10 Powerful Women Who Have A Work Uniform (And Why You Should Too)

Dress for success

Karl Lagerfeld. Steve Jobs. Barack Obama. Mark Zuckerberg…these are but a handful of successful men who’ve attributed a small portion of their success to having a ‘work uniform’.

Although society grants men the luxury of dressing plainly with no questions asked, it hasn’t always been so kind to women in the workforce (just ask any female politician), however, there are theories to suggest it may well be one of the hidden keys to career success. Why? It all comes down to a concept known as ‘decision fatigue‘.

With the average person said to make roughly 35,000 choices every day (Which staffer should I hire? Skim or full-fat? Should I bring an umbrella today?) and women facing more pressure than men over appearance-related decisions, it’s thought that eliminating the need to come up with a new outfit every day can allow the brain to prioritise other work-related decisions.

In short, it’s supposed to save your cognitive capacity for creative thinking where it really counts.

Theories around decision fatigue aside, it could well be that the decision (yet another one) to repeat outfits or choose a signature look simply readies you for a day of work, the old “dressing for success” adage, by creating a daily ritual to mentally enable success.

And it’s not only powerful men who’ve adopted this mindset, with many female founders and celebrities citing the work uniform as a fundamental part of their daily life.

Here, we take a look at 10 famous women who’ve developed their signature work look over the years and exactly why they love it.

Sophia Coppola

Sophie Coppola

The Marie Antoinette director is all for simplifying her wardrobe, so she can get on with work, previously stating that having “a kind of uniform helps”.

“There are a few things I wear all the time – Acne jeans, the staples that you just know you like and don’t have to think about too much. And then it’s fun to dress up for special occasions,” she told The Telegraph.

Colour-wise, Coppola relies on classic navy blue.

“My friend who designs shoes at Louis Vuitton, he’s always laughing at me. ‘Do you want it in navy blue, Sofia?’ and I’m like, ‘Um, yes, I do’. My memoir will be called: Does This Come in Navy?” she said.

Arianna Huffington

Arianna Huffington

The founder of Huffington Post and Thrive, Arianna Huffington is one founder who swears by uniform dressing, and has even gone so far as to advocate women to repeat outfits more frequently to save on time and energy. She’s so big on it, in fact, that she even writes #repeat whenever she shares a new image of a previously worn outfit on Instagram.

“I think women should deliberately repeat things they love,” Huffington said at the 2017 Fortune’s Most Powerful Women Summit.

“Men have a competitive advantage. They don’t have to waste the kind of energy we waste. Feeling that we have to wear something new every time we have a speech, every time we do something important…so, I deliberately use my Instagram to show myself, for example, at the Time 100 dinner, next to [a photo of] my at the White House Correspondents Dinner, wearing the same long gown.”

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie

While Jolie may have access to all the best outfits high-end designers have to offer, the actress and UNHCR Goodwill Ambassador keeps things straightforward and low-key when her work doesn’t involve the red carpet.

“It’s all the same. When I’m not doing this, I wear the same pants and same shirt every day. I don’t change,” she told MTV at the 2011 Cannes Film Festival.

“On occasion [I wash them] but I have a few of the same things. It’s like a uniform.”

Vera Wang

Vera Wang

Also a fan of the work uniform, bridal designer Vera Wang relies on a handful of all-black key staples that she puts on high rotation.

“I realised that everybody in the end comes down to a uniform,” she wrote in her blog Vera Unveiled.

“In the end—even as a fashion professional, or fashion insider, someone who’s looked at fashion for so long, and from so many different angles—there is a uniform that works for you. And that uniform can be modified, and it can be changed, and it can be dressed up, dressed down, explored, taken more street, taken more couture, but in the end, it’s an editing process.

“And as you become more certain of your own vision, and your own taste and your own style, as you evolve, as a person, not just as a woman, you do end up in a uniform.”

Sheryl Sandberg

Sheryl Sandberg

Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg has also ‘leaned in’ to the power of the work uniform, favouring tailored dresses with minimal jewellery and classic looks that have stood the test of time.

Kate Middleton

Catherine, The Duchess of Cambridge

Arguably our favourite outfit repeater, even Kate Middleton has developed something of a work uniform when it comes to her royal duties. Along with re-wearing many of her outfits, the Duchess sticks to silhouettes that are clean, chic and comfortable.

Diane von Furstenberg

Diane von Furstenberg

It seems fitting that creator of the iconic wrap dress, an item revered for its potent all-in-one mastery of style, comfort and timelessness, would also create a such a uniform for herself. And while one would naturally think that it’s the wrap dress, for von Furstenberg, it’s actually the tunic dress, or what she calls a “petite valise”.

“The wrap dress was born out of that idea,” she told Instyle.

“I wanted something that was easy, that I could wear anywhere, and, you know, it is easy to pack. It doesn’t wrinkle, and it makes it easy to get dressed, so it works like a uniform.”

Carolina Herrera

Carolina Herrera

Also amongst the ranks of fashion royalty with a penchant for a work uniform, Venezuelan designer Carolina Herrera considers her signature white Oxford shirt her “security blanket”.

“Fashion is supposed to be for the everyday. I have worn the white shirt since I was very young,” Herrera told Instyle.

She also praised the classic white shirt for its easy day-to-night versatility.

“It doesn’t always look like a white shirt even though it is. With trouser or a short skirt it can be worn for day and then later with evening jewels and a ball skirt for night. Sometimes I see people wearing sequins for lunch, and I think there is a right time and place for what you are wearing. You must follow that in whatever you wear,” she said.

Hilary Clinton

Hilary Clinton

Always a fan of the power suit, the former US Secretary of State used to step out on numerous important occasions in varying shades of the same tailored pantsuit.

In her book What Happened, a recount of her experiences as the Democratic Party’s nominee and general election candidate for 2016 presidency of the United States, Clinton wrote in detail about her love for her signature outfit.

“When I ran for Senate in 2000 and President in 2008, I basically had a uniform: a simple pantsuit, often black, with a colourful shell underneath,” she wrote.

“I did this because I like pantsuits. They make me feel professional and ready to go.”

Along with wearing the same thing as an anti-distraction technique and to minimise time spent ‘overthinking’, Clinton cited one other major reason for wearing a pantsuit every day: to help her fit in with the male politicians.

“I also thought it would be good to do what male politicians do and wear more or less the same thing every day,” she wrote.

Keira Knightley

Keira Knightley

When it comes to Hollywood celebrities, it’s what they wear when they’re not on set that tells the real story. In the case of Keira Knightley, her off-duty uniform of an oversized bomber with boots and jeans (which she’s been spotted out wearing many times) shows a woman who’s clearly at ease with herself.

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