Our friend Nina, founder of the Ries Law Group, is one of those women who has it all together: great kid, great job, engaged in her community, plus she usually seems to be in a great mood. She frequently sings the praises of her “working mom uniform”, and has said time and time again how it improves her day. We asked her to tell us more about why she started wearing the same thing every day, and she kindly obliged. Read on and tell us in the comments: would you ever adopt a uniform?
It often seems that, if you’re a professional women and a parent, time is not your friend. We all struggle to find enough hours in the day to do all the things we want to do at work, to further our professional networks, at home, for our kids, with our spouses, involving our alma maters, with friends, and – gasp – for ourselves. I have yet to meet a single person who is able to give as much time as she would like to all of the foregoing. Even those of us who are lucky enough to outsource some solutions struggle. So we look for efficiencies wherever we can find them. These efficiencies help alleviate our mental load. In efficiencies, we can find some relief.
This is why, for more than seven years, my uniform has been a black dress and pearls.
It all started when I needed to find a solution that could easily go from one obligation to the next. I am a business and real estate attorney, so in a single day, I could feasibly need to appear in court before heading to meetings at my daughter’s school or to my office. From there, I may need to attend client meetings or networking lunches before stopping by a job site, heading to city hall to meet with a variety of commissioners, or attending planning commission meetings. I might also volunteer in my daughter’s classroom in the afternoon. In the evening, it’s not uncommon for me to stop by an after-work mixer for a professional group, a fundraiser, or alumni events for my undergraduate institution or law school. And occasionally, we also have theater tickets. The only outfit that lets me travel seamlessly from one of these obligations to the next without having to change is my uniform. It doesn’t require any thought, I always match, and I’m always appropriately dressed for the occasion.
Best of all, it’s easy. I don’t have to think about it. I was just starting my own law firm after working at firms for 9 years. I was making a myriad of decisions every day, many of which would have significant impacts on my clients’ businesses, on our legal strategy, on negotiations, on our success at trial, on my daughter’s upbringing, on our personal finances, and more. Although I didn’t realize it at the time, for the sake of my sanity, I needed to simplify and to relieve myself of some of those decisions. Relief was in a black dress and pearls.
My uniform is my gift to myself. It frees up my time in so many ways. For starters, it makes shopping exceedingly easy. Black dresses are plentiful and easy to find, regardless of the store and regardless of the season. If I can buy several of them at once, there are economies of scale that work to my benefit. And, as a practical matter, black dresses are low maintenance. Pen marks are difficult to see on black, and I don’t have to fuss about stains at the dry cleaner. I also spend very little time getting ready in the morning – I simply grab the next black dress in the closet. I know it will match my shoes, my pearls, and my jacket or sweater. No decision-making required. You’ll even find me in a black dress and pearls on weekends.
Until my most recent closet purge, I had 106 black dresses. I currently have 62 (I donated the rest to a local battered women’s shelter). When I find one I like, I buy multiple of it, always in black. I definitely have a preferred style, so most of my dresses look the same anyway. Having multiples is efficient. I have black suit jackets to match the dresses for when I go to court, black cashmere cardigans for less formal needs, and a full-length coat, also in black, for the winter. I also have multiple strands of my favorite pearls, a twisted three-strand set on which I constantly receive compliments, including from judges and opposing counsel. Re-stringing takes time, both to take them to the jewelry store for re-stringing and to pick them up after the work is done. Backups buy me time and peace of mind that I’ll never have to stress about what to wear.
For me, my uniform is a no-brainer. It’s my comfortable signature look with a side of simplicity. And I recommend it to everyone I know. A bonus tip: I always have a spare pair of flip-flops stashed away discreetly in the car for extra comfort while driving. It’s so easy to slide my heels back on before I arrive at my next destination.
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Check back next week for more about how Heather and Erin tried Nina’s uniform! Spoiler alert: it really is a game changer.