Style Uniforms: The Art Of Outfit Repeating

Style Uniforms: The Art Of Outfit Repeating

Outfit repeating? You mean, establishing my style?



Maturing is realizing that outfit repeating is not a crime. But growth happens when you realize that what you wear can become your power. 


As young tweens and teenagers, one of our worst fears was to be caught wearing the same outfit twice. I was a young schoolgirl five years ago, and it was also the last time I was bound to an ever-so-strict dress code: a white polo, a maroon pleated skirt, and knee-high socks paired with black leather shoes five days a week. With only weekends to express ourselves (and therefore be perceived), the pressure was up there to constantly bring something new to the table, lest you be called an “outfit repeater.”


Style Uniforms: The Art Of Outfit Repeating


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Truth be told, I’ve always been the girl who puts comfort over style, and my IDGAF attitude made me commit the crime of outfit repeating without me even noticing. You’ll find out how easy it is to run out of “new clothes to wear” once you’re no longer bound by a school uniform. It took a friend to point out that I had been wearing the same oversized floral polo button-down nearly every Friday of my first term of freshman year in college. 


I could be considered a serial offender when it comes to outfit repetition, but hear me out: It’s time for its bad reputation to end. Think of it this way: Outfit repeating is a method to cement your brand. 


Repeating outfits or having a uniform is a piece of advice often given to those seeking convenience instead of expression. Think Steve Jobs with his black turtleneck and Levi 501s, or Mark Zuckerberg’s gray shirt and indigo jeans. For these CEOs, uniforms are a way for them to reduce the mental load on what they consider to be “menial” decisions. But how can outfit repeating be utilized by people who have different goals?


On the other side of the spectrum, sartorial icons have also opted for uniforms. Sometimes it’s a whole getup, like Karl Lagerfeld’s black sunglasses, Dior Homme blazer, skinny jeans, ankle boots and leather finger gloves. Sometimes it’s a certain staple item, like Jane Birkin’s wicker baskets (before the creation of the Birkin bag, that is). Even cartoon characters are style icons; remember Daphne from The Scooby-Doo Show and her purple mod dress paired with a green scarf and pink tights?


Karl Lagerfeld and Jane Birkin—two icons, two different uniforms


If people accuse you of outfit repeating, remember that it’s not so bad after all. Take it as a compliment—you’re being recognized for your style and being remembered for it. As a bonus, you’re consuming less and being more intentional about what you own and wear. 



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Style formula

If you’re an outfit repeater by default, then congrats! You already have a style formula, one way or another. Stylist Sophie Strauss says, “I think there’s a lot of value in having an outfit formula that you can turn to in a pinch that you know is going to feel good and comfortable.” She suggests figuring out what your personal outfit is (nobody’s personal uniform is the same!) and having it in your closet. It could be certain silhouettes you know you look good in or color combinations that enhance your best features. 


For those who seek to express themselves, having a style uniform isn’t creatively stifling. Rather, it's a starting point (or a format) you adapt once you discover what works for you. And you’re not limited to certain pieces, because the purpose of a formula is to produce multiple iterations and deliver dazzling results every time. It’s a method that marries convenience, comfort and creativity.



Capsule wardrobe

Capsule wardrobes have become infamous on Pinterest, insisting that all you need to be That Girl is to own a crisp white button-down, a chic camel trench coat and light-wash straight-leg denim jeans. The problem with this, according to stylist Mac Rose, is that the common misconception of a capsule wardrobe (AKA the ones you find on Pinterest) can box you in and prevent you from developing your style. 


But let’s circle back to what capsule wardrobes actually mean—having set pieces that you can use interchangeably with other outfits for various occasions. It’s a process that benefits you with invested time, discovering what pieces work for your taste and lifestyle.



Perhaps style isn’t all about presenting yourself to the world, but rather something more intimate. While social media and fast fashion dictate that you always need to present something new to the world, there’s something so romantic about finding forever pieces that just feel right to you. These are the items you build memories with. These are the pieces that mold after its wearer, stretching and fraying to reflect the life that’s lived in its fabric. These are the ones you pass on. Not only does it build character, but it takes off and becomes a piece that’s a character on its own.


It reminds me of this Twitter interaction: “…to be loved is to be changed.”




Beatrice Lui, a fashion enthusiast, muses: “Realistically, what I wear more often and have built memories with are the simple things—an Aura Lee jeans and skirt, no-brand bomber, Issey pleats and a WHOLE LOT of [Uniqlo]. Many of them, I barely have pictures with as they aren’t really ‘Fashion’ with an F. But they’re what’s real (to me) in this world of glorified fashion fantasies (not that I don't participate in it).”



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Style Uniforms: The Art Of Outfit Repeating

My very own starter pack


For me, it’s my Ralph Lauren tan Harrington jacket. I wear it often not only because I love it, but because I have three—they’re matching hand-me-downs from my parents who say it was stylish back in their day. For shoes, it’s my Birkenstocks (not pictured, for your sake), brown leather weathered from years of use and shared between myself, my mother and my sister. I always have a velvet scrunchie on hand, either on my hair or around my wrist. The reason is pragmatic rather than stylish: My collection of scrunchies mostly comes from the children selling them along the UP Academic Oval, because I cannot resist, but also because they’re fantastic at protecting my hair from breakage and creases.


Me, an outfit repeater? I’d take that charge gladly


Whether it’s intentional or not, outfit repeating is storytelling. It’s a way to tell the world about who you are, as well as a way to honor the memories weaved into your pieces.



Photos Lizzie McGuire, Getty Images, Jane Birkin Daily, Gwyneth King

Words Gwyneth King

Art Matthew Ian Fetalver

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