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How I Got Away With Wearing Only 5 Pieces for One Month

January 04, 2018 | Filed in: Your Closet

At MM.LaFleur, we believe that when women succeed at work, the world is a better place. We design beautiful, office-appropriate clothing that keeps the spotlight on you, and we host intimate events for the remarkable women in our community. This article was written by one of our team members.

During the busy end of 2017, I decided to conduct an experiment. The premise was simple: Could I pare down my weekday work wardrobe to only five garments for the entire month of November? Eager to simplify my morning routine (and taking inspiration from my colleague Lesley, of “I wore the same dress for an entire week and no one noticed” fame), I decided to try my hand at extreme uniform dressing. Here’s how I did it.

The Rules

Outfit Repeating: I was free to mix and match the five pieces to create different looks, and could repeat each outfit as many times as I liked.

Accessories: Jewelry, scarves, belts, tights, and shoes fell outside the five piece requirement, and were thus fair game.

Scheduling: Rather than assign myself a prescribed uniform (“Look One is for Mondays, Look Two is for Tuesdays,” etc.) I decided what to wear spontaneously each morning, to see which pieces I reached for most often.

Metrics: I recorded each outfit I wore so that I could track price per wear (the cost of the item divided by the number of wears). Anecdotally, I was also interested in how much time I would save each morning, how many of my co-workers would catch on (spoiler alert: no one noticed. No one!), and how I’d feel about the five pieces after a month of nonstop wear—would I think of them as friends, or want to burn them?

The Five Pieces

My five pieces: the Didion top in black (similar styles here and here), the Lagarde shirt in cream, the Lydia dress in cinder, the Noho skirt, and the Oshima pant in black.

Before kicking off my experiment, I sat down with an MM stylist to select my five pieces and brainstorm outfit combinations (we came up with eight). We chose versatile garments that fit well and made me feel confident, but also ensured that each piece was distinct—for instance, a pair of pants and a skirt would give me more options than two pairs of trousers.

The Outfits

1. The Lydia dress

Nothing beats the simplicity of a dress, and I reached for the Lydia in cinder on days when I needed to be out the door ASAP.

2. The Lydia dress + the Didion top

Adding the Didion top (similar styles here and here), gets extra mileage out of the Lydia dress in cinder, since it looks like a skirt and a top rather than a dress.

3. The Lydia dress + the Lagarde shirt

This combination offers multiple options: You can wear the Lagarde shirt in cream over or under the Lydia dress in cinder—maybe even knotted at the waist if you’re feeling fashion-forward.

4. The Noho skirt + the Lagarde shirt

Classic and streamlined, I wore the Lagarde shirt in cream and the Noho skirt on days when I wanted a more formal outfit.

5. The Noho skirt + the Didion top

I loved this outfit for its fun proportion play: the Didion top (similar styles here and here), blouses over the waistband of the Noho skirt to create a silhouette that’s loose on top and fitted on bottom.

6. The Oshima pant + the Lagarde shirt

With the classic color combination and modern design details, the Lagarde shirt in cream and Oshima pant in black together felt like an updated take on a traditional look.

7. The Oshima pant + the Didion top

For a breezy but still office-appropriate look, the fitted Oshima pant in black balanced the relaxed Didion top (similar styles here and here).

8. The Oshima pant + the Didion top + the Lagarde shirt

Wearing the Lagarde shirt in cream over the Didion top (similar styles here and here), gave each piece a whole new feel. Paired with the Oshima pant in black, this look felt simultaneously buttoned-up yet fun.

The Results

 

 

The total cost of the five garments is $855. That may not sound like a bargain, but they quickly proved their worth—without even considering how many more times I’ll wear them. If I wore each piece only once a month for another 11 months, each PPW would drop below $12. Plus, since four of the five pieces are machine washable, I saved big-time on dry cleaning.

The Conclusions

I have better decisions to make than what to wear every day. I enjoy putting together outfits, but I was pleasantly surprised at how much I didn’t mind giving that up. The time and mental energy saved by having a limited number of options felt like a gift.

Creating a uniform conserves two precious commodities: money and time. In addition to thinking about my purchases from a PPW standpoint, I’m now motivated by an equally important metric: Price Per Minute Saved.

Wearing a uniform doesn’t mean sacrificing personal style. Starting out with pieces I loved meant that each outfit still felt very “me.” And paring down my options to five pieces meant I had to get more creative about how I wore each outfit.

A streamlined wardrobe makes you grateful for each garment. I developed somewhat of an emotional attachment to these five pieces—I wore them hard and often, from the office to crowded subways to dinner dates to rainy walks home. Rarely did my armor show signs of wear, and at the end of the month, it felt like we had really been through something together. I now have the urge to purge my closet, Marie Kondo-style, of garments that don’t inspire the same level of joy.

No one is paying attention to what I wear. Not a single person in the office called me out for being an outfit repeater. This surprised me, but it was the exact validation I had hoped to find: As long as you’re abiding by the company dress code, people aren’t really paying attention to what you wear. And if the MM team (predisposed to noticing how our own products are being worn by our colleagues) didn’t remark on how I was wearing the heck out of the Didion, my hunch is that other workplaces would be even more oblivious.

Inspired? Browse our classic collection to create your own five-piece uniform.

Photographs by Yan Ruan.


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Alexandra Johnson is the brand manager at MM.LaFleur, where she started out as a summer intern. Her happy place is the room housing Monet's Water Lilies at MoMA. Read more of Alexandra's posts.


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