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I've drawn a lot of inspiration from a certain type of article: stories about dressing like an icon — usually a woman, although occasionally a small boy child or a decade — for a week. There was Jazmine Hughes's fantastic take on how dressing like Cookie Lyon put her imposter syndrome into stark contrast, Samantha Sutton's invaluable guide to dressing like Tay Swift while short, and the progenitor of the whole trend: Sally Holmes's one-two punch of I Dressed Like Kate Middleton For a Week and I Lived Like Kim Kardashian For a Week (way to up the stakes!). There's been a Kylie, a Prince George, and a North West. The Golden Girls, the '90s, and whatever Mom says.
Who hasn't wanted to step into the literal shoes of a woman (or baby) who seems to have it all? After a mile in those Sergio Rossi pumps, the secrets of the world must be that much clearer: how to carry yourself with strength and grace, how to deal with tons of attention, how much absurd work it is to look that good.
I recently turned 30, but I've reverted back to my high school M.O.: buying clothes from a few major, fairly conservative stores (Madewell, J.Crew) and pairing them with pair after pair of the same jeans. Dressed! I could use a week of glamour and inspiration. But what style icon could I become for my week of aspirational living: Khloe K., in the great Kardashian homage tradition? Sounds chilly. Beyoncé, for still being The One? Sounds complicated. World's coolest baby Riley Curry? I still won't be able to dance, so what's the point? Witch angel caftan goddess Stevie Nicks? We're getting somewhere.
I realized there's one woman from whom I try to draw inspiration every day, and that's Meredith Haggerty. Yes, that Meredith Haggerty. The one who writes and edits for Racked, who briefly hosted a podcast my mom just loved, who was once a judge for a small penis contest in Bushwick, who lives in my studio apartment. The Meredith Haggerty who's me. I'm going to dress like her. Or at least, I'm going to try — for a week.
Saturday morning, before the experiment began, I asked my boyfriend what I should wear in homage to myself. "Oh, I don't know, babe," he said, not displaying his usual enthusiasm for me and discussing me, "I think you look like you in what you're wearing now."
I was dismayed at his lack of imagination. But it dawned on me: hey, Meredith Haggerty does look like Meredith Haggerty in what I'm wearing now. Namely, blue AG jeans, a pair of brown Aldo boots that I had resoled last winter, and a black-and-white striped sweater. Comfy, casual, understated: so me. In fact, a scholar of me, like myself, might say it's my signature look.
For the second day of this experiment, I head to work in a Banana Republic black-and-white striped sweater, the same brown Aldo boots, and a slightly older pair of jeans. Luckily, I have another black sweater with white stripes (I have three, actually), and another pair of blue AG jeans (four, to be exact).
I feel confident and comfortable, like Meredith Haggerty at her best. At no point does anyone comment on my outfit or my appearance at all. Nailed it.
"Walk of shame?" Carl from HR asks, when I come into the office wearing my third pair of AG blue jeans, and the last of my black-and-white sweaters.
"No, this is a different sweater!" I tell him, excited he notices my consistent, Haggerty-esque vibe, "This one's from Madewell!"
Towards the end of the day, my editor asks what I was planning to wear on Wednesday. I tell her that I'm out of sweaters, so I'll probably Febreze and rewear the one I wore on Sunday. She asks me to try wearing "literally anything else."
"I've seen you wear other things," she says to me, with equal parts sympathy and encouragement in her voice, "You own other things." I don't tell her what I wore last Saturday.
For a change, I wear a mustard yellow sweater from Madewell and black AG Jeans, along with a necklace I recently bought on a trip to Puerto Rico. I worry the necklace is too new to be truly "me," no matter how much I might like it. Either way, my editor looks visibly relieved.
The relief disappears, however, when I tell her that I have a nearly identical classic lined up for tomorrow — a goldenrod sweater purchased at a J.Crew outlet two years prior. Two of almost-the-same sweater! Lucky! She doesn't look excited.
"I have at least three jersey cotton dresses in various shades of navy," I offer, "but they're mostly pretty summer-y." She walks away.
I feel pretty comfortable in this me-variation, if a little off-brand. I wear it to book club, and the outfit plus a little bit of wine, plus a little more wine, plus hey one more glass, why not, gets me talking a blue streak. There must be confidence juice in this sweater!
That night, when I get home, I see an email from my editor. "Just wanted to be sure you didn't wear a mustard yellow sweater and black jeans tomorrow!" Uh oh.
Today, I wear a red, Peter Pan-collared dress from Madewell with a black J.Crew cardigan, and the same Aldo boots. It harkens back to the way I dressed when I was still in book publishing in 2012, when I had an aesthetic because I dressed like everyone else in book publishing. Even though this Meredith Haggerty look is one that I consider fairly iconic, I feel weirdly childish, like a 27-year-old who's being severely underpaid while making just like, ugh, a ton of romantic mistakes; like a woman who has never even seen Magic Mike XXL. Like a stranger.
Friday morning, I'm tired of dressing like me. I'm out of sweaters, it turns out I grew up at some point in the last three years — which sucks to learn — and now, with all this dumb thinking about myself and my look, I'm late for work. Oh yeah: work. What is a 30-year-old fashion editor supposed to wear? Whatever it is, it sounds binding.
I decide to go the opposite route, and appeal to my truest instincts. What's my favorite, most-Meredith outfit? Gotta be the caftan that I tweet about constantly, wore in a video in my first weeks at Racked, and bought at a Ross Dress for Less for $8. I belt it with a sash that might have been a headband from the Gap circa 2004.
I'm not sure I want to go into work dressed like my truest self. It's humbling to realize that this vision of myself that I really like to trot out is one that I'm not willing to trot around in (sorry). But it won't be so humbling if I can brave the subway ride in my caftan.
Even with leggings, I'm cold on the B train into Manhattan. Cold, and pretty humbled.
Later in the day, I pull the Racked-branded sweatshirt I keep at my desk over the giant belted sheet. I look like the eyewitness to a local news event who didn't let combing her hair get between her and the camera. I feel, like so many who try to walk in a hero's shoes, like a degraded, embarrassing version of my goal. I feel kind of like me, but definitely worse.
On the morning of my final day, I'm still wearing the caftan, but now it's covered in ice cream and cookie crumbs from the night before. I didn't realize how gross my truest self would get, and how fast.
I don't want to feel gross anymore. That was yesterday's me, does it have to be today's too? And then I see it. Right on the top of the hamper. It's black and white and reads "wear me, you you, you" all over. Plus, it goes perfectly with jeans.
At the movies, I meet up with a friend I haven't seen in a few weeks. "Cute sweater," she says, settling next to me to watch Burnt (no shame).
"Oh, I just thought it was something 'Meredith Haggerty' would wear," I giggle, shimmying my shoulders as I say my own name.
"It's weird when you talk about yourself like that," she says.