Rosemary MacCabe: In search of individual style - why are we all dressing the same?
Is there anything more disturbing than uniformity?
Think of George Orwell's dystopian future; of the twin girls in Stephen King's The Shining, or The Children of the Corn; of Ira Levin's Stepford Wives. All of these horrifying beings had one major thing in common – their clothing. How is it, then, that this horror fare has made its way into the mainstream?
Today, we are – more than ever before – happy to dress like one another. There was a time – not so long ago – when women would baulk at the idea that they'd be caught dead in the same item as a friend or acquaintance. Now, it's an inevitability – at a wedding, on Friday nights out, even at Sunday brunch.
Two of you rock up in the same Self Portrait dress - you compare notes on your River Island Molly jeans; you and a friend hashtag “twinsies!” on an Instagram shot of your matching embroidered Zara bomber jackets. But when did it become so acceptable to be so utterly boring and predictable?
Perhaps it's an Irish thing. We're not, after all, famed for our love of the limelight, and making a statement by means of our clothing stinks of the most embarrassing concept of all: that of having notions. Sure, isn't it easier to play it safe and blend in? You couldn't be rocking up to a friend's wedding in that “out-there” dress – sure, you'd look mad!
And we're none of us immune - a few short years ago, I was stacking my jingly-jangly charm bracelets with aplomb – just beyond my Michael Kors watch, which complemented my YSL Arty ring perfectly (so very 2010). Sure, there have always be must-haves, at least in the world of fashion, from Fendi's Spy bag to Mulberry's Alexa, or J Brand's Love Story jeans – but lately, it seems as if nothing's worth having if six of your friends don't have it too.
This sartorial uniformity has a lot to do with the idea of the “basic bitch”: the girl who adores Kate Middleton, takes her Michael Kors handbag everywhere and just can't live without her favourite pair of nude heels. And it's no surprise, really, when you look at where people are getting their fashion inspiration from.
10 years ago, it was glossy magazines – and whatever accusations you can lay at their feet in terms of shilling a totally unaffordable wardrobe, at least they offered inspiration in the form of artistic, original fashion shoots.
Today's #inspo? Well, that'd be coming from Instagram and Pinterest, and online influencers such as Jules Sarinana (sincerelyjules.com) and Blair Eadie (atlantic-pacific.com) and, closer to home, Pippa O'Connor (pippa.ie) and Suzanne Jackson (sosueme.ie) – sharing snapshots of their insta-perfect lives, complete with glossy hair, skinny jeans and nude heels aplenty. It's no wonder we want to look like them – and the internet means that we can, down to the very same Zara bomber jacket, shopped directly from their feed and delivered to your door in less than 24 hours.
If it's a tide of change, it's one that seems almost unstoppable. And who knows? Perhaps in another 10 years' time, the phrase “on Wednesdays, we wear pink”, won't seem quite so laughable.