Try dressing the same way for success

Alexia Elejalde-Ruiz
Chicago Tribune

Chicago — With a busy job and two young kids, Amy Zinck has many mornings when “mirrors are not part of my life.”

Luckily, she has little need for them.

For much of her career, the Chicago resident has gone to work wearing a self-prescribed uniform that has made her morning routine a think-free 15-minute affair.

Zinck, 47, reliably dons a pantsuit — usually black, though she also has gray and brown and if she “goes crazy” she may wear a skirt, she laughs — with a classic top and her hair pulled into a low ponytail. Her signature flourish is a scarf.

“If you’re worried about what you’re wearing, you’re not very present,” said Zinck, vice president of Chicago-based Terra Foundation for American Art and director of its Paris office.

Successful people have long extolled the professional virtues of having a personal uniform, with Steve Jobs’ black turtleneck and Mark Zuckerberg’s gray T-shirt and hoodie as famous examples. But recently the spotlight has been cast on women, who are less commonly associated with sartorial sameness.

Elizabeth Holmes, founder and CEO of health care tech company Theranos, told Glamour in an interview published in March that consistently wearing a black turtleneck gives her one less thing to think about so she can focus on work.

In an April essay in Harper’s Bazaar, Matilda Kahl, art director at advertising agency Saatchi & Saatchi, revealed that dressing pressures caused such angst one morning almost three years ago that she has since worn a daily uniform of black pants, a white silk blouse and black leather bow around her neck, prompting some co-workers to wonder at first if she had joined a cult.

A Huffington Post article last month that pondered whether women get more backlash than men if they wear the same outfit every day inspired the hashtag #sameoutfitdifferentday and enthusiastic Twitter declarations from followers determined to give it a try. A few journalists experimented but struggled. In SFGate, style reporter Maghan McDowell wrote that “the lack of self-expression left me feeling uninspired and unfulfilled” after a few days in a black pencil skirt and white blouse.

The monotony of a uniform, to say nothing of the sideways glances from co-workers quietly wondering if you haven’t been home for a few days, keeps many people from joining the club. But research suggests people might perform better during the day if they didn’t start it by wracking their brains about what to wear.