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One outfit for everything

Comedian Mike Birbiglia has a bit in a routine where he talks about “one outfit for everything.” This is used to lead into the bit where he is ironing his pants backstage at a fund-raising event while wearing only his boxers. However, after much reflection I have to admit that I too believe in the concept of “one outfit for everything” and that outfit is jeans, a t-shirt, sweat socks and running shoes. In the winter a pullover sweater is added for warmth, but I would argue that adheres to the concept of one outfit for everything because it is part of the layering strategy. Thus, the sweater is part of the one outfit, but can be removed if the wearer determines it is too warm outside.

When I was losing all that weight, I became fascinated by clothes because I was now small enough to have a selection in outfits instead of just having the option to buy a mumu in black or dark blue. There were blouses and jackets and mini-skirts, oh my! How fun it was to try on all the different clothes and parade my new body around in them and not look like a float!

Then, my weight stabilized and I got used to my new body and the shiny-new-toy aspect of all those clothes wore off and I decided the t-shirt and jeans combo was what I really liked. As a web developer who worked in a dark office with one window which looked out onto a recessed cavity in the roof, I got to wear my jeans and sneakers to work and no one cared. I so closely adhered to the “one outfit for everything” concept that I bought 5 t-shirts at Kohls in the exact same style that differ only in color and decorative pattern. The shirt fits. I like it. I feel comfortable in it. That’s all I care about. I suppose I am like one of those extras in movies set in the future where everyone wears the exact same shiny jumpsuit every day.

When an event comes up where I can’t wear my one outfit for everything, it is always an ordeal. I have to buy a dress for a wedding or, God forbid, shave my legs because I’ll be wearing a skirt. I have to find a pair of shoes that match the dress and it’s just work, work, work! Sometimes it doesn’t even occur to me that I should alter my one outfit, like last night when I went to a party in the park with some friends and noticed that everyone else was wearing sandals and shorts, while I was still wearing my jeans and running shoes.

I am happy with my one outfit for everything. I am happy for people who wear a hundred outfits for a hundred things too. I understand how fun it can be to play around with clothes and dress up if that’s your thing, but for me it’s one outfit for everything and that’s the way I like it.

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33 Comments

debby • July 15, 2009 at 10:07 am

I like the one outfit for everything idea too. I admit to the same as you, enjoying all the different clothing types etc, and i do enjoy a variety of shoes(!) but really, the comfort and security and sameness of the one outfit can’t be beat.

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Jean • July 15, 2009 at 10:07 am

I SO understand not wanting to simplify your wardrobe – and when you worked in a dark room with one window, there really wasn’t a need to have other ‘styles’. But what about now that you’re a freelancer? If you’re going to have to go out & meet (potential) clients, will the one-outfit rule be appropriate? Since I am in middle mgmt, the one-outfit rule can’t apply to me, so I don’t know how it applies to other career fields. Working at home in my jammies or sweats sounds great, and I would jump at the chance to wear a uniform (khakis & a polo shirt, etc.). It would make my life a lot easier (at least most parts of it!).

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PastaQueen • July 15, 2009 at 10:09 am

@Jean – I communicate with most of my clients solely online, so I could be naked and it wouldn’t matter :) Thank goodness we don’t video conference!

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Dee • July 15, 2009 at 10:14 am

So what your saying is I may see you on an upcoming “What Not to Wear”???

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dietgirl • July 15, 2009 at 10:40 am

Oh man I’m with ya especially re jeans, they last so long between washes :) Would have topped myself had i been born in a time of flouncy skirts and corsets.

Your One Outfit Philosophy reminds me of the time Dr G said, “I wish I was a Communist, then I could just line up with my comrades and say, ‘One set of Clothes please, size Medium’”

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Allison Ball • July 15, 2009 at 11:09 am

I completely understand! I have rules for my work clothes. 1. Do not wear the same pair of shoes twice in one week 2. Do not wear the same bottoms twice in one week 3. Do not wear a repeat outfit within two weeks of the last time I wore it 4. Wear a dress or skirt twice a week, capris once, shorts once, and jeans on Fridays. Then we have weekends…shorts or capris, wife beater style tank top, flip flops and I’m done. The colors may vary, but the look is the same every weekend. Whatever…it’s the weekend, right?

