I know I have been posting lots of sun drenched photos and summery outfits of late but my daily reality in London has been the longest stretch of single digit degree days I can remember and a constant struggle to get dressed for the cold in the mornings. There has been little concern about whether what I'm going to be wearing will be stylish and more about how many layers I can reasonably cram on to ensure I don't freeze as soon as I step out the door.
So don't let all the colourful holiday outfit photos fool you. With some exceptions I've been pretty much sticking to my formula of black and grey layers as that makes the layering process very easy. I don't need to think about it, I just have so many clothes now in that palette that just work together that I can just throw it all on and be out the door in minutes, which, with my crammed timetable is actually usually all I've got.
Did you wear a uniform at school? I did. In summer we had to wear a horrific shapeless bright blue dress which looked like a nurse's uniform and prompted the boys to call us shorter girls smurfs. Winter was a nasty pale yellow shirt, a wool tartan skirt and a navy jumper and blazer. I hated the uniform because it was pretty unflattering and having to wear one was all about teaching you to conform. It's only saving grace was that you didn't have to think about what you were going to wear in the morning or worry about how you were going to look at school because everyone else was in the same boat, which freed your brain up in a good way for other things like studying. When I left high school though I thought I was done with uniforms for good. Turns out not!
I think everyone has a kind of uniform that they rely on to get dressed without having to think about it too much and black layering has always been mine, especially on bitterly cold winter days. So strong is the hold of the uniform that despite spending the last eight months making a conscious effort to eschew buying black clothing in favour of colour I still ended up buying some items I thought my black layering formula was missing - a pair of black flat shoes, an off duty coat to save my good work coats from too much wear and tear and a good black leather bag that would double up for work and play.
I bought this coat from Zara to serve as a casual weekend coat when the weather turned chillier back in autumn. Wearing my smart work coats on the weekends can sometimes feel a bit too formal. The leather lapels and biker style of this coat slotted in very easily with my off-duty look. Turns out though that half of London's women seemed to have the same idea - I have seen this coat on so many people it is not funny. Not just once but on several occasions, I have walked past someone in the street wearing it or got into the same tube carriage as someone wearing it. This coat has become a kind of London uniform!
If you live in London you might even have noticed that there are only about five coats that everyone seems to be wearing and they were all from Zara. Admittedly Zara did a cracking range of coats - they just happened to churn them out in the thousands at a reasonable price and voilà, they clearly also flew off the shelves in the thousands and onto the backs of Londoners. A winter coat is the first thing that jumps out at you when you see an outfit and you don't really notice as much what the wearer has underneath. As a result London has seemed to me to have morphed into a sea of Zara coats.
Apart from the style I'm wearing here, the other ones that have become part of the London uniform are a similar black biker style with either leather panels on the front or quilted leather sleeves, a burgundy biker style with leather sleeves, a wool coat with a studded sleeve that came in navy or olive and one with black leather sleeves and a cream shearling front.
As every vintage clothing enthusiast would rightly attest, that is the trouble with shopping on the high street. The cookie cutter production line pretty much ensures we all end up looking kind of the same and robs us of individual flair.
Perhaps also the brainwashing of my high school uniform days runs deeper than I thought. The Zara coat experience has made me reflect that having routinely worn a uniform in the past has led somehow to my reliance on a uniform now. There is a degree of comfort in using a uniform to hide behind. It helps avoid making a horrible mistake when there isn't the time or mental capacity to dedicate to getting dressed. The flip side is that it also seems to result in subconsciously trying to blend in when I get dressed rather than stand out, almost to the point of invisibility!
Do you rely on a uniform or a tried and true formula when you get dressed?
Despite my debatable visibility in my London uniform, this week I'm linking up to Visible Monday over at Not Yet Dead Style.
Coat: Zara; Fur vest: Amaya Arzuaga; Wrap cardigan: All Saints; Cashmere snood and silk and cotton top: Cos; Jeans: Nude; Bag: Marc by Marc Jacobs: Boots: Gap; Trapper hat: Whistles