Friday, April 24, 2015

The Use of Uniforms


SUSAN ELIA MACNEAL: Did you ever wear a uniform? For school, for your profession, as part of the armed services?

In London recently, I was able to go the the Imperial War Museum and see their World War II exhibit, "Fashion on the Ration" — about clothing during the 40s.

Alas, photos were not permitted in the exhibit, but it was fascinating to see the war-time fashion and read the captions. For instance, the Navy's WAAF uniform was the most coveted because of the black stockings and the Land Army's most hated because of the beige lisle stockings. But, generally, women seemed to really like the ease of wearing a uniform.

Then I happened across an article in Harper's Bazaar about by their art director, who has deliberately adopted a uniform for work. Here she is, looking polished and professional:

Reds and lovely readers, what do you think about uniforms? I've got to say, I personally think they're really a fabulous idea and I'm seriously contemplating finding an outfit I can use as a uniform, and then investing in multiple pieces for conferences, events, etc. 

What do you think? Have you ever worn a uniform? Would you?


  1. Aside from my Girl Scout uniform?

    People always think I wear a uniform anyway, black jacket black skirt and some colorful shoes. I was at a library event the other day, and wore a polkadot dress and gray leather jacket. Woman came up to me and said oh, I lost my bet! I bet my friend you'd be in all black.

    I think I need to branch out.

  2. Hank, I remember you as head to toe black with red accents. Time to diversify for spring.

    My travel clothes are navy blue and khaki, in various weights and layers. Fewer decisions, and the accessories and shoes always match.

    Uniforms for my college restaurant jobs, but not after I joined the adult world.

  3. But my mother always told me the smart "fashion "thing to do is pick a look and wear it… And then you never have to worry about buying a lot of new things. And to wear the same thing to every fancy party, because no one ever remembers!

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  5. that would be the smart thing Hank--but you always looks great!

    Love the museum Susan, and also love the art director's look! I wore Brownie and Girl Scout uniforms of course, and gym suits--oh the horror.

  6. Oh, I can agree with the uniform idea; we are truly a uniform family: Brownie and Girl Scout uniforms; a white uniform for work; Civil Air Patrol uniforms; Navy uniforms for John and our Virginia daughter and her husband; Air Force uniforms for our Colorado daughter and her husband.
    I taught in a school where everyone wore school uniforms; now my Colorado grandson wears a uniform to school every day.

  7. Oh Margaret good idea. How about black Xxx

  8. OK, I love, love, love how the Harper's editor looks. If I had a regular job I'd totally do it. Since I work from home (in jeans and a tee shirt most of the time), I do like dressing up. But it's such a pain sometimes!

  9. I wore a uniform all my school years and although i grumbled it was easy and smart. My granddaughter (at an expensive Catholic school) has had a dress code and will now be going back to uniform in the fall. She doesn't mind. I like to see men and women in suits in a business environment. Hank--you always look perfect.

    Since I too spend most of my life alone at a computer I also like to look my best when I'm let out!

  10. Congratulations on the 16th printing! I love that series.

    I have a uniform of sorts. Almost every day I wear a knee length skirt and a knit dressy t-shirt-type shirt to work. Sometimes the skirt has a blazer (= a suit) but usually I have some kind of sweater or other jacket. I change up most of the items with the seasons and jazz things up with accessories. I have to dress up almost every day for work or church, and having a template makes it much easier. It also helps me avoid wearing only black.

  11. Nothing wrong with wearing lots of black! (Says the New Yorker....)

  12. I can't say I've ever worn a uniform. Considering how much I hate clothes shopping (I am a guy after all), I really wouldn't object at all.

  13. I used to enjoy trying to be a corporate fashion model... but now in my home office, seen by zillions of books and paper mostly, I find I DO wear a uniform: black pants, loose T shirt and black cashmere Neiman-Marcus sweater. why N-M? Because when I worked on the JC Penney Outplacement Team from NYC HQ to Dallas, I fell in love with N-M. tjstraw

  14. I loved my girl scout uniforms. My everyday writing wear is basically a uniform: jeans, collarless knit shirt. Fleece in winter, tee-shirt in summer. So I panic when it comes to packing for a conference - like in a few days!

    And even though I'm a confirmed pacifist, there's just something about a man in uniform...

    Hank, I saw that picture of you in a polka dotted skirt and thought, "Whoa, Hank's going rebel on us!"

