It began when I had a feeling after two years in the working world, my college uniform of jeans and a T-shirt wasn’t quite it. I probably didn’t think of as it as big deal then, but I see now that for a while I was looking for a new uniform, without much sense of direction.
I had a shirt custom made in Thailand in 2008. I liked how it fitted perfectly at the shoulders and in the arms, but didn’t love it, and fell out of love with shirts for a little while. Maybe shirts weren’t for me, I thought.
A year later, I bought a white shirt again, this time in a lovely, oversized cut. But I didn’t feel as satisfied as I thought I would after I brought it home. Something was off. A day later, I went back to the shop, and exchanged it for a shirt in blue and white striped cotton.
This time, I got it right – white shirts make me feel like a waitress, but blue shirts offer the same crisp charm without the starchiness and service staff connotations. I was pleased. As the need to dress more smartly happened more often, I reached for the shirt more and more. Blazers are the best way to look sharp in the office, but a shirt is more practical in hot weather. And I am rarely out of jeans so they are the easiest way to dress up an outfit – perfect smart casual combination for work.
I thus began on a slow shirt bender – from one blue shirt in 2009, to nine this year.
So what do I like? I like a small-ish, neat, stiff collar. No Peter Pan collars. Homespun-looking materials (no more silk for me!). Pale, dreamy shades, subtle prints. No florals. White shirts really do not favour me. Thick buttons, at least 3mm. Neatly finished buttonholes. Machine-washable. No darts at the torso.
And now, I’ve hit 10, with my new baby from Carven. I fell in love when I saw it online and knew it was a must for my shirt collection, and decided not to wait for the sales when NAP decided to offer free international shipping.
You can’t tell from pictures, but the cotton is so soft it’s almost like tissue, with heft so it’s not sheer at all. Beautiful tucked in or out, sleeves buttoned or rolled. I love things that remind me for school uniforms, but there is nothing coy or kitsch about this one.
What I like about this uniform is that it wasn’t a case of me falling in love with an image of someone else, and trying to shoehorn myself into a particular look. It began from a need, and evolved over time into love – the comfortable sort of love that endures.
Tell me, how did your uniforms come about?