Erika W. Smith
June 11, 2016 10:00 am
Author

Last year, a close friend of mine and I took a weekend trip to Washington, DC. I’d arrived early and already grabbed us the best seats on the bus (the ones near the outlets!) when she came running down the street, two minutes before the bus was scheduled to leave. When she sat down, panting, we both began to laugh: We were dressed almost identically.

Ten years ago, this would have caused me to run to the bus bathroom and change as quickly as I could, but instead, we took a jokey Snapchat and spent the rest of the day rocking our all-black outfits, oversized denim jackets, and dark sunglasses with all the confidence of a purposefully coordinated ‘90s girl group.

When I look at my personal history of dressing like my friends, I see a path towards growing self-confidence, and a path towards taking myself less seriously. It’s a trajectory that I think many women can relate to.

I went to a private school for preschool, kindergarten, and first grade, and I had to wear a uniform — so my very first friends were always dressed exactly like me. I took our matching outfits completely for granted, though I remember sometimes being a little surprised by how different my friends looked in their “weekend clothes.”

Me (left), around age 5 or 6, in my school's summer uniform

When I began going to public school in second grade, my friends and I would dress alike on purpose whenever we could, something we continued throughout elementary school and into middle school. This practice peaked around fifth or sixth grade, when we had larger allowances and better planning skills. We’d make plans to all wear purple T-shirts on the same day, or buy the same $10 graphic tee at Rue21. But this started to cause some drama as we got older: I had one close friend who was around the same height and had the same hair color as me, so when we dressed alike in fifth grade, people would often think we were twins — which we loved! But puberty hit me harder and earlier than it hit her, so when we dressed alike in seventh grade, people thought I was her older sister — which made us both feel super-self conscious about how different our bodies were.

By the time we got to high school, it wasn’t cool to dress like your friends anymore. In fact, it was very, very uncool. One of my friends and I often accidentally bought the same clothes — we had similar tastes, and our families shopped at the same stores. We had so many identical sweaters, T-shirts, and shoes from Kohl’s and Target, but we very careful not to wear them on the same day.

College was a slow process of giving up that self-consciousness. During one spring break spent at home, I went shopping at Forever21 with a friend from high school. We both came out of the fitting rooms with the same shirt — and, after a brief discussion, we decided it was OK for us both to buy it because we went to different colleges and nobody would know that we matched.

Now, that friend and I are in our mid-twenties and we live in the same city. Though that shirt has long ago fallen apart, our similar tastes have led us to buy several things that are pretty matchy-matchy, completely by accident. There’s that matching DC outfit, and our matching polka dot denim skirts, and our matching floral prints…the list goes on.

But now, I don’t mind dressing like my friends — in fact, with this friend, it’s become a joke that if we make plans to meet for brunch, chances are that we’ll be wearing matching dresses when we get there. Occasionally we’ll get a few double takes, but that’s part of the fun. I feel like my fifth grade self would be proud — and that Destiny’s Child might approve of our coordinated outfits.

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