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I Can’t Stop Stealing My Coworkers’ Style

This is a confession as much as it is a compliment.

Photo: Melodie Jeng/Getty Images

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I pride myself on being someone with a “personal style” — a look that’s relatively cohesive and leads other people to tell me things like “Those shoes are so you” or “That’s such a Tiffany outfit.” Defining my personal aesthetic each season is important to me, so much so that I go to the extreme of making an outfit mood board every time the weather changes. It’s what keeps me committed to a particular type of item — like white button-downs, or high-waisted denim — and helps me avoid overspending on things that don’t really fit into the construct of myself I’ve created for however many months. This past fall, the look I wanted to project was casual-but-has-her-shit-together; I bought a lot of turtlenecks.

But you know what? I have to come clean. There’s another layer of this process that I’m a bit embarrassed about, and it’s that I regularly crib my coworkers’ style.

I never wore a pair of culottes until Britt got here, and never thought to tie a bandana around my neck before I saw Stephanie do it. When I’m out shopping, I often find myself drawn to shoes I think Tanisha would like. I wore straight-leg jeans with non-fashion sneakers and very visible socks the other day because I’ve seen Eliza do it. And I bought my first A-line skirt because of Elana.

I think this is largely a proximity thing, in the same way that women who live together allegedly all get their periods at the same time. This has never, ever happened to me, but the women whose style I steal the most happen to sit on the right and left side of me every single day. It didn’t happen overnight; the most audacious thing I could have done would have been to steal Britt’s style her first month on the job. I eased into borrowing her style — and everyone else’s that I’ve subsequently co-opted — in the same way I would any new friendship (except in this case, a text here and there translates to a shoe style here, a silhouette there).

I’ve begun to notice that the outfits I tend to copy the most are the ones that are what I consider to be the most difficult to pull off — things that really involve a commitment to a theme (culottes!) and a strong projected sense of confidence. Cropped wide-leg pants can be hard to wear! And it takes a certain amount of resolve to grab a neckerchief in the morning and decide it’s the focal point of your outfit. Furthermore, there’s nothing shy about owning a pair of fuzzy sandals and wearing them as your default shoe.

The looks I’ve been inspired to steal aren’t “look at me” outfits — they’re “this is me” outfits, and I gravitate toward that hard. As someone who obsesses frequently about what is and isn’t me, that thoughtful consideration to an overall aesthetic, translated through a pair of shoes or style of pants, is something I want to emulate every day.

So this is as much an admittance of guilt as it is, I hope, a compliment. Imitation is my sincerest form of flattery, and my way of saying “I think you have a great thing going on.”