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Danielle • July 15, 2009 at 11:22 am

Hello, I know this is off-topic a bit. But I thought a lot of readers here probably work in offices. (Home offices count too).

I’m working on something at my (newspaper) job – a fun little segment where people send in a photo of the view from their office. I thought it would be interesting to see where other people work/what they see – hopefully others do too. We’re Canadian, but welcome submissions from anywhere. Just click on the link in the short story to submit your photo. Thanks for looking!

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/real-estate/stuck-at-work/article1208086/

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JEM • July 15, 2009 at 11:25 am

I am still fat. I get excited if something fits. Period. If it fits, I usually buy it. I feel like I don’t have a lot of options. Don’t get me started on how much more $$ plus size clothes are too. Phew.

Jeans and a Tee…my favorite.

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Grace • July 15, 2009 at 11:40 am

Yup! I like it simple too. When I worked in an office I had a basic outfit. Slim skirt/full top/2 inch pumps and everything was mix-n-match. I was constantly dumb-founded by gals who would come in something head-to-toe that only matched that one outfit. My basic outfit now that I work from home — shorts & a tshirt. Love it!

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HugeMD • July 15, 2009 at 12:20 pm

Dee beat me to it. I was going to offer to nominate you for “What Not To Wear.” I love that show. I think I’ve seen every episode. That and “It’s Me Or The Dog” got me through my shoulder-pain-induced-TV-watching depression episode this winter. The upside is now my wardrobe’s a little nicer, and my dogs are a little better mannered!

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Mom Taxi Julie • July 15, 2009 at 12:31 pm

That’s pretty much how I am, except exchange the sneakers for flip flops! It’s usually when I go somewhere and find myself underdressed that I realize that not everyone wears the same uniform!

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Amy P • July 15, 2009 at 1:01 pm

Count me in the uniform club. I was so upset when old navy changed the way they make their t-shirts. I was literally lost. I have not found a good substitute yet. I try to have a stack of 14 good quality, unstained, and decent looking t-shirts at all times so that I can just grab the top one for work. As soon as a t-shirt gets to the point where I can’t wear it to work I throw it and get a new one. I also try to have some decent looking hoodies that I can put over the t-shirts when needed.

My only change is that I wear doc martins instead of sneakers, although my workout sneakers are starting to get old and I plan to wear them to work once I get new ones. If I could I would throw out every pair of shoes I own and go barefoot at all times.

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boots • July 15, 2009 at 1:36 pm

It takes all kinds, right? I’m fat, but love clothes beyond all reason. I love planning outfits, love the way I feel when I have just the right outfit on, love the way clothes change how I look and who I appear to be.

I know people complain a lot about lack of options in plus-size clothing, but it makes the whole thing kind of a fun treasure hunt for me; when I see something really terrific I get that much more excited about it. It probably helps that I’ve spent my adult life in New York and Dallas, both of which have exceptional shopping.

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Lyn • July 15, 2009 at 1:53 pm

I like jeans and tees, too. I also like wearing feminine stuff as I lose weight to show off my figure and get attention. It’s kinda fun…

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PastaQueen • July 15, 2009 at 2:21 pm

@Dee – Now, now, just because I wear the same thing all the time doesn’t mean I don’t look smashing in it. My one outfit for everything is very flattering. That’s one reason why it’s my one outfit for everything.

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Rebecca • July 15, 2009 at 2:55 pm

@Amy P – Oh, boy! I thought I was the only one. For me, it was Land’s End…they used to make tees with a lower neckline. I wear them until the fabric literally wears out at the seams on the sleeves. (Then I save them for layering). *Sigh* I miss those tees, and actually have to SHOP now.

