The M Dash

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I Wore the Same Dress for an Entire Workweek

June 23, 2017 | Filed in: Your Closet

Here at MM, we’re big believers in the work uniform. In fact, it’s more like a mantra—we even encourage our customers to buy their favorite dress (or pant) in multiple colors, so that it can be worn more frequently without straight-up repetition.

But I’m a different story. When I joined MM to run the social media program last year, I was happy with my decidedly non-uniform wardrobe. I could spend hours engrossed in lookbooks and clicking through fashion blogs, and find myself fantasizing about outfits I want to wear (and buy) more than I’d like to admit. When I was a kid, I didn’t draw animals or landscapes—I drew dresses. These days, my closet is full of pieces I’ve worn just once. I knew there had to be something to this idea of a work uniform, but I couldn’t wrap my head around it. So, I did what I normally do when presented with something I don’t understand: I decided to try it myself.

The challenge: wear my favorite MM.LaFleur dress (the Rachel in black) to work every single day for an entire workweek. Would anyone notice? Would I adopt the work uniform philosophy and save precious brain space for more important decisions? Or would I lose my mind and vow to never wear a black dress again? 

Monday

styling the rachel dress

In the Rachel dress, day one.

I firmly believe that the success of your Monday relies on good Sunday planning, and this week was no exception. I packed my trusty Rachel dress in my backpack to spend the night at my boyfriend’s, and when the morning arrived I unrolled the Rachel (totally wrinkle-free, I might add) and threw it on. I was out the door less than 30 minutes after my alarm went off—an all-time getting-ready record. The uniform was off to a promising start.

Mondays are hunker-down days for me, so I barely looked up from my computer until I left the office at 7:15 p.m., right when temperatures peaked at 92 degrees. The train back to Brooklyn was packed, but I didn’t sweat through the fabric, and I felt pretty phenomenal. My first 12 hours in the Rachel had been a triumph. I wasn’t itchy and, most notably, I was actually looking forward to wearing the dress again the next day.

Tuesday

styling the rachel dress

Lesley in the Rachel dress and the Didion top in plein air.

The forecast called for the hottest day of the year so far, and it delivered. With highs around 97 degrees, I decided to add a light, airy layer over the dress: the Didion top in plein air. Unlike Monday, Tuesday was jam-packed with meetings, and I spent exactly zero minutes at my own desk. I ran to a doctor’s appointment at 4:00 p.m. (perhaps my sweatiest six-block sprint ever), and then went to a work-related event in midtown followed by dinner with my boyfriend. I got back to my apartment around 10:00 p.m.

Throughout the day, I received a handful of compliments about my outfit and patted myself on the back for fooling my coworkers with my styling expertise. Still, I figured the jig would be up tomorrow—someone was bound to notice on day three. I was also getting worried about how much I’d sweated in the dress, but as far as I could tell, it was exhibiting no signs. Onwards!

Wednesday

styling the rachel dress

Lesley in the Rachel dress, layered over a sleeveless top, day three.

I upped the ante: no more over-the-dress layers. I wanted to see if people would call me out or at least raise their eyebrows. Instead, I got more compliments on my outfit than I have in my seven-month tenure at MM. Who knew that layering a shirt under a dress could get a girl this far? 

The Rachel and I covered a lot of ground on Wednesday, from the perennially overstuffed L train to a meeting at our media partners’ offices, and then to south Brooklyn for drinks with a friend (that may or may not have lasted into the wee hours). By then, I’d logged 40 hours in the same dress and still wasn’t sick of it. What kind of outfit sorcery was this?

Thursday

styling the rachel dress

Lesley in the Rachel dress and the Dietrich jacket in plein air.

I threw our Dietrich jacket in plein air over the dress, which elevated it from “I woke up like this” to “office style star.” At this point, I was fully relishing the uniform effect. Getting dressed took less than two minutes. I left my apartment already laser-focused on the day ahead. I was consistently getting to the office early, and I found myself significantly less grumpy than normal after a string of hellish commutes. Was this the secret to being a “morning person”? What else could I accomplish if I streamlined the other decisions I make every day? Although I found my mind beginning to wander into outfit fantasy territory, the benefits outweighed the costs. This was an entirely new type of clothing high, and I was hooked.

Friday

styling the rachel dress

Lesley in the Rachel dress, Friday.

Back to basics for my last day with the Rachel—I wore it plain and proudly. Still, no one said a word when I waltzed into work. I did notice one of our stylists, Pauline, giving me the once-over while I was making coffee, but she kept quiet. 

I finally came clean and sent a poll to the whole company asking if anyone had noticed. Of the 37 people who responded, four said they were onto me—but they’d only figured it out that day. (It’s worth noting that three of those observers are stylists, so it’s their job to pay attention to clothes). “I thought you’d just had the best week ever,” said one of them (sadly, my party days are long over). “I only noticed because I liked your outfit on Thursday,” said another.

The takeaway? First, it’s better to own one truly great, versatile dress than five mediocre ones. In my varied week, there wasn’t a single moment when I felt like the Rachel didn’t hit the mark. What’s more, it looked and felt as good after five straight days of wear as it did when I first bought it.

Second: Find what works for you and make it your own. Will I continue to wear the Rachel dress every day this summer? No. But I will continue to make it the foundation for a variety of outfits for years to come.

Third: Give yourself a break. Are you stressed about repeating the blazer you wore earlier this week? Don’t. I promise you, no one will notice.

Photos by Yan Ruan.


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by

Lesley Parks is a social media and content strategist based in Brooklyn. She used to be an ENFP and is now a firm ENTJ, which is a real testament to what New York does to a girl. Read more of Lesley's posts.


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