We form emotional bonds to items of clothing. Maybe it’s the ratty sneakers that have been trashed from one too many parties. Or a signature leather jacket that always garners compliments. We become attached to certain clothes because they make us feel like the best versions of ourselves, but also because they remind us of certain memories. Likewise, some clothing can remind of us of the people we’re close to. We see an article of clothing and think so-and-so would love that. In relationships, just as we learn about the nuances and ticks of the other’s personality, we begin to understand the other’s style—what they like, what they would wear. At the beginning of their relationship, Annie Bojanowski ‘17 and Matthias Kelley ‘18 tried to buy clothes for each other, without success.
“That was stupid,” says Matthias. “But now I feel like we could [buy clothes for each other].” After dating for nearly two years, Annie and Matthias understand what the other likes in terms of style. “Matthias has a casual style but it’s interesting,” says Annie. They haven’t bought clothes for each other in a while, but they do enjoy browsing vintage stores on Instagram together.
Elise Van Heuven ‘19 and Sara Nagie ‘19 have been dating for six months and already have a good sense of the other’s style. “Sara’s style is bold, fun, and loud,” says Elise. “But she always manages to pull it off.” Elise’s style is more reserved, but that’s not to say it’s boring. “Elise’s style is sharp, put together, and clean cut,” says Sara. But Elise also throws shirts with crazy patterns into the mix.
When we spend enough time with a person we usually notice staple items in their wardrobe. “Matthias’ staple is an eye-catching tee-shirt,” says Annie. “My shirts are simplistic, but not simple,” Matthias adds. Meanwhile Annie’s staples are leggings. “Lots of leggings,” says Matthias. Elise says that Sara gravitates to funny graphic tee shirts, whereas Elise’s go-to is her pair of pointed black oxford shoes.
Clothing has currency within romantic relationships. Sharing clothes suggests a level of loyalty and intimacy. The high school athlete giving his girlfriend his letterman jacket in the tired pop culture trope shows that he’s serious about her. However, sharing clothing within a relationship is definitely not just reserved for heterosexual couples.
Yet American culture seems to believe that the only sharing of clothing within relationships is a woman wearing her boyfriend’s clothing. Clothing styles are named after this concept: “boyfriend” jeans, “boyfriend” jackets, etc. Boyfriend clothing is oversized and baggier and therefore supposed to give off the illusion that a woman borrowed the item from her boyfriend (because the man in the relationship is supposed to be bigger of course!).
A woman wearing “boyfriend” clothing is stylish, whereas a man wearing more fitted, feminine clothing is a punchline. Yet more prominent men are normalizing wearing women’s clothing like Jaden Smith, Young Thug, and Jared Leto to name a few.
Matthias isn’t opposed to the idea of wearing Annie’s clothes. “I don’t think I’ve ever worn [her] clothes,” he says. “I should wear your clothes,” he tells her. Matthias has a few ideas of what he would borrow: Annie’s short overalls, her blue polo with a lobster on it, and her cropped tee shirt with an alien design. Annie does borrow Matthias’ clothing. “I mostly wear his shirts and sweaters,” she says.
The “boyfriend” concept in women’s clothing is also heteronormative, because clearly not all women are interested in men. When some women borrow clothing from their significant other, it’s not from a “boyfriend.”
The convenience of living close together means that Elise and Sara share clothes often. “I steal her stuff a lot,” says Elise. In particular, borrowing Sara’s thrift store tee shirts. Sara likes to wear Elise’s big sweaters and other comfortable clothing. “I like to borrow her comfy clothes because I don’t buy comfy clothes for myself.”
Just as we admire certain qualities about a significant other—their intelligence, their humor, their compassion—we also admire their style. Matthias thinks Annie has an amazing hat and shoe collection, while Annie loves his eclectic style and considers him to be “a trendsetter.”
We may notice how our partner’s style is reflection of their personality. “Elise’s style is put together, and she has her life together,” says Sara. Or our partner may encourage us to step outside our comfort zones. Sara’s vibrant and fun wardrobe doesn’t just compliment her outgoing personality, it also has inspired Elise to try new things. Elise says, “I admire how confident [Sara] is in her clothes, and her skin.”
Photo by: Allison Nguyen