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Kari • July 15, 2009 at 3:08 pm

I am totally with you. Jeans, a t-shirt, Hanes low-cut socks, and running shoes are my “outfit for everything.” My closet is full of t-shirts, most in solid colors. I’ve been trying to switch up the brand and styles I’m buying lately, and buy more patterns and nicer shirts that are made of t-shirt type materials, but I always end up back with the old standby. I buy dressy clothes when I think they’re cute and they’re cheap, then they never get worn because if I do wear them, people always want to know why I’m so dressed up. :P That’s annoying, so I just go back to the jeans and t-shirt. It’s a vicious cycle.

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Elaine • July 15, 2009 at 4:57 pm

It made me smile that you referred to that Mike Birbiglia bit. I joke about that all the time–I totally agree with “one outfit, forever!” Mine is jeans and a t-shirt as well, with sandals :)

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Quix • July 15, 2009 at 5:08 pm

Now that I’ve lost weight, I love putting together outfits and dressing for the occasion. If I am not costumed properly for the day, I don’t feel right. I love thrift shopping so I have a nice selection of stuff I can rotate in and out on a whim and not feel guilty about it.

My uniform used to be a skirt and t-shirt/tank top because I didn’t have to face facts that my jeans size was steadily climbing. Helloo elastic waistbands! I used to joke that people only knew if I was dressed up by the fact I was wearing earrings in all 3 holes in my ears and eyemakeup. Otherwise I’d always look the same.

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Lauren • July 15, 2009 at 7:12 pm

I like to follow the same concept as well. It’s been interesting to switch it up for summer (I live in Chicago, but am now spending a lot of time in hot-hot Phoenix).

I also recently ran across an interesting “Uniform Project” where she photographs herself wearing the same dress for a year – switching up the accessories etc.

http://theuniformproject.com/

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lulu • July 15, 2009 at 7:46 pm

I suffer from clothes anxiety. My nightmare is being invited to something special and not having the perfect frock to wear. I have recently had to stop myself from buying a complete set of riding clothes, salopettes and ski boots, a Marie Antoinette fancy dress costume and a large fur hat, just in case an occasion might arise where any of these articles of attire might be appropriate. I have had to buy an extra wardrobe just for shoes.

Never mind losing weight, 5k runs and headache research (sorry though I am to hear that you have been in pain); what impresses me most is that you have found your style, something not all of us manage to do despite all the time and money we lavish on the search. I don’t think you have anything to learn from WNTW.

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Diane • July 15, 2009 at 8:39 pm

When I was fat (300 lbs) I had a “fat uniform” that I wore all the time. My hubby would say, “You just wore that two days ago.” I’d shrug – who notices the fat girl. Once I lost all my weight, I did, and still do enjoy buying clothes. I don’t wear a “uniform” anymore, but I do have certain favorites!

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Eileen • July 15, 2009 at 9:15 pm

I was revisiting your site recently and looking at your European vacation diary with photographs and thought to myself, “PQ needs to step up her fashion now that she’s lost weight.” I guess that’s not going to happen. When you were in Paris did you even think maybe just a little bit about wearing a scarf?

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cindy • July 15, 2009 at 9:47 pm

My “uniform” became hoodies when I lost weight because I was always cold. I lost 135 pounds and have since re-gained 35 of them. I would think that a “consolation prize” should be that at least I shouldn’t be cold all the time but I am still sensitive to temperature, unfortunately. Yes, I love my hoodies, but its July, for crying out loud! In winter, I wear silk or wool undershirts, long johns under jeans, wool socks… as many layers as I can get away with. I love the outdoors so I actually own ski pants now. I like jeans well enough and i wear them a lot, but I really prefer skirts ~ skirts and black tights ~ so i wear them nearly daily. I have hoodies in every color that match all my skirts… and matching t-shirts (long- and short-sleeved, depending on the weather). And really cool Keen’s sandals that fit like a sneaker and look enough like a shoe to work with skirts, believe it or not. I can wear them all day long and be as comfortable as anything. So I have a uniform of sorts—my go-to outfit that suits every occasion and matches my personality and comfort level.

