Monday, 25 February 2013


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


  1. You are meant to live in the warm climate, yes? These gray and black looks are very stylish too. I have a couple of uniforms that I reach for over and over (I never wore a real one for school or work). I have a lot of dark skirts that I throw on with a solid top and a scarf, and try to show personality with my shoes and curly hair.

  2. Love the blog header "One can never have too many clothes."

    Popped by from Visible Monday.

  3. I'm like you, love black! I, too, try to shop more colors but always drawn back to black. I'm just going to accept it instead of fighting it.

    I really like the coat you're wearing! No wonder so many are sold and worn!

  4. My uniform is exactly what you posted here. If you photoshopped my head onto this picture, no one who knows me in real life would even think twice if shown the image. In fact, I LOVE your outfit. If you ever get tired of it, just ship it to me!

    By the way, I truly loved your Island Girl post. I didn't comment on it although I had the best of intentions. I thought that it was a lovely tribute to those who love you and all the places that have made you who you are today!

  5. My "uniform" is usually black pants. pencil skirt or dress with a fairly neutral top...lots of accessories and shoes or boots.

    Speaking of school uniforms....I went to public school; we didn't have a uniform except for the most horrible gym uniforms we were required to wear. They were always too big for me. The school swimsuits were waaayyy too big in the bust, with giant cups that seemed to be made of armor and would fill with water and float away from my breasts and expose me. School uniforms=bad memories and humiliation.

  6. Looks like a pretty sharp coat. Not a single person wearing it here lolzzz I do rely heavily on a uniform, or it's actually more like a formula, for getting dressed. It does make it easier/faster. Skirts with tees or tanks are a go-to outfit for me and I switch up accessories and pick the shoes for function according to the occasion.
    It's good for when I'm low on brain power or just plain rushed for time.
    Becky :)

  7. I've never worn a uniform - the closest was when I worked in a year-round Christmas store (really, for 11 years) and I had to wear a polo shirt and vest (red and green, of course). I hated it so much, since I've always liked being creative with my clothes.

    I don't have a uniform that I reach for at all.

  8. I suppose we all have somewhat of a uniform to a certain degree I literally wore uniforms growing up for school, so now my so-called uniform changes quite a bit depending on my mood/climate.The biggest element of it as you've probably guessed is wearing colours, when I don't have cloudy style days! Your coat is beautiful nonetheless! :)

  9. I hated my uniforms all through school - and still refuse to wear grey as it is such an awful reminder of hideous school years!

    I hate dressing for the cold. I always end up so bulky and awkward. You, however, still appear chic and svelte, despite the layers.

    Sarah xxx

  10. Hi my dear-I wore a uniform for a lot of my working life, so now I'm currently on a career break its great to wear my own uniform which is currently jeans with a leather biker jacket layered under a faux fur gilet or my Issey Miyake wool jacket-all black!! Can't wait to bust out into floral dresses for summer with no jacket required!!

  11. Hello!
    I really enjoyed this post. All through secondary school I had a uniform and when working it was pretty much an unwritten uniform of classic, soft tailored wear but as that's my natural preference anyway, it was never a problem. I like variety and the challenge is to maintain the same style rather than wearing the same things which would really bore me so alternating between dresses, skirts, trousers and jeans means I don't get stuck in a uniform look. I'm so glad you mention vintage! I've been a vintage lover from my school days and I love wearing a vintage piece to add individuality to my daily look. My formula is knowing the silhouettes that suit me and the right selection of pieces for that season. To help me more, I've started to choose what I want to wear from my wardrobe(I have a lot of clothes!) for the season.

  12. V, you can make any outfit shine, be it uniform or not. I didn't grow up wearing uniforms, but when I'm busy I tend to throw on the same background ensemble that I feel comfortable in and add a few accessories. But the basics are familiar and reliable.

    However, your coat is a beautiful piece, even if you see it on others. Providing warmth is a powerful priority, and your layers are stylish as well as functional. Black will always be a favorite for me.

  13. God, I detested wearing a uniform. My all-girls' grammar one was voted the "ugliest school uniform in the UK" by the popular BBC kids' TV programme of the day & despite it probably being chosen to stop us attracting so much male attention there was never a shortage of boys hanging around the school gates at home time. I was always being hauled in front of the headmistress for wearing neon make up or wearing my games skirt rather than the regulation on-the-knee kilt.
    I'm sure that hatred is so ingrained in me that the very thought of buying something from a rack of 20 of the same has made me shun high street shopping for my entire adult life! x

  14. Love your "uniform." I'm wondering if I'll have one when I retire. Going to work everyday kind of forces me (that's my excuse) to wear different outfits, so it will be interesting to see what I will choose when I don't have regimented days. I definitely could be happy with your choice!
    Heather from Friendship, Life and Style

  15. I had to wear a uniform when I was special events manager at a department store. Black pants, icky poly black vest, white blouse underneath. Here I was staging fashion shows and beauty events wearing this crappy uni - it def defeated the goal of promoting a stylish company image!

    I like your jacket and would never have guessed it was Zara. I think the winter uni here is a good pair of lace-up sheepskin-lined boots (like my Uggs) and a fur trapper hat. Alpine chic?

  16. Love your jacket! Saw something similar at Zara but alas not in my size.

    I have been living in LA too long to remember in detail my NY Winter Uniform. What I do remember is lots of black. black pants, black boots and yes a great black coat. I am fairly certain I did not wear it as well as you are though.

  17. The weather up here in the Liverpool area has been just as wretched and cold, and my uniform has tended to a monochrome palette, mostly grey layers. Zara really did knock it out of the park with their winter coats this year, and I've seen a lot of them around on the streets.

  18. Uniform or not, I love your style. Your choices always look good to me. I love the nod to biker chic in the coat and your black layers are always superb. A personal uniform can save a lot of brain damage and time, which is great, but I can't imagine you ever going down that road entirely. The beautiful white laces and exquisite colors look so good on you, it would be a crime to stop with black.

  19. That coat and extreme scarf are so beyond the ordinary. It's astonishing how much difference really good design and quality makes in the most simple style. Sigh.
    I've so enjoyed seeing you in your warm-weather colors, but I have to admit I don't mind seeing your examples of how you handle the same nasty weather most of us are getting right now. It's inspiration ... not sour grapes, I swear!

  20. I comfort myself after any high street buy that it's all about how you style it. Plus Zara generally have great quality.

    PS - Our school uniform was royal blue with a primose yellow shirt. Colour blocking!

  21. You're not alone in throwing hundreds of layers on to get through this long cold snap, I'm just the same! And while it's a good exercise in layering, I'm getting so bored of it! Just to stay warm in the house I've been taking to wearing leggings under jeans, plus a woolly dress and finally an enormous woolly cardie. Like you I'm dying for a hike in the temperature, we just need to remember spring will be with us soon! In the meantime, you look great and uber cool in that layered jacket combo.

    I do have a uniform when it comes to work: dark colours, trousers and brogues. Very different to my weekend clothes, which is why I so enjoy the flamboyance of colour and pattern in my spare time!

  22. I love that coat! I am all about the uniform in my stay-at-home mom-ness--jeans, long sleeved crewneck t-shirt, cardigan, fun belt, Skechers to run around in, a good scarf with either bold color or a wild pattern. It has been so cold here in NYC too and I'm sick of it. I think it is sleeting right now! Think about joining Adrienne and me for 'How I Wear My: Green'. We'd love to have you join us again! You can send a picture to me by March 4. Stay warm! XO, Jill

  23. One of my colleagues has the Zara coat in camel - it's fab.


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