Columnist

Beth Dolinar has been writing her column about life, both hers and the rest of ours, for over 20 years. When not on the page, she produces Emmy-winning documentaries, teaches writing to university students, and enjoys her two growing children.

“That blue looks great on camera.”

That’s what I said to the man I was interviewing for the documentary I was producing. Mike and I were waiting for the photographer to adjust the lights one last time, and I was seeing the framed shot on the monitor. Mike’s shirt was a collared polo with short sleeves in a deep, vibrant sapphire.

“You should wear that color every day,” I said as I returned to my chair and awaited the photographer’s word that the camera was rolling.

“As a matter of fact, I do wear it every day,” Mike said, noting that it’s one of just a few shirts he owns. “Makes life easier.”

That reminded us that a few of the most financially successful men in the world wear more or less the same thing every day. The late computer whiz Steve Jobs sported a black turtleneck every day, and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg wears gray T-shirts. When asked why the lack of variety, even with money being no object, both men said the “uniform” allowed them to be more productive. One less thing, as Forrest Gump would say.

As I write this, I’m sitting in a home office that doubles as a spare bedroom. On the daybed behind me is a floppy heap of fabric that will be my summer work wardrobe. It’s a tangle of black, gray and white. I’m a sartorial snooze.

There are no patterns or colorful florals; I stopped wearing them years ago when a stylish friend told me “After 50, no patterns above the waist,” her opinion being that print shirts and blouses on middle-aged women look frumpy. (She didn’t say whether prints below the waist are acceptable, but floral mom pants would seem to be the epitome of frump, but what do I know?)

Apparently, I took her advice to heart because even among the dressier tops hanging in my closet, there are only solids. And again, a lot of white. Thinking about the uniforms of wealthy men, I realized that I have my own work uniform.

Much of what I do as a producer takes me outdoors, especially during the past year when the best way to safely interview a person without having them wear a mask was to take the camera outside. While producing a documentary about food insecurity last summer, the crew and I did our work in backyards, on porches, on farms and in gardens. Although I never purposely get in front of the camera, I’ll occasionally see a shot of myself on the raw footage. And I’m always wearing the same thing. Black pants and a white shirt.

I dress like I’m the server at a wedding.

At least I have a lot of white shirts, some with short sleeves and some with long, some with collars and some without. Some are cotton and some are linen and all graciously cover my rear.

Since I’m often helping to carry camera gear, I wear work-y shoes. The high-heel ship sailed away many years ago; now it’s sneakers. I have them in bright colors and even some patterns. My stylish friend never said anything about wearing prints below the ankles, so I guess I needn’t worry about foot frump.

My next documentary will have me filming outside on baseball fields this summer. It’s time to have at that heap of clothing and iron some shirts. White, of course, so there’s nothing much to decide when I get dressed.

Just one less thing.

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