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MizFit • July 16, 2009 at 6:45 am

thats me as well.

and if life demands two? you will see me in the SAME OUTFIT in a different color.

please to see BLOGHER EVENTS and crossreference under SERIOUSLY? WE ARE SUPPOSED TO WORRY ABOUT WHAT WE WEAR?!

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bobbie • July 16, 2009 at 8:33 am

When I was overweight, my outfit was stretchy black pants, a white t-shirt and a large button down to hide my ass. I thought I was hiding my weight from the world, but I was really just trying to hide it from me. So glad those days are over…. I love my jeans and t-shirts.

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Nancy • July 16, 2009 at 9:22 am

I had a colleague once who had to dress professionally–blazers, skirts, etc. She always looked so good with all these different beautiful blazers. Then she told me her secret. She had 2 or 3 plain black short-sleeved knit dresses (like from Land’s End) and 3-4 pairs of black shoes in different styles and all she ever shopped for were jackets! She’d watch for them on sale, etc. and you’d never notice that all she did was change out the blazer every day and wear the rest of her “uniform.” A great no-hassle idea!

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Jen • July 16, 2009 at 10:44 am

Oooh me too!

I am sitting here reading in running shoes, jeans and a t-shirt.

When I was bigger, my uniform was baggy T-shirt & jeans, now I am in slightly more fitted Ts but still a t-shirt! If I wear a more unusual top, I usually can’t wear my sports bra (which is an essential) and it’s just too much hassle!

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Sheryl • July 16, 2009 at 11:49 am

I have a “modified” uniform — regulation length washable pants (no capris, shorts, ankle length) and a no-iron, no-frilly-stuff top. For work it’s black or navy chinos and a polo ; for play it’s jeans and a T. I do have probably 50 pairs of shoes, though — but every single pair are flats! For dressy, it’s the same black pants, but with a sparkly short-sleeve sweater – I have several from thrift stores for all dress-up occasions.

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Deb M • July 16, 2009 at 12:14 pm

I’ve always envied my blue collar husband who wears the same thing to work every day–jeans, company t-shirt, workboots. Doesn’t even have to think about it, just grabs whatever shirt is on the top of the pile. My favorite Jeans and T-shirt outfit thing is also one of the things that spurred me to get back on the diet–when I discovered that I could no longer get Lee Rider tall jeans in my size (the only brand that has ever fit me). I was pissed!!! But then I figured I had no business wearing any brand of jeans in my current size, so where did I get off being pissed at Lee just because they don’t cater to fat girls anymore? Now I’m looking forward to fitting back into the smaller ones that have been gathering dust in the back closet for way too long!!

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victoria • July 16, 2009 at 1:40 pm

Wow. We could not be more different.

The sad fact for me is, I’m not blessed with a particularly attractive figure — even when I’m slim and super fit! I have a barrel chest, broad shoulders, a thick waist, a short neck, and a flat ass.

But clothing can magically transform what I’ve got and make it really work. I’m fascinated by the way I can make my body look much better than it is. I can show off my pretty knees and ankles with short skirts with great strappy heels.

Other times, I’ll be convinced that my slim hips are the best part of my body, and I’ll be obsessed with wearing the right, well0fitted pants.

Other times, I’ll be taken with the notion that my broad shoulders cand make my (naturally thick) waist look small if I wear contrasting colors, and a belt, in just the right proportions, with either a wrap construction to the top or some well-placed diagonal seams.

Other times, I’ll be fascinated by the way a well-made wrap dress with contrasting piping can give me an hourglass silhouette when nature didn’t.

I’m always looking for the right neckline for my short neck, and honestly, when I find the right, deep wide V neckline, my neck looks long and my shoulders lose their bulk.

