think before buying.
- If you can’t remember the last time you wore something in your wardrobe, it might be time for its retirement.
- Don’t shop online or buy something you saw someone wearing on Instagram. A successful capsule wardrobe is about purchasing clothes that suit your shape, size, and style.
- Less fast fashion means you can afford designer classics that you will wear for years to come.
- Always shop with a style icon or reference point in mind. This helps you stay focused and ensures your aesthetic will be cohesive.
- Make sure you’re creating a wardrobe for your actual life – be realistic and practical. How many Oscar-worthy outfits do you need?
Minimize your wardrobe and free your mind!
Whether it’s for financial or ethical reasons or to make space in your mind for more important decisions, switching to a minimalistic wardrobe – whether that’s uniform or capsule style – doesn’t come with many downsides. And if you simply can’t live without a splash of the season’s hottest trends, you can always add accessories!