Universal Standard's Pick of the Month: The Velvet Blazer
By : Amanda Richards
I recently took an inventory of the things I currently love, and realized in most cases, I used to hate them — even though it rarely started out that way. Ranch dressing, for example. I joyfully ate it as a kid in the ‘90s; no carrot felt complete without it. But by the mid-aughts, my brain was so warped by diet culture that I would scoff at the mere presence of a bottle of Hidden Valley, sanctimoniously squeezing lemon over my salad instead. Now, at 34, I eat ranch dressing with pizza and tweet triumphantly about how I love the way it makes me feel like trash.
And it’s not just creamy salad dressings. Take Crocs, footwear I first praised for utility and comfort, then shunned for aesthetics. Now, they’re the preferred shoe of every VSCO girl, e-boy, and Billie Eilish disciple, and despite the fact that I am old enough to be a VSCO girl’s mother, I want in. I was thrilled by reality television for years, then decided that the manufactured chaos of it all was intellectually beneath me. Today, I consider it mandatory to consume at least six hours of reality television per week, and will tell anyone who is listening about the ways in which I personally identify with the Ukrainian woman on season two of 90 Day Fiance.
The thing is, I believe my opinions have more or less stopped cycling from things being good, then bad, then good again. In other words, I think that everything I like is great, and will stay that way. I have no idea if my opinions are right or wrong, cool or uncool. For me, it’s about self-awareness and the ability to finally admit what makes me happy and what doesn’t. Crocs are comfortable and look great. Reality TV is a comforting distraction from the sense of impending doom that encroaches upon us all. Ranch dressing is delicious.
One particularly specific thing in my own life that’s made its way through the good-bad-good cycle is coordinated sibling dressing. Dressing siblings identically to one another was, at one point, a very popular thing to do, and I was fascinated by the practice. Think about it: an entire bloodline, dressed in matching overalls and cardigans, beaming for the camera; the resulting photos blown up and hung above fireplaces across the country, essentially a modern-day Renaissance family portrait composed by the fine artist at the Sears photo studio.
My mother never subjected my siblings and I to this, but I really, really wanted her to. When my sister Meredith was a baby, I remember staring at her blubbery infant body rolling around her crib and thinking about how badly I’d love to dress her as a tiny doll version of myself. In elementary school, some of my friends had little sisters who were just one or two years younger, and I was envious of their ability to twin. I wondered if my mom would ever manage to find us matching sweaters.
As we got older though, the thought of coordinated sibling dressing felt creepy to me, and the thought of Meredith, specifically, dressing like me became horrifying. I don’t remember if she ever tried, but if she had, I would have almost certainly bullied her to tears. For years, her and I barely talked, a distance caused by our age gap and the fact that we both had inaccurate conceptions of who the other was as a person: I thought she was a basic, brown-nosing prude, and she thought I was a terrifying and abrasive asshole who lived for drama. Neither of us were wrong, but I was definitely less right.
As adults, we’ve found our way back to each other. She’s my best friend, my preferred confidante, the person I call when I’m having a breakdown or want to discuss whichever piece of trash horror movie we’ve both inevitably watched and loved. She’s the first person I came out to, and I admire her to the point where people I’ve gone on one to two dates with know her entire professional history.
And even though we remain incredibly different people, we really, really love each other’s style. I’d describe her sartorial point of view as crunchy, all-purpose, and approachable; a millennial L.L. Bean stan with a penchant utilitarian footwear (think Sorels and, yes, Crocs. She’d describe my style as glamorous and gender-straddling and extra; the sartorial love child of Tony Soprano and Little Edie. Our looks are on entirely opposite ends of the spectrum, and our size differential means we can’t usually share clothes anyways.
Recently, we found ourselves in a moment of perfect fashion harmony, one made possible by a wide size range and our mutual affinity for statement suiting. I decided to document this moment — not only so our mom could have some nice holiday-adjacent photos of us, but to pay homage to the controversial, but ultimately glorious practice of dressing like your sister. Jewel-toned velvet is perfect for the season; imagine how good you and your Meredith would look standing in front of some holiday lights in these. They’re the fashionable version of matching pajamas, and a very solid reason to circle back to the idea of coordinated dressing, even if you once despised it. It also makes a very clutch sister moment, particularly if you, too, once thought you and your sister would never be able to agree on anything. Is there a possibility that passersby thought we looked like a magician duo? Sure. Did someone mistake us for newly married wives? Yes, and it was an honor. Did we bicker about who would get to wear which color? You bet we did.
When we were taking these photos, I thought about how much I used to hate the idea of her looking anything like me. I thought about how two decades ago, her and I wearing matching outfits would be, for me, a form of torture. I realized that our relationship has cycled through phases just like any other minutiae I've taken time to form an opinion on, whether it be comfortable footwear that pays no mind to aesthetics, a mind-numbing reality show to take my mind off things, or junk food that probably isn't good for me but I love anyways. My conclusion is that none of it, including my relationship with my sister, was ever really bad. I just had to give it some time to let them get good. And luckily, now it all gets to stay that way.