    Congrats on the number 16, Susan.

    (And what's with this new CAPTCHA thing, anyway? Those other signs didn't "match" the one at the top right, but apparently I chose correctly!)

  15. All the same color for traveling, plus accessories, does simplify packing. I say as I am planning for Malice. and in my corporate I wore close to a uniform - business suits. And of course Girl Scout uniforms, proudly. But there was a gym uniform. Remember those? Horrid. And I have to add, my friends who attended parochial school wore uniforms that were incredibly ugly.NUNS were more stylishly dressed.

  16. Hank, I'm thinking dove gray with splashes of a pink with lots of red tones, maybe even a big flower pined to your lapel.

  17. Congrats, Susan, on the 16th printing! And so envious of your visit to the Imperial War Museum.

    Love the 40s uniforms. Women always looked so smart, even if they hated their cotton stockings. The only uniforms I've ever worn were Brownie and Girl Scouts and I hated them with a passion.

    I do tend to wear a uniform working at home every day--at the moment it's lightweight black yoga pants (found some fabulous ones online from Danskin), a short sleeved t-shirt (Marvel, from Target) and a long-sleeved black yoga-type jacket. We're having a very cool and very rainy spring here north Texas--usually by this time I'd be in my summer uniform (shorts and t-shirts.) So glam.

    Hank, you could accent your black with royal blue and give everyone heart failure:-)

  18. I think I need to do better than my usual jeans and tee-shirt combo this spring. Although I do have a t from Disney World that has Malificent and says, Mistress of Evil" I'm particularly fond of.....

  19. Uniform? Coming home from camp we were all dressed in matching T-shirts... does that count? After 4 weeks they were taking a wise precaution since I had nothing left that wasn't soiled and stinky.

    Otherwise I had a Brownie uniform that I hated. And I particularly hated the one-piece outfits we had to wear at gym in high school. Oh, and that reminds me of the bathing suits taht felt as if they were made of boiled wool. I hope they don't still torture high school kids with those.

  20. Susan, congratulations on the 16th printing! That's awesome! Maybe you fantastic Reds should have a celebration outfit, since you all seem to be magnets for awards and great accomplishments. Congratulations are in order for you, too, Hank with your Edward R. Murrow Award for Investigative Reporting. Woohoo!

    I would love to visit The Imperial War Museum and see the Fashion on the Ration exhibit, Susan. Can it be accessed online for a peek or complete look? I guess I could go to the site and check that out. For some unknown reason, maybe a previous life thing, I am intensely interested in what women wore during the time period of the 40s. Can you suggest any books, Susan?

    As far as wearing uniforms, that would be an experience from my youth. Brownie uniform, Girl Scout uniform, cheerleading uniforms, band uniforms, and choir robes (I think they count). Hank, I am a big fan of black and mixing it up for different looks. My favorite look is black pants, black jacket, and a t-shirt or blouse underneath. The Harper's editor has a look I love, black pants with classy white blouse, although this particular blouse doesn't really work for me. Oh, and the gym uniforms were awful.

  21. Diane Hale here.
    Congrats on the 16th printing.

    Spent nearly all my working life in uniform. Long before scrubs became common throughout hospitals nurses wore white. Then came my Army uniforms--greens, fatigues, dress blues. The one I loved best? My flight suit. Now it's whatever is comfy & clean, sweats in winter, shorts in summer.

  22. My kids go to Catholic school. My daughter loves the uniform. She doesn't have to think in the morning. The Boy, well, one pair of slacks and a polo is much the same as the next, right?

    Count me in the "informal" uniform group - jeans and a shirt. Turtleneck and sweater in the winter, short sleeves in the summer.

  23. In high school I wore a uniform - it was not attractive, and not even comfortable (the synthetic blouse never stayed tucked into the pleated skirt, but there was a vest that sort of covered the mess up) -- but I never complained about the uniform because I didn't have much of a wardrobe. As in, I had almost no clothes.

    I knew a woman in DC who was very Junior League -- every season she would buy a very beautiful and expensive piece that kind of became her uniform -- a sensational sweater.

    These days, I wear more or less of a uniform -- a combo of Talbotts and Lands End == it's all about comfort.

  24. Susan, congrats on going into your 16th printing! Holy cow, I didn't think they did that nowadays.

    Hank has a great example of a modern woman's "uniform" - a look that's distinctively her own, that works under almost all circumstances, and that she doesn't have to put much thought into. Another writer whose uniform I admire is Marcia Talley's. I always see her in plain pants and tops, with a fabulous one-of-a-kind art fabric coat over. Again; distinctive, appropriate, and easy.

    Two of my three kids did parochial school until high school (Youngest went public at grade 4) and as a mother, I was so grateful for those uniforms! No questions, no arguments, no chasing trends. Just plaid jumper and blouse or navy pants and oxford cloth shirt. My Smithie went on to an all-girls Catholic high, thereby spending 13 years in uniform! She was happy to leave the plaid behind, but even she would admit it made things dead easy in the morning.

  25. During WW II it was good that I had to wear a uniform to school. Clothing coupons didn't allow for much variety. But the uniform meant that there was a classless quality in my high school. I was shocked when I got to the U.S. and encountered all the cashmere sweaters, etc., that really marked the haves from the have-nots in the high school I attended for a short time.

  26. Julia, Marcia Tally is the best dressed woman I know. Even in her "at home" jeans and t-shirts she looks effortlessly flawless.


  27. Aww. SO nice of you all! xo

    YOu should see me right now. I'm not even gonna describe it. :-)

    And I had to select soups.
    EVERYTHING is a test!

  28. Julia and Debs, I am ROTFL. If you could see me now, in a pair of ragged blue short-shorts and a white tank top. Barefoot.

    But I guess this is my "island uniform." Will be back to my regular uniform next weekend at Malice Domestic. Look forward to seeing everyone who can attend.

    My hair hasn't been cut for 6 months, so I know my hairdresser is going to faint when she sees me on Thursday!

  29. Woohoo, Susan, that's excellent news!

    Uniforms are good, sometimes. I wore them in Catholic high school; not just every day, but we also had a gym uniform (which was a hideous WHITE shortall, but better than the fugly two-tone blue one they wore in previous years). And I wore one as a waitress, and as a Candy Striper (which I still have, somewhere. The kids used to play with it.)

    My oldest daughter is a nurse, so she used to wear scrubs; for the last 9 years she's worked as an educator, and has worn a lab coat.

    My youngest daughter, though, has worn a ton of different uniforms: Girl Scouts, band, Civil Air Patrol, Citadel cadet, track team, and lab coat in grad school.

    If Hank's "look" can be considered a uniform, I guess my everyday look of either a tee or a turtleneck with a scarf can be, as well. :-)

  30. Congratulations, Susan, on the 16th printing of MR. CHURCHILL'S SECRETARY!

    Uniforms. Let's see...

    Brownie, Girl Scout, and my favorite—Mariner Scout in Marblehead, of course. What else would we have in Marblehead. Oh wait. Marblehead High Marching Band.

    Then there was "wait staff"< today's weird attempt at gender neutrality... working in my mothers diner in high school. Hated that one.

    For the one month I lasted at Bishop Fenwick I wore their beige blazer, brown plaid skirt, and ugly beanie that only lacked a propeller to complete the outfit. So went on to the Newman School where they had no uniform then but now feel compelled. It's okay, though. Polo shirts and chinos mostly.

    Lab coats. Academic robes for commencement days. Student group tee shirts.

    Then there was the worst. Not just because my convictions regarding weaponry have undergone a major deconstruction, but was my truly ugly desert-sand beige police uniform with the ugly gold stripe up the outside of the legs. Horribly awful to wear with the equipment belt clipped all around to hold it to the dress belt. Then there were those other bits of equipment like holster, extra bullets thingy, handcuffs, etc. all attached similarly. Then, because I was a woman (just barely), I had to wear pants with the zipper on the side. So that means to use the facilities I had to remove all those little belt loopy things and and put all my precious equipment on the floor in order to do what one does there. Oh yuck. Y'know? Now I realize—I mean just now—that my best case for allowing the women officers to wear fly front pants was not just our readiness but our safety and vulnerability at such times. I was excessively cute, though.

    Now I wear my version of the Steve Jobs uniform. Jeans and tee. But if you want to make me presentable for a special occasion I'll try not to embarrass you.

  31. Brownie & Girl Scout uniforms

    uniform working at Friendly's ice cream shop in HS

    Jeans/t-shirt on my stint of carpet cleaning, really sucked the guys got uniforms

    Worked in 4 hospitals - so uniforms there

    My "daily uniform" if I'm not going any where, leggings and t-shirt