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Down With Clones: Honing Your You-ness

Racked is no longer publishing. Thank you to everyone who read our work over the years. The archives will remain available here; for new stories, head over to, where our staff is covering consumer culture for The Goods by Vox. You can also see what we’re up to by signing up here.

Love, Frank has returned as a weekly style advice column. Addressing a different fashion glitch each week, he tackles all the hard-hitting issues. Submit your own query here.

"Twinsies!" From Shit Girls Say via YouTube.

Dear Frank,

I've been working at a fashion job for over a year now. In that time, I've thrown out old clothes and bought new ones, thinking I was being an adult and curating my wardrobe into a strong "look." But after I wore functionally the same outfit as coworker three days in a row, I realized that I was curating my wardrobe into her strong look.

Waking up one morning and realizing I'm a personal style clone isn't super fun. Do you have any suggestions of how to create something fresh out of what I have (preferably without buying new clothes)?

Attack of the Clone

Dear Clone,

Your quandary seems quite common in the fashion world—with rag traders frequently subscribing to one of a few uniforms. Certainly these looks are elevated in comparison to many outsiders, but once inside the design studio or the showroom chances are good that said elevated look will be elevating a full crew of coworkers; each donning liquid leather leggings, amorphous tops and some riff on the freaking sneaker wedge.

I suspect the first day you and your coworker matched you both got a kick out of it. "Twinsies!" you laughed. By day three, you were both significantly less charmed.

You need a uniform—you just need it to not be her uniform.

Some of the coolest women I've worked with have had some version of a personal uniform. Something uniquely theirs; a signature. There was the one who piled on mismatched jewelry ranging from a niece's camp-made friendship bracelet to Hermès. There's the one who exclusively wore black—with very red lips. The one who collected scarves and wore them beautifully in a myriad of ways. The one who lived in maxis; the one who lived in leather; the one who almost exclusively wore green; the one who only wore her enormous hair in a tremendous, messy bun on the top of her head.

So, maybe they were a little eccentric. And, maybe fashion folk do sometimes get a little tired of the what's-coolest and where'd-you-get-that runaround and end up going against the grain by wearing wacky scarves or eschewing color. But each and every one of those women looked effortlessly chic and always looked like themselves. A feat, really—when so much of what a person designs or sells or writes about within the higher end of the fashion industry can sometimes verge on, well, costume ? While much of the rest of the market looks very much the same.

Essentially, you need to hone (or create) your signature. A commitment to prints; or over-sized spectacles; or a certain fit of jeans; a particular era.

All said, it might be a little difficult to branch out without buying a single thing—but you can start with accessories and make-up you may already have. Otherwise, a fresh lipstick and a vintage scarf are certainly small investments to make. And, going forward, your new purchases can speak your you-ness.

Hopefully, you're not totally confounded by that notion of you-ness. Chances are it's already there hiding under all that Alexander Wang you felt like you had to buy. Let it breathe.

Iris Apfel killing it in Architectural Digest.

And let the experts inspire you—all our favorite fashion icons and rag trade characters have a uniform. Think about the following women and their signature looks: Iris Apfel, Daphne Guinness, Anna Dello Russo, Carolina Herrera, Tavi, Kelly Cutrone, Jenna Lyons, André Leon Talley—each could show up without a head and you'd know exactly who you were talking to. Carolina has managed to do that with nothing more than a white shirt!

Follow your instincts and figure out what you like. You'll get there.

Got a style question for Frank? Leave it in the comments or email one in here. Then buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, because it's going to be ? Something.
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