Work staples

Work staples
Fashion designers Sven Tan (left) and Kane Tan, founders of In Good Company.

Much has been written about uber-successful men who wear the same indistinguishable garb 24/7, but could female high fliers get away with rocking a "work uniform" every day?

Karl Lagerfeld does it; and so does Mark Zuckerberg.

In fact, some of the history's most stylish women are known for a particular look - from Patti Smith's uniform of mannish shirts and blazers to Jane Birkin's bateau tops and bell-bottoms.

And even Anna Wintour, fashion's queen bee and editor of US Vogue, has been known to have her favourite looks on heavy rotation, as does the impeccable Kate Middleton.

Adopting a "work uniform" isn't exactly a groundbreaking act of professional defiance. So why then do most women feel like they have nothing to wear, every time they open their closets to get dressed for work?

"If a woman were to wear the same thing every day, she may be judged as being lackadaisical, not being bothered about dressing and therefore in all other aspects of life, including work," says Joanne Lim, founder and chief image coach of Image Success.

So unlike Mr Zuckerberg, who once said: "I really want to clear my life to make it so that I have to make as few decisions as possible about anything except how to best serve this community", women aren't quite perceived as being go-getters when they don a work uniform of sorts, instead, they might be uncreative or even a tad lazy.

"I don't think society has evolved enough to not pass judgement if a woman wore the exact same thing every day," says Sven Tan, co-founder of homegrown brand In Good Company.

"Men get away with it more because their dress codes are already an acceptable uniform - the common thought is that women have more options so why stick to one look? There's definitely a double standard."

Whether or not a woman could stick to a certain professional look rather than being expressive and eclectic about her sartorial choices also depend on her job role.

"It's more about the industry she is in than being a gender issue," says Andrea Wong, an investment banker. "Actually, there are many women in our line who wear similar looks like a dark suit and heels every day and I don't see anything wrong with that."

On the other end of the spectrum, it seems that many women (and men) in fashion also adopt a signature look.

Grace Coddington, creative director of US Vogue, is known for her all-black look; designer Stella McCartney is almost always clad in her own signature blazer and low-slung trousers; and even Singapore's own editrix Jeanette Ejlersen, creative director of Female magazine, admits to wearing a no-brand white T-shirt, jeans and sunglasses on a daily basis.

"My 'uniform' is a natural progression of what works for me physically, for my work and lifestyle," explains Ms Ejlersen.

"I started as a fashion stylist in my early 20s and spent most of the time either on all fours on shoots or sourcing or recces. My work requires me to think and produce creatively all the time, so the last thing I want to deal with is how I look.

I just want whatever I wear to serve me well - in fit (it flatters my physique), aesthetics (my personal style) and situation."

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