the psychological battle with uniforms in my life

Back at school it was the bane of my existence. The uncomfortable restrictive shirt and blazer combo, the choking tie and hideous skirt, yet now I am a fully fledge adult I find myself pining after just that….a uniform.

I hated being shoehorned forcibly into the same as everyone else. Unable able to showcase who I was, my personality and how I wanted to express myself – even if it would have been in the chavviest way possible if my sense of style back then was anything to go by. As I grew older and started 6th form I was liberated from uniforms, but with this came a new pressure. All of a sudden, I was no longer the same as everyone else. We all had our own identities and still being self-conscious I would constantly compare myself to my peers. I found myself more than ever simply wanting to fit in, not stand out, and I would spend hours and all my money (all be it only an 8 hour contract at ‘Next’ wage) on new clothes worn purely to sit in a classroom. It seems silly looking back but at the time my whole world revolved around those school walls, the school gossip and the status of popularity and acceptance. I never felt 100% happy in my own skin back then.

When I moved onto college it was like shedding a skin, no longer was I surrounded by the peers I went through my awkward years with instead I was with a new wave of people, all artistic (I was studying an art foundation degree) and all which were seemingly so comfortable in their own skin. Welcoming me into a new circle of acceptance for liking me for being me, I truly began to grow into myself. Who I really am and my identity. For me that was a turning point in self-confidence. With this, I wore what I wanted, I wasn’t a punk or a goth or a chav or wearing the ‘it’ item of the season, I just wore what I wanted to. Despite studying fashion, I was no longer buying clothes purely to wear at college and I fell in love with the idea of being who I was a fluid wardrobe from college to home. No need to conform or impress.

The first year of university was a whirlwind. Thrown out of my still fresh comfort zone of only one year, I found myself on a course with a whole group of new people from across the entire breadth of this island we call home and with this a new mismatch cross-section of what ‘fashion’ is. This leaving me wondering how I would fit into it. I was once again self-conscious but it was hidden behind a veil of alcohol and laughs. I found myself strategically planning each look from head to toe, spending my money on clothes, once again, to conform to my new peers. Happily (well depends on how you look at it) I would like to report that after the 4 years studying hard that idea was well and truly mashed out of me. The realisation of whether I spent my morning hour on pulling together a look, the extra hour sleep after a night out or spending that time finalising my project for hand in made me realise why I went to uni.

As my time in education came to an end my realisation of heading into the big bad world of employment loomed. In theory I would only be working 9-5 right? I could wear heels and look chic and sophisticated and sit at a desk all day. Realistically I have now undertaken a new internal battle. I don’t want to look older than my years yet I want to look sophisticated and be taken seriously in my role. Where does this balance lie? Now the time has come I see people my age strutting in heels to work and I genuinely believed they were 10 years older than me. I am comfort over style 9 times out of 10 so it’s trainers and trousers with a blouse daily. I have a set section of my wardrobe handpicked from cheap shops to wear to work.

Now this is where my dilemma comes in. When did I decide to this and why? My back story and battles with time, effort and money for the benefits of those who don’t mean that much to me on a personal level. What I wear has no impact on my abilities to do my job so why should it influence people’s perceptions of me and hinder me getting that promotion. Another side is that I spent pretty much all my time here so should I make the effort, a whole wardrobe of fun creative and personality driven pieces yearning to be worn yet gathering dust because to me I want to keep these two spheres separate. I want to separate my work and personal life. Some people genuinely think I dress like I do in work outside of the office.

Who would have thought I could go a full 180 from the considered fully put together looks to whacking on the same shirt three days of the working week? Maybe I should put in a bit more effort but why should I conform to what people expect of me…like I said I can do my job regardless of what I wear. The impact of an outfit in your career whether as woman or man is more than I can imagine. Personal and professional aesthetics regardless sometimes (not all the time) how a person looks plays a bigger role in the career ladder than just doing your job as sad as that is. Maybe that’s just my personal experience but these days I just yearn for that uniform back for a multitude of reasons.

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