Black dresses, fancy aprons, humanity, shame: Announcing the Uniforms of September

Everyone! The Uniforms of September Street Team players have shared their choices, and I’m pleased to announce their public commitment to wearing these things, and (mostly) only these things, September 1-30.

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Also, I’d like to fill in a gap I think was left in the article which inspired this project (“Why I Wear the Exact Same Thing To Work Every Day by Matilda Kahl for Harper’s Bazaar). The gap is the question of what to do with the 90 seconds or so gained when a person’s wardrobe choices have been forcibly narrowed.

Maybe it’s more than 90 seconds, maybe add a few more for when you check yourself out in the mirror and go “wait, this isn’t working” and change into something else. Maybe that happens every fourth day or so? So, total, that’s probably about nine minutes per week of brand-new free time. The assumption might be that we’re supposed to use the extra time to get to work faster. If so, I don’t think the exercise would add much value to our lives.

I propose instead that we blow that newfound nine minutes on something great. Something new. Something we’ve been craving, and it’s clear that we are people who crave or we wouldn’t voluntarily sign on for a 30-day wardrobe challenge.

I didn’t warn the Street Team about this, so in addition to announcing their uniforms, I’ll go ahead and suggest what they might do with their luxurious new pocket of time.

We will start with Rachael, who is an excellent example of how this whole deal is different than the kind of uniform you wore for high school tennis or whatever. Because it’s basically just a narrowing-down of whatever you like best or have the most of or both:

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Variety, but with a theme. Choice and theme are the things.

Rachael is superextremely well-rounded, what with running marathons and biking marathons and publishing and teaching and getting a Ph.D. She does all this is because it’s how she was raised. Woman has a work ethic. You grow up reading books and weeding baby graves, this is how it plays out. I suggest Rachael use her newfound nine minutes per week to do absolutely nothing of substance. Watch recommended cartoons. “Recommended” like you can go so far as YouTube but don’t search for anything, just let the Internet feed you whatever. Empty silly candy, Rachael. You and your work ethic can work it off later.

Here’s Greg:

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Greg’s got a bunch of jewelry thanks to frequent world travel. It is way too ridiculous for work. So guess what? Now it’s his uniform! This is now exactly and only what Greg is wearing to work. It’s his travel stories told without anyone having to fake-seem interested in his photos. Yay Greg! Yay uniform!

In addition to his bigdeal day job at MSU, Greg is an artist, and his giant multimedia portraits of people he’s encountered during all that travel are stunning. I would personally like to show them at the Arts Center of Saint Peter just as soon as he’s ready, which means as soon as he’s produced about 40 of the things. Therefore, for Greg’s nine minutes per week I would like him to daydream about the next piece. No, daydream about the opening reception, which will be spectacular. Hell, Greg, your plan here is so clean and simple, just take an extra-extra ten seconds per day and dream about both.

Here is Juana:

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Juana goes around like she’s an artist but in my experience she seems to operate from a mindset of strategy and efficiency not usually associated with the artsy. To wit, she has a clause:

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On one hand I’d like Juana to keep working at the Arts Center, but on the other, I can see where she’d make a good supreme court opinion-writer which I guess would mean she’d first need to become a judge. So for her nine minutes per week I suggest Juana think about how to fold law school into the mix along with the grad degree she’s doing at the moment, running the Arts Center’s clay studio and getting her daughters to Taekwondo. It’s fine that I’m saying this. It’s always ok to suggest adding one more thing to somebody who already thinks about hyperbolic space for fun.

And here is Michelle:

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This I love. It’s uniform-upon-uniform, functional-upon-classy/dressy, the dirtiest of things upon the one thing we all know should not cannot get dirty: The white blouse. THE white blouse. What Michelle has here is a juxtaposition of different kinds of elegance, both of which play with boy vs. girl, clean vs. dirty, white collar vs. clay collar (that’s my new fashion term for professional potters — you are welcome, potters!). It’s just all-around really good.

Michelle has been through a whole lot of loss due to a tornado, and then recently, more loss due to a house fire. She’s been through those big things and more. You know what I suggest Michelle do with her 90-or-so-seconds per day? I suggest she save it until the uniform has been donned, and everything feels really good, and then she should walk up to a mirror and say: DAMN I look polished and complete. Because she does, and she’s learned how to get there from scratch a few times over. I would say her new nine minutes per week would be well-used on self-back-patting.

Also I love what Danielle is doing:

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I don’t know Danielle very well but she strikes me as a creative who could go for miles and miles in many different directions. She’s done a hardcore job here of limiting her choices, so that probably gets her way more than nine new minutes per week. But then add laundry time, because we are talking about a single t-shirt and I don’t know if she has multiples, but then again laundry time is also good thinking time. God, Danielle, I don’t know if this means you have an extra hour per week, or just the nine minutes, or what. I do know that your purist interpretation of “uniform” entitles you to the most varied possible use of any new time it provides. So my suggestion is that you balance the admirably severe limitation of A-line-denim-skirt plus Campbell’s-Soup-t-shirt with as much free-falling creative chaos as you can handle.

Here’s mine:

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The leather strips are cut from discarded remnants of luxury handbags and stuff like that. Some of them are scarred and most of the cuts are jagged. They are fantastic.

So is all the copper I keep buying from local artists. Do you have any idea how easy it is to justify spending money on local art when it’s basically your job to encourage people to buy local art? Not to mention when the stuff looks like this:

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Check out how the copper is all pocked and lovely. Check out how it looks so completely at home and happy to be on a hand that’s slowly turning into the hand of a much older relative whose veins are popping out. You can see why the leather and the copper are the main things of my uniform.

You can also see why I need to spend my newfound nine minutes per week with this:

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I found it on my bookshelf recently, a gift from a friend a while back, and at the time of the gift I was like mmmm hmmm that seems like an interesting read (but I didn’t read it). Since then I’ve taken to writing about personal style as if it’s the most important thing in the world. Probably a good counterpoint to that would be exploring something far far away from vanity, which is what Martha Nussbaum‘s got going on here.

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I’m excited about this. Excited to read this stuff in the morning, and then think about it while I wear my fancy September getup to do stuff like, say, empty the Arts Center’s dehumidifier. Quick-clean a toilet after a kids’ group blew through the galleries. Which, now that I’m thinking about it, might make a nice photo gallery. Oh my God.

So this is the game we’re playing, Rachael and Greg and Juana and Michelle and Danielle and the rest of the self-appointed Uniforms of September Street Team (it’s only September 1) (you can still self-appoint, everyone else!). You look so great already. Really. I’m excited to hear how it goes, how you liked what you wore, and what you thought about instead of what to wear.

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Happy wearing! Happy September! Do keep me posted. And, read more about my life-changing new crush on copper in the November issue of Mankato Magazine.

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