August 22, 2011

Sartoriaphobia: My Shame

When I was younger, I had satoriaphobia, a word I just made up that means 'Fear of wearing the same outfit as someone else'. It haunted me. Back when I was a kid, we didn't have Westfields (or computers) in which to shop for clothes. We had a couple of local stores and we all shopped at the same places. For me, it was a cute little boutique called The Individual Kid, and the kidswear department of Grace Bros* (David Jones being far too expensive back then).

My criteria for buying clothes as a child was simple. I wanted to look as trendy as Michelle*, the trendiest girl in my year, but not exactly the same as Michelle, because then I'd look like I'd copied her, and what I was really aiming for was a homage.

Well, this was not easy. For a start, I had no idea what Michelle was going to wear until she wore it, which made homages kind of tricky. For another thing, I had no sense of style or taste, and had to rely on my mother to choose my clothes for me. Now, my mother was great at choosing her own clothes, and great at helping my sister choose her clothes** but not so great when it came to choosing my clothes - which is why I was always slightly daggy at school and never got Josh Goldenbum**** to love me***.

Still, I never did wear exactly the same outfit as someone else, except for twice on the very same day.

I was attending a Barmitzvah celebration - that coming of age ceremony for Jewish boys when they turn thirteen. Barmitzvahs start with a synagogue service in the morning, and conclude with a party later that day. I went to the synagogue service in a brand new dress, and to this day I remember it with absolute clarity. It was pink and short sleeved, with a little belt and a bright floral print. And Monica Biggs was wearing the exact same dress. And she looked better than me. I was devastated.
Pink & Shakira deal with it better

Still, there was always the disco party that evening. I had a second dress, a gorgeous little number from The Individual Kid that I absolutely adored. It had a purple tank top, to which a green, pink and purple striped skirt was attached. I looked terrific in it. Sadly, though, Jessie Freed looked even better. Individual Kid my arse. I wanted to cry.

Happily, I have never again experienced such sartorial shame, though my sartoriaphobia has remained. Then on Saturday night, the unthinkable happened.

I was getting dressed to go out to a (you guessed it) Barmitzvah party, only this time as a friend of the mother. I had planned my outfit for weeks: a crisp, white, linen shift dress with three quarter sleeves and a hint of embroidery at the bust, worn with high brown boots and some beads. I got dressed and admired myself appreciatively in the mirror - I looked fresh, young and groovy. Then I walked into the bedroom to where my husband sat on the bed.

"Are you kidding me?" he exclaimed.

"Don't you like it?" I asked. I was crushed.

"It looks like a cultural exposition," he told me.

I did not wish to look like a cultural exposition. Quite frankly, I just wanted to look pretty. So - though I often ignore my husband's fashion advice - I ran back to my wardrobe and got changed.

At the party that night, I received many compliments on my new, New York purchased dress. I liked what I was wearing, but still thought longingly of my cultural exposition at home.

And then I saw her. Another woman, brunette, curly-haired like me, wearing my white, linen shift dress with high brown boots. She was wearing my cultural exposition! If I'd worn it too, we would have been twins. I felt a surge of relief. My husband had saved me from humiliation.

So the moral of the story is simple. Always listen to your husband's advice, for reasons you won't actually predict. And if you're trying to be trendy, don't go for a cultural exposition. It looks like a nightie anyway, and you'll never be as Individual as you think.

*not her real name, her real name was actually Nicole
**mainly because Tanya would say 'I want this' and my mum would pay
***or at least, that's my theory and I'm sticking to it.
****not his real name, but he knows who he is. Hi there! Why didn't you love me????


  1. I like the sound of the white shift!
    PS - Pink seems to be trying to pull that garment off Shakira, so you may not be alone.

  2. Every one of my husband's family events is a dressing nightmare to me. I don't want to look like I'm trying to dress like one of his 20 yr old cousins (band aid for a skirt, bandaid for a top, muffins optional) and I don't want to dress like his mother and aunties (tight black skirt, bagging bright jumper, black look mandatory) who are probably closer in age! I rebel by buying things like woollen dresses that come with pixie hoods from Tree of Life, putting them on then resuscitating the husband and then putting on jeans and shirt AGAIN!

  3. I, too, shopped at the Individual Kid...not me so much, as my Mum. I would choose and she would pay. Kind of like Tanya, I suppose!!!
    Plus, being at school with the owner's daughter was a good status symbol (for a 10 year old!)

  4. Pink is so mad her hair is standing on end...

  5. is "high brown boots" Jewish for "come fook me boots"? 

  6. Did it at a wedding (not mine!) when in my 20s - except it was the same dress in a different colour.  Mine was red, hers was navy.  She came up to me half way through the night and said - "you look better .... I wish I'd bought the red" ...... perfect :-)

  7. Did you find out what your husband meant with the 'cultural exposition' comment?! I don't really get it.

  8. He meant I was trying so hard to look modern and hip that all I looked like was someone trying to be culturally relevant. MEANIE!!!

  9. I usually ignore my husband's advice but not my teenage daughter's - she's spot on.

  10. Excellent blog. Um, what are you wearing next Tuesday night??? If it's the same as me you can go home and change. No, I don't care that your home is in Sydney and you'll be in Melbs.

  11. Well, I had this moment at my Year 11 School Ball. I rented (yes, rented!) a deep blue, taffeta number and not one, but TWO girls wore the same thing on the night! Just in a different colour (hot pink and lavender - clearly, I was far more stylish choosing blue, yes?). 

    I was a good sport about it though. We posed for a picture together and had a good laugh about it. But I do always have that slight fear someone will be wearing the same thing I'm wearing at special occasions. 


  12. Oh dear God, the SHAME!  Can you believe that I've never once, ever in my life experienced this dilemma... I think this has more to do with the fact that I'm so rarely 'on trend' that nobody in their right mind would dress in my clothes!

    You are hilarious and brighten my day... thanks x


  13. I don't think the youth of today share your phobia. They are all wearing exactly the same thing *said the old lady*

  14.  I am a little disappointed to find out that Josh's last name is not actually Goldenbum.

  15. I'm sorry. But it really should have been...

  16. Ah... I knew someone would share my trauma x


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