The biggest fashion mistake of my lifetime may not be what I wore, but what I didn’t.
Back in the seventh grade, on a scavenger hunt at my local Goodwill, I found what’s mythologized itself in my memory as the perfect summer sundress: soft, rust-red cotton with a tiny floral print and pockets — dear lord, pockets — for something like fifty cents. The cut was simple and it fit me just right when I slipped it on then and there, over whatever I was already wearing.
Still, rather than buy it, I put it back on its hanger and returned it to the rack. The reason: my best friend at the time, Jenny, had something too similar. I couldn’t bear being seen as a copycat.
Fast forward twenty years later, and I couldn’t care less. As an adolescent, I worried what others thought. But then I got older, and I got over it. Truth is, we all have copycatting tendencies. In fact, I’d say the fashion industry depends on it. Lena Dunham recently admitted that the placement of her newest tattoo, a warrior chest plate or “tit chandelier” (as she calls it) — was just like Rihanna’s, and totally “copying.”
But Rihanna wasn’t the first, and Lena won’t be the last: NY Magazine calls the underboob tattoo this generation’s "so-called tramp stamp.”
The more knowledgeable and secure I felt in myself, the more comfortable I became stealing my friends’ style. I studied the style and mannerisms of women I wished to emulate and learned a whole slew of new tricks.
The tramp stamp of my generation was the tramp stamp. Back then, our classmates might’ve said I was “jocking her style.” Jenny and I were both blondish — she was blonde, I had a bit darker hair — and petite (she was always a bit slimmer). When she outlined her lips in brown eye liner, so did I. Then came the glitter.
If Jenny was bothered by having a lookalike, she never let me know. Picture two twinsies at the underage clubs in skin tight black pants and matching mid-drift tops. My bestie was a badass, the type of bitch that’d threaten to claw your eyes out for “talking to her man.” Me, I was shy and bookish — I tried too hard and everyone could tell.
After graduation, we went to different universities. Even so, when I found out Jenny was stripping her way through college, I decided so would I. Eventually, Jenny dropped out of school. Meanwhile, I took classes my new friends recommended. I fell in love with the authors they obsessed over. The more knowledgeable and secure I felt in myself, the more comfortable I became stealing my friends’ style. I studied the style and mannerisms of women I wished to emulate and learned a whole slew of new tricks.
The more eclectic your influences, the more personal your style will become. Even what you think of as uniquely you came from somewhere, whether you admit it or not.
Nothing is original. Everything is a remix. Even this sentiment has been said a million times before.
In recent years, I got an enormous and undeniably similar tattoo to a writer friend of mine. I even went to the same artist she went to, by her recommendation. I wonder now, did she suspect me of my copycat tendencies? After the dirty deed was done, did she resent me for “jocking her style?" My roses are a take on her roses. She has a honeybee where I opted for a butterfly.
Before I made my appointment, I hesitated. Then, I thought of the red dress that got away. This time, I went for what I wanted. No regrets.