Last winter, I had an encounter with a woman who I never met before who was wearing the exact same style of blouse that as I was. We both looked at each other in the eyes, then at each other’s blouses, and we slightly turned around and looked at each other like we were going to start a wrestling match. Thankfully, we broke the trance and silently continued to walk off in opposite directions.
This reminded me of other times when other people noticed that we were wearing a similar item of clothing. During the late 1970s, when cute dressy clothes were hard to find, I was a guest at a wedding reception in northern Minnesota. A lady who I never met before approached me wearing a smirk on her face and a very familiar dress, the same dress that I was wearing. This dress was not very flattering. The fabric was white with small pastel flowers and a stringy-type belt that did not enhance the waistline.
“I went all the way to Minneapolis to buy this dress. I didn’t want to see anyone else wearing what I was wearing,” she said to me in a very crabby voice.
“Oh” was about all I could say to her. What could I say? That I was glad I did not make a roundtrip for a total of eight hours to buy an ugly dress even though I was wearing it? What did she want me to do? Remove my dress? Thankfully, she walked away while firmly stomping her heels.
Another memorable day that occurred later in the 1980s was when a co-worker commented on the dress that I was wearing. I liked my dress – it enhanced the waistline. Apparently my co-worker liked my dress too. She asked me where I bought it.
“Penney’s,” I said proudly, feeling like I was receiving a very nice compliment. You can image my surprise when I saw her wearing that dress just two days later at our place of employment. Do you think I said anything to her? No, but I bet she was surprised at the look on my face. I think she thought she was paying me a huge compliment by going out and buying my dress, but I didn’t see it that way. After she saw my expression, she had that same silly smirk attached to her face – the smirk that was on the Wedding Reception Lady.
Could it be that I might be slightly immune to being shocked at seeing other people wearing the same thing as me because I wore a school uniform for eight years of my life? From 1st grade to 5th grade, the girls at St. Austin’s wore green and blue plaid jumpers. A red ribbon tie with a button-hole ensured that our white blouses were buttoned at the very top button. Blue knee highs adorned our legs. We eagerly awaited being in 6th through 8th grade because we would no long have to wear jumpers: We graduated to skirts of the same plaid material. The skirts could be rolled up at the waistband to show off a little part of our legs above the knee that had been hiding under jumpers for many years.
I have learned that it helps ease the tension in these types of situations by smiling, approaching the person and saying “I like your outfit!” It is much better than getting an ugly smirk on your face, stomping your feet and getting mad when you find out that someone else has your good sense of style.