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The first dress I ordered from Athleta arrived at the end of April. It was so comfortable and fit so well, I wanted to wear it all the time. By July, I had ordered five dresses. Now that the weather in Virginia is turning colder, my summer dresses have been pushed to the back of the closet in favor of warmer clothing. I have two pairs of tall lace-up boots — one pair in taupe and another in black — and last week I ordered three new pairs of my favorite Old Navy jeans. They pair well with all of the soft and comfy sweaters and tunics I have bought in multiples over the past few years. I was delighted to rediscover all of these tops in my drawer and realize I won’t have to buy any new ones this year.
Decision fatigue — the exhausting expenditure of mental energy on endless trivial decisions — is a real thing and takes more energy than I have sometimes, especially with young children whom I also have to help dress. When we’re forced to continuously make decisions about what clothes to buy and wear, it saps our mental energy for other, more meaningful tasks. My husband found that out when he left the Navy and became a civilian. Suddenly, he actually had to think about what he was going to wear to work as a middle school teacher. He quickly adopted my philosophy of buying favorite items in multiples, simplifying his choices and decisions. Now he has his “teacher uniform” of khaki pants and a coordinating polo shirt that he wears each day.
Many successful people choose a personal uniform, whether to simplify their decision-making so they can get on to the important details of their lives or to create an iconic and memorable identity for themselves. For me, wearing the same outfit every day isn’t so much about reducing decision fatigue (though with young children, I appreciate having one less thing to think about) or becoming a style icon so much as it is about my comfort. It’s not so much a uniform as my own personal armor in different colors.
I have been dressing this way since high school, buying multiples of my favorite things, and feeling slightly embarrassed by my wardrobe’s lack of originality and variety. While I’ve always enjoyed looking at clothes in catalogs and magazines and I admire the gorgeous photos of stylish friends and influencers that cross my Instagram feed, I’ve never liked the process of shopping for clothes. Overwhelmed by choices, annoyed by the size of malls (and the size of the crowds in malls), loathing tiny dressing rooms with their harsh lighting, I simply find it exhausting and a disheartening waste of time to shop for clothes every couple of months.
Online ordering is only slightly better. While I can avoid the crowds and the bad lighting, I still have to scroll through websites to find things I like, wait for my purchases to arrive, and return anything (most things) that doesn’t fit, isn’t comfortable, or simply doesn’t make me feel good to wear it. I thought a subscription service with a personal stylist would help so I signed up for one, only to be disappointed in most of the selections chosen for me. It wasn’t the stylist’s fault — the clothes were lovely in the box and would likely appeal to someone else. But I discovered that as much as I hate clothes shopping, I actually hate it even more when someone else shops for me.
I get so frustrated by the process of shopping for new clothes that when I do find something that that fits well and is flattering as well as comfortable, I simply buy it in as many options as are available. It’s not only easier to fill my closet with duplicates, it’s a kind of comfort that goes beyond the physical. My wardrobe full of multiples is my indulgence for facing a world that seems pretty dark sometimes. During times of stress or depression, I gravitate toward outfits that don’t make me have to think, “Do I look good in this?” or “Do these colors go together?” I feel a sense of relief when I wake up in the morning and don’t have to think about what I’m going to wear that day.
There is something decadent about buying my favorite clothes in every color. I’m happy when I see the multi-hued sweaters or dresses or boots that fill my closet with classic styles I love. A habit of convenience and comfort that once felt boring and unoriginal now seems like fashion wisdom. I feel confident and at ease in the world when I’m wearing my favorite jeans and boots that I’ve worn most days for the past several years. The best part is already knowing what I’m going to wear tomorrow, because I’m wearing it today in a different color.