How Clothing Connects Us: Dressing Differently When You Look Exactly Alike
For our first editorial in 2020, we’re telling stories about how clothing connects us. We spoke to three pairs — one connected by love, one connected by family, and one connected by a shared idea — to highlight how the simplest pieces of clothing can become the tie that binds two people with different perspectives and senses of style.
From some, if not most angles, New York City-based stylists Taryn and Lauren Bensky look exactly alike. Somehow, though, when we put them in front of the camera, they looked remarkably different. It wasn’t the wardrobe — in fact, we styled them in similar, and sometimes even identical pieces. What set them apart, we realized, was their individual sense of style; their individual presences overpowering the similar details of each look.
For them, the distinction didn’t feel like anything new. In fact, even when they share their own clothing (which they describe as the “best part of being a twin”) they don’t feel like they end up looking like each other. Below, Taryn and Lauren discuss how they maintain their own perspectives on style, and how clothing connects them to themselves, each other, and their work.
ON THE ORIGIN OF THEIR CONNECTION TO CLOTHING
Lauren: Our mother dressed us both in really amazing outfits when we were growing up; identical clothing, but always in different colors, so we retained our individual sartorial personality. I think from that, I actually enjoy twin dressing — wearing the same thing as other people. For example, I’m not someone who would be bothered by someone wearing the same dress as me to an event, or the same top, or whatever it is. I think style is in the way the individual wears the clothing.
Taryn: Once we could start dressing ourselves, or at least vocalizing what we wanted to wear, the departure in style expanded beyond color palette. I remember really noticing our sense of style was quite different in college, when we both came home for the holidays and had totally different clothes — but of course, it started before that. Everyone uses clothing as a means of personal expression, and it certainly was for us.
ON CONNECTING TO THEMSELVES THROUGH CLOTHING
Lauren: Connecting with one’s self through clothing should be completely instinctual. I think we are all drawn to things that cannot be completely defined or understood and I love that about fashion. It is too many things to even describe or quantify, but when you wake up and reach for the black turtleneck — or whatever it is — to wear that day, it's just the right thing.
Taryn: I really love color, and things that make me laugh or have hidden details. I usually incorporate those into my wardrobe. The general idea of clothing is to both express your insides, but also put you at ease enough to be yourself completely — and forget what you're wearing, in a sense. I really love fashion but I don't want to be the center of attention, so it's a constant balance of celebrating the fantasy of fashion with simplicity and plainness. It's difficult to articulate what makes me feel like I'm expressing the truest form of myself through my wardrobe, but I think it's an amalgamation of many different, sometimes conflicting, facets of my personality. An eclectic, sometimes chaotic, melting pot.
ON STYLING PEOPLE THROUGH THEIR OWN LENS
Taryn: After hundreds of fittings with many different people and personalities, everyone truly looks best in what they feel most comfortable, and like themselves in. And when I say comfortable, I don't mean comfy like wearing sweatpants — it's comfort in one's own skin and how they want to be seen. It's really easy to want whomever I'm dressing to wear what they like, because I know at the end of the day, they're going to take the best photos. But sometimes it is a negotiation, especially with people who aren't comfortable being photographed or seeing photos of themselves. The clothing that photographs best might fit a bit tighter than they're used to wearing, or have a different silhouