Remember that opening scene in The Devil Wears Prada? It was set up to showcase how there are two kinds of people. The clackers, aka the stylish and fashion-oriented crowd of the fictional Runway magazine, and then there’s Andy. The earnest writer and protagonist who pulls on a lumpy blue sweater, a slick of lip balm and her hair in a ponytail before turning up to what was supposedly the most important job interview of her life.
I can totally relate because I have two modes when I get ready for work in the morning: Either I’m out of the house in 15 minutes (aka I’ve chucked on my favourite worn-in band tee, a pair of denim shorts and sunscreen), or I’m an hour late because I felt the need to werk a look—inclusive of a full face of makeup. So depending on my mood or my schedule for the day, I am *both* Andy AND the clackers.
(Yes, women are multi-dimensional and multi-faceted. We’re never just one or the other.)
After I wrote a piece on going on a shopping ban for 30 days to curb my impulsive shopping habit, I thought to myself: if the newness and novelty of having a new outfit daily was the thing that was affecting my self-esteem and giving me crippling anxiety, why don’t I streamline my getting-ready process?
Why don’t I just wear the exact same outfit every day?
The Art Of The Uniform
While I was never one to subscribe to that school of thought, there are many merits to uniform dressing. Just look at Steve Jobs, Karl Lagerfeld, Carolina Herrera and Hilary Clinton. All four have been known for their instantly recognisable uniform. For some like Lagerfeld, that signature look has since gone on to become an iconic symbol of the man. Who would have thought a black suit, starched white shirt with a high collar and fingerless gloves could mean so much?
As someone who grew up within the Singaporean education system, I too was accustomed to a uniform for 14 years of my life. For more than a decade, I put on a school standard-issue blouse-and-skirt combo devoid of any personality and went to class without really caring what I looked like.
Sure, like most teenage girls, I folded my skirt shorter, but that was the extent I was allowed to modify my uniform (albeit temporarily) without getting into trouble. So when I enrolled in a polytechnic after my O Levels to pursue my diploma, I ditched the uniform before one could even say “Eh, what’s your L1R4 score ah?”
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My entire outfit plan this week.
Fast forward to 10 years later and I still strongly subscribe to the belief that what you wear can be a strong indicator of who you are as a person. And as a huge consumer of fashion, the clothes on my back were also a great way to express my creativity.
But sometimes even clothing fatigue get the best of us.
And so after taking various OOTDs and racking my brains to come up with multiple inventive outfits for various fashion challenges I had taken on for work, I had decided enough was enough. I wanted to take a break and adopt the uniform dressing that many had been preaching for years.
The Chosen Outfit
First I had to determine my outfit. Wearing something inconspicuous like a white shirt or a black turtleneck was too easy. No one would even blink an eye if they noticed I was wearing the exact same thing every day. For this experiment, I wanted to wear something noticeable. I wanted it to be obvious that I was wearing the exact same thing every single day.
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Comedian Tiffany Haddish paid for her own Alexander Mcqueen gown and went on to wear it for five different occasions
It also had to be something that I liked, or at least felt confident in. This outfit would also have to hold up if I had to attend an event or appear on camera if I was filming a video for work. Unlike most who liked the appeal of remaining anonymous with a uniform, I was the exact opposite. I wanted to Tiffany Haddish it and chose a bomb-ass outfit that made me feel happy whenever I wore it.
The chosen look
I settled for a Junya Watanabe striped t-shirt with round vinyl sleeves because this was a t-shirt that incited comments (both positive and negative) from people whenever I wore it. I happened to have it in two colours (one was a Christmas gift) so that for hygiene reasons I could rotate them every other day. I also needed to be comfortable and mobile, so I paired it with denim shorts which don’t require frequent washing and my trusty checkerboard Vans. I threw on a silver chain necklace that I picked up at the Club 21 Bazaar and wished for the best.
In the days leading up to this experiment, I was ecstatic. An entire week where I wouldn’t have to decide what to wear sounded like a dream. And to begin with, it was!
Day 1, I rocked up to work with my ~statement outfit~. By now, my colleagues are used to all of my weird outfits due to the numerous style challenges I did. So during our Monday morning meeting, I endured the usual merciless teasing whenever I attempt to “fashion” and just went about the rest of my day.
As I got dressed I had a sudden thought: I had never worn the same outfit two days in a row in my entire life, let alone for a whole week. I got ready in record time and as I left the house, I realised the world didn’t end and the judgey fashion police weren’t waiting for me outside of my house, ready to arrest me for committing the unspeakable fashion crime of wearing the same thing twice.
In fact, when I headed into the office, most people seemed more intrigued by the fact that I owned this weird T-shirt in more than one colour. All my mother said to me when I got back home was “Wah, today wear so nice ah?”
Day 3 was when things got a little… complicated. I woke up, happy and ready to put on my pre-selected outfit, only to realise I would be filming episode three of our shopping series Add To Cart. As these videos were filmed with the rest of the team and meant for a wider audience, I tend to dress down for these videos to 1) appear more camera-friendly and 2) look in sync with the team. But I had already made a commitment to my outfit and begrudgingly turned up to the shoot in my ridiculous T-shirt.
Of course I looked like a damn fool next to all my very normally-dressed colleagues.
By Day 4, I had become hyper-aware of making sure I kept my clothes cleaned and spilt nothing on them. And as an ENFP on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator, I craved novelty. I was fast becoming bored with my outfit even though no one around me batted an eyelid. Receiving my freshly altered clothes from the tailor didn’t help either because I was feeling antsy that I couldn’t even wear those clothes immediately!
I had another video shoot to turn up to, and of course showing up at your 8.30am call time in an outfit like this again warranted teasing. Thankfully this was one of the days where I had to wear a pre-styled look in the video due to a client commitment so I wasn’t in my own clothes for much of the day. Of course, I had to flex on the ‘gram after getting my hair and makeup done on the way back home, so the outfit made an appearance on social media. I wondered to myself if anyone would comment on seeing me in the same outfit for what was about four days now, but turns out, no one gave a sh*t. No DMs slid into my inbox, no reaction emojis were sent.
Day 5 was finally here and I was elated to be almost done with this experiment. I had a client meeting, and I was worried I smelt or didn’t feel at the top of my game just because I wasn’t in a freshly laundered outfit.
But it turns out no one even noticed anything wrong. In fact, my client loved my outfit, and commended me on the interesting style choices I made which made me feel a little bit better with myself. I was checking into a hotel after for a review so as soon as I checked in, I striped down and got myself very well-acquainted in the fluffy robe instead.
This might come as no surprise to many, but as it turns out, no one really cares if you wear the same thing twice. I know I don’t, as I especially love seeing some of my colleagues wear outfits that I enjoy looking at more than once. Inherently, we tend to assume people are paying attention to what we are doing or wearing, but the reality is, people are way more focused on their own lives much more so than the lives of others.
So why did I add so much pressure on myself?
While I too enjoy the novelty of a fresh new look, the following I had cultivated in real life and on social media was fast becoming accustomed to it, and the people-pleaser in me was trying to keep up with the demand of OOTDs and lewks. And as people demanded more, I collated outfits to post, thus creating a self-fulfilling prophecy.
Clothing really *IS* a form of expression for me, and I didn’t enjoy the constraints of wearing the same thing every day, especially if it didn’t match the mood I was in or the weather. But constantly supplying the demand for newness (both to my small following and myself) was doing me no favours either.
Like all things in life, too much of anything is a bad thing. Too much of nothing is *also* a bad thing. So just do whatever you want to do, and if anyone makes fun of you for wearing the same thing, just say F U. As for myself, whether today I’m an Andy or an aspirational clacker, I’m still the same person whose clothes don’t define who I am.
TL;DR: It’s just clothing lah, OK.
To read more of Cheryl’s fashion challenges, click on the links below.