Uniforms make us recognisable. It is a way of communicating with the public – uniforms show our line of business and our place in the hierarchy. So, why on earth, would someone create and wear a personal uniform outside of work?
Karl Lagerfeld (yes, the same Karl, the Chanel man) is a great example of creating and maintaining a personal uniform in his daily life. He was immediately recognisable – white powdered hair in a ponytail, dark glasses, high 18th century collars, tailored jacket, leather gloves without fingers, and skinny (sometimes leather) trousers. Eclectic and eccentric – he mixed 18th century fashion with the rock n’ roll’s style of Mick Jagger.
Karl explained how his personal uniform developed: He was fascinated with the culture and clothing of the 18th century French salons – the bizzarre white powdered hair and high collars. The black glasses were there to hide his age. You should try the same trick – it works. Photos with glasses take at least 10 years off your age if you are not in your 20s.
The fingerless gloves were there to enlarge his arms (that is true) but also his mum told him when he was young not to smoke because he did not have beautiful hands and did not need to show them to people. And the notoriously skinny suit – it is a remarkable story. Karl Lagerfeld lost 90 pounds in a year because he wanted to wear a particular skinny Dior suit. Of course, his diet was especially developed for him by a doctor who looked like Salvador Dali (I did not expect less).
As a result – Karl Lagerfeld was a brand, different and recognisable, like his predecessor Coco Chanel and like Charlie Chaplin’s unforgettable image. It was good for his name and his business. His look was “a metaphor of his philosophy of fashion and life”.
Some people who are not haute-couture designers also develop and maintain a personal uniform out of work. There are many reason for that. I do not think economic reasons play a huge part as Karl Lagerfeld said, “Today everybody can look chic in inexpensive clothes (the rich buy them too)”.
More relevant reasons are that we believe the chosen personal uniform suits us, it covers our little imperfections, or we just love the style on other people.
A personal uniform presents how we see ourselves and how we want other people to see us. Oscar Wilde did it right: “It is only shallow people that do not judge by appearance“.
Nevertheless, uniforms have limitations, they restrict us. We all know ladies and gentlemen whose style is so set in the past, so old-fashioned that makes you feel sad. On the other hand, sometimes the chosen personal uniform is so unsuitable for the complexion or the person’s body type (may be it was great 10-20 years ago) that you instinctively want to advise them to change it (but of course you bite your tongue).
We all stick to the familiar things and that is not bad at all but why not go shopping with your friend or relative next time, listen to their advice and try something new. Maybe you would like it. Or why not try something you saw and liked on another person, maybe it would be fabulous on you. Or why not try buying a new trend online, after checking the return policy, of course. There are so many useful YOUTUBE videos about colour coordination, clothing and styling and make-up that can help in the process. “Improvise, become creative! Not because you have to but because you want to”. Evolution is the way forward.
About myself, a friend of mine recommended a new Spanish brand that she was wearing when I met her – I am excited to try it and will tell you about my experience in a future post.