Vanessa Reilly-Bates

Uniform Essay

by Vanessa Reilly-Bates

As a high school exchange student in the Czech Republic, I noticed that most of my classmates wore a variation of the same outfit every day of the year. When I look back and think of the individuals that I went to school with, the image that immediately comes to mind is their signature “look” – their everyday outfit, in my memory, is as much a part of them as their personality.

The idea of narrowing down my wardrobe to a few select, well made items, and cultivating a signature look, or uniform, based on those pieces, is really appealing to me.
For the Uniform project I chose this simple, navy wool, a-line dress because it is versatile and livable, polished, chic and casual. It seems like it’s the kind of dress that will always be appropriate for any circumstance. This is a dress that I can dance in, or go to church in. I can wear it to work, to the museum, to the party, to the bar, to the market, the list goes on. It looks as much old world (thinking France and Italy in the 50s) as it does modern and hip. It has a youthfulness in its simplicity, and a maturity in its severity. Navy blue is one of my all time favorite colors- at once conservative and serious (thinking the Navy and prep school blazers), and organic and cosmic (thinking the sea and the sky at night).

People used to dress up to leave the house. Men in slacks and button up shirts or suits, women in flattering dresses. And everyone wore hats. I do wish that people still put as much care into dressing as they used to. A polished look can be a great morale boost, not just to yourself, but to the people around you. It’s important to show respect and decorum for an occasion, but at the same time I want to look like I just threw this together.

Participating in this project has truly inspired me to reevaluate my closet and try to live with less clothing. It seems like it would be so liberating and easy to have fewer options to choose from.

Bio Vanessa Reilly-Bates is a person on this planet.  She appreciates thoughtful presentation in all regards, and character. She enjoys getting to know interesting people, nature, dancing, dinner parties, sewing, sincerity, and putting the best foot forward. She lived in Europe for 3 years, went to culinary school, studied linguistics in undergrad and speaks Czech and French. She has had the good fortune of loving family and glorious friends. For 6 years in Chicago she spoke Quebecois in the sales of European train travel to French Canadians. Now she does executive head hunting, in the mother tongue. Her greatest ambition is to find a sense of purpose. She is very grateful and honored to have been a part of this project. She can be reached at


Photo by Alix Lambert, Artwork by Damon Locks

Pattern & Sewing  by Orchid Tailors


Sketch by Jamie Hayes

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