I’ve also discovered that wearing a short-sleeved cardigan, a size too small, buttoned just once right under my bosom, over a tight camisole in the same dark color as a pencil skirt, gives me a va-va-va-voom, ultra-feminine figure — this is a miracle, believe me, since I really do NOT have a vavavavoom figure. (It’s something about the visual effect of the diagonal of the cardigan’s gaping open above and below the button that tricks the eye into thinking I’m narrow and broad in the right places.)

I like looking at my silhouette as a work in progress. I’m fascinated by the challenge of finding ways to work with what I’ve got.

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fd • July 17, 2009 at 11:42 am

hmmm. well i often veer instinctively towards wearing the same outfits over and over because i loathe shopping, and i’m unsure of what would look truly idiotic. i do try to force myself to experiment with styles, colours, fabrics, or even just accessories, because on those rare occasions when i get it right, and the outfit looks super smart or super cute, i really feel AMAZING and get an extra spring in my step. and i know that when i see other people who’ve made an effort in their appearance (even if its an effort to look super Goth or whatever), i get a sense that they take more care of themselves. really i should judge this on how they come across in their words and deeds, but inevitably their appearance factors in for me. somehow i feel like your appearance is not just a superficial thing.

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Sarah • July 18, 2009 at 11:51 am

Previewing my post it comes off as harsh…. I don’t mean to be, I just don’t understand you.

I was that girl. I can distinctly remember in a high school skit someone spoofing me in jeans, a sweatshirt and Tevas. It looked awful on her, I’m sure it looked even more awful on me 100 pounds heavier… I clung to that uniform though.

This post makes me sad. Jeans and a tee shirt is not a style, it’s lazy. It may be comfortable and you may feel comfortable in it but to many of us it says, look at me, I don’t care about myself. Which we all know isn’t true having read your blog. Getting “dressed up” can also be comfortable and requires no more thought that putting on jeans and tee shirt. A dress can be instantly an outfit! It does require time, shopping and effort to get to that point though. You wouldn’t be struggling to find clothes for an event if you didn’t live your whole life in jeans and sneakers. That panic of omg I need to go and buy a dress for fill in the blank disappears if you have more than one uniform of clothes you can turn too.

I think when we lose massive amounts of weight the brain has a hard time. 1. With catching up to what we actually look like and 2. With not being pissed off that now people are showing us attention. We are the same people on the inside, but having been ignored or snickered at or whatever when we were heavy…. it’s sticks with us. Maybe this is why you are still sporting the jeans and tee shirts, you still wish to be ignored? You say you gave some new clothes a chance… but I’m going to have to say I doubt that, based on the miniskirt comment. Sorry but they don’t belong on on women our age. You have spent time finding out what looks good on you not just choosing what covers you.

At 345 I wore what “fit” but as my weight dropped and I could start shopping I was overwhelmed by the choice of clothes. I was different sizes for two years worth of seasons; shopping for clothes became something I did often and learned to enjoy. It took time and self reflection to discover what looked good on me, and to a large extent what camouflaged what was left over by my weight loss. This was the hardest part of learning how to dress my new body. My waist is tiny at 155 pounds but my “hips” were not. Dresses and skirts became my norm to cover what I couldn’t stuff into pants. It took forever, well years, to learn and involved lots and lots of tears. But the end result is that I feel way more confident and feel like I am putting my best foot forward. I wish I could say to the world hey I lost 185 pounds and that should be enough, but it’s not.

A sense of style goes along way.

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Comments are now closed on all PastaQueen entries. The blog is an archive only so I don't have to deal with spammers. For fresh discussions please visit my new blog JenFul.

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Jennette Fulda tells stories to the Internet about her life as a smartass, writer, weight-loss inspiration, chronic headache sufferer, and overall nice person (who is silently judging you). She does this at JenFul now, but you can still have fun perusing her past here.

Disclaimer: I am not responsible for keyboards ruined by coffee spit-takes or forehead wrinkles caused by deep thought.

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