Do You Care When Someone Copies Your Style?

Meghan Markle and Kate Middleton can’t stop dressing alike. In July, both women stepped out in Gen-Z yellow dresses a mere week apart. In October, they wore strikingly similar maroon polka-dotted dresses a few days apart. Just two weeks ago, they donned coordinating burgundy looks on the exact same day. It could be complete coincidence, but given how much thought goes into what the royals wear, that’s highly unlikely. Ergo, based on simple albeit totally unfounded deduction, it’s either an intentional media strategy to garner press or one duchess is copying the other — and that possibility is something I need to discuss.

As a kid, I was on constant patrol for copycatting. I would get dressed in my closet and emerge at the last minute so my younger sisters couldn’t copy my outfit. I would prop a textbook against my laptop like a shield in science class lest my seat mate glimpse what I was typing. I even preferred shopping solo instead of with friends. My devotion to unvarnished originality was obsessive, but as both the eldest sibling and the type of person who resists looking like everyone else on principle, I was very protective of my ideas. I still am as an adult, though much less so — a shift I’d like to chalk up to maturity but is likely more the result of accepting that no idea is actually original  (thinking otherwise is probably pure narcissism) or the fact that I no longer attend the same school as all my friends.

When I began noticing headline after headline about Meghan and Kate‘s sartorial twinning, I became newly fascinated with the concept of “copying” (particularly outfits) and how my fellow adults, royal or otherwise, felt about it. As a society, we’re sandwiched between an intense focus on originality and unprecedented access to information and ideas thanks to the internet. Copying can run the gamut between flattering and illegal based on context, but in the case of the most basic imitation, it’s usually a matter of perspective. So I asked a few esteemed colleagues to weigh in…

“I had a friend who used to copy my observations/witticisms,” said Nora. “THAT bothered me.”

“I definitely care when people copy me,” Simedar told me. “It bothers me that I do because I like to think of myself as an influencer, but when I see people copy everything from words I use to what I wear — and then get praised for it, like, ‘Omg you’re so funny’ or ‘You dress so cool’ — I get annoyed. I understand that copying is the best form of flattery, but there’s a difference between being inspired and ripping someone off.”

Amelia feels similarly: “I wish I were among those who believe copying is the sincerest form of flattery, but it drives me nuts. I used to get really annoyed in high school if a friend would copy my perfume because that felt so personal! (Even though I wasn’t exactly unique and groundbreaking in my choices.) I also used to be weird/possessive about bands. I’m far less annoyed about copy-catting among friends than I used to be, though. Now I’d probably be like, ‘Whatever, so we match at the movies. I never see you enough as-is so it’s nice to have this same-exact-outfit connection.’ And bands?? I copy all my friends’ music now.”

“We live in a world that is fueled by creativity,” Crystal said, “so while fewer and fewer people have intellectual property, ideas are still the driving force behind everything from career paths to individual fulfillment. I think that’s why when someone copies (as opposed to just being inspired), it can feel really personal.”

As the lone copycat fan, Haley said, “I’m flattered by it! I’ve never been protective about that kind of thing. Maybe because, as the youngest child, I spent so long copying my older siblings that I see it as a form of admiration. Plus, everything always looks different on everyone, so the sharing of ideas never feels like duplication. And now I steal style cues from my grandpa, so who am I to judge?”

How do you feel about copying? (Truth be told, my ultimate objective behind writing this was to hear your thoughts in particular, so let’s get into it in the comments).

Photos by Yui Mok – WPA Pool/Getty Images and Karwai Tang/WireImage.

Harling Ross

Harling is a writer and was most recently the Brand Director at Man Repeller.

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