News Column

'Uniforms' for Famous Folks March Forward

Oct. 29, 2012

By Maria Puente

Steve Jobs

Steve Jobs did it. Hillary Clinton did it. Mark Zuckerberg still does it. And a parade of celebrities -- Vera Wang, Sofia Coppola, Gwyneth Paltrow -- do it: They wear fashion uniforms.

Whether it's the late Jobs' black turtlenecks and black jeans, Clinton's pantsuits, Zuckerberg's gray T-shirts, Wang's tunics and leggings, or Coppola's button-down blouses and ballet flats, some famous folk are sticking to the same look at a time when the democratization of fashion has made being "fashiony" a mass-market phenomenon.

So why has uniform-style dressing spread to the adult world of high-powered, high-paid grown-ups?

Because it helps establish identity, which can be crucial for business, and because the good results are obvious and comfortable, says Fiona Ferris, 41, a fashion blogger and shoe-store owner in Auckland, New Zealand.

"I started taking notice of celebrities whose style I admired, and sure enough, the same looks were cropping up over and over. You only need to Google Image most celebrities to see this," she says.

For some people, it's just more convenient, but that's not what celebs are doing, she says. They're deliberately creating a signature look, and it's a smart strategy.

"They will have thought about the image they wish to portray, what kind of person they want to come across as, and build their wardrobe accordingly," she says. "Someone can change their good-girl image to bad with a change of style, and vice versa. The clever ones do it subtly over time."

Jennifer Aniston, Paltrow or Renee Zellweger, all of them admired for their dress sense, routinely wear elegant, stylish clothes that usually fall within the same palette and silhouette, sometimes even the same designer.

When Paltrow was named the world's best-dressed woman by People last month, her stylist, Elizabeth Saltzman, said she was not a slave to trends. "She doesn't do fringe," she said. "She has a uniform. It's simple, not overdone."

Paltrow's approach is more a theme than a uniform, says Lucky magazine's executive fashion director Alexis Bryan Morgan. "It's a look, not necessarily a uniform. It's one step up from trying every new thing, and the next step is the uniform, so she's in the ideal middle."

And it's not just the younger stars who do it: Actress Ellen Barkin, 58, told Elle in March that she knows she looks like someone who never changes her clothes.

"Because there are 10 versions of three styles of L'Wren (Scott)'s dresses in different colors, 30 versions of an almost-identical sweater, and 10 versions of a black pair of pants. I love fashion, but I just like a uniform."

For some people who choose uniforms, it's just a question of time and priorities: They can't be bothered to shop or make decisions about what to wear every morning because they're too busy with other important things, so they just wear more or less the same thing every day. This could apply to Facebook's Zuckerberg, Secretary of State Clinton or your average, overbooked working mom.

"For incredibly busy women, it's really handy to have a look nailed down so you're not laboring every morning about what to wear and how to do your hair," says Morgan.

Zuckerberg, the boy-genius CEO, is as famous for his dorm-room look as his billions. He relies on staples, he told Matt Lauer -- Mr. Best-Dressed himself -- on the Today show recently.

"I mean, I wear the same thing every day, right? I mean, it's literally, if you could see my closet," Zuckerberg said, as Lauer wondered whether he owns 12 of the same gray T-shirt. "Maybe about 20," Zuckerberg confessed. "I have one drawer. Like men everywhere."

Designer and Project Runway judge Michael Kors described his fashion uniform to Harper's Bazaar last month.

"It is always something black and knitted with a crew neck. And then either dark jeans, white jeans, olive cargos or chinos. The shoe changes I change my color of aviator (sunglasses). That kind of indicates my mood."

What should real women do about a fashion uniform? The trend Morgan sees happening is more women experimenting with fashion, because fashion is more accessible and affordable and easier to achieve.

"I advise people that if it works for you or you just love something, to go with it and wear it all the time and not be afraid of it," she says. "If the shoe fits, wear it."

A uniform doesn't have to be static, adds Ferris. "As time goes by, you will discover little tweaks to be made," she says. "It's good to be current but still timeless."

Source: Copyright USA TODAY 2012

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