The Uniform's Growing Place in Fashion

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Black has always attracted me for its simple, non-assuming, quiet and subtle approach. It accents anything (read, everything) brighter than its hue and it selflessly allows all texture and forms to flourish in their most divine and organic state, and without imposing its vivid tint or selfish saturation. It merely sits there in the shade waiting for a wearer to worship.

Clothing has provided us with an external skin of not just protection, but the luxury of non-verbal communication. Never has it been more expressive, versatile, global or personal. You can virtually wear your heart on your sleeve with the click of a button, and before you can say “MasterCard ending in 2819,” your new statement piece is well on its way to make its mark on your fashion blog. But does fashion truly repeat itself or is it more linear? There can only be so many decades where a bolero is accepted as a functional layer, so when does the madness of trend-hysterical taste-makers cease to the simpler side of the fence? The side where minimal colors, shapes and textures become the only elements really necessary to clothe you and allow your ensemble to speak for you.

Never has a generation stepped so far outside the box that everything my Gen-Y peers say, do or Instagram has to be radically expressive, and with proper emojis to express those expressions. So its no wonder that—given the endless resources and customization culture of our American independence—it’s easier than ever to parlay our speech freedoms via clothing in an exponentially-evolving youth culture. Though I admire and respect the louder, abrasive approaches to engaging with a voice via one’s wardrobe choices, I find that it’s not necessarily my prerogative to do so on a sartorial level. Personal reasons aside, I find comfort in the uniformity of my minimalist, grayscale wardrobe. Like black, it’s subtle in its approach, only asking to be seen when appropriate and when desired.

Enter the uniform. The aesthetic answer to form and order manifesting cohesiveness under a structure or organization. Oddly enough, for me, it’s the most liberating and rebellious form of dress I can imagine. Not only does the uniform demand that the wearer be taken with at least a drop of sincerity, it invites curiosity through it’s blank intrigue. Never changing form or character, it refocuses the attention to the actions, words and mannerisms of the wearer. This reprioritization of the body in accordance to the clothing creates a subtle power shift, though consciously unrecognized. Muting the hues and accenting the form of an ensemble will always create a stage for the body to flourish and, most importantly, the mind.

Maybe it’s having been a girl for 25 years and having to reposition myself against a male-dominated industry in order to be taken seriously, or maybe its my discomfort with attention in public settings, but having the option to choose to downplay my clothes in order to allow my mind and body speak is an extremely liberating experience. Or maybe it’s the sheer feasibility of knowing that opting for a black on black outfit takes less time and energy than checking my voicemail.

In a social psychology discovery, Dr. Roy F. Baumeister analyzed various cases involving what he dubbed as “Decision Fatigue,” that is the depleting quality of decisions made by an individual after a long session of decision making. Through various experiments in asking participants to choose between two similar, and relatively insignificant objects, this initial interest towards the objects themselves eventually dwindled after a countless number of “X or Y?” questions. His conclusion: that there is a finite storage for mental energy and deliberation. Though choosing between a collared shirt or a crew neck may not seem like the most exhausting of decisions, Baumeister found that the more decisions we can eliminate in our day, the more clear-headed and productive our energy.

We can look to classic Uniformists such as Karl Lagerfeld or Carolina Herrera as leaders of the movement. With how quickly the fashion landscape changes season after season, it’s exhausting (and virtually impossible) to keep up with the pace. Minimalist fashion is the most on-trend and immortal weapon, quietly powerful with a cunning presence that requires minimum effort for the eye for a silent blow to the mind.

The idea of minimalism isn’t so much of removal as it is of the addition of depth and texture. Deconstructionist designers such as Martin Margiela look to negative space as the infinite canvas of feeling—the “blackhole” of fashion that transcends fashion itself, and takes cues from art, architecture, even physics. If garments are to accent the wearer and not the other way around, then minimalism is the answer. The filtered and subsequent design elements that provide a stage for the body are essential to creating solidarity, structure, and the intersection between form and function. And that is precisely where the uniform excels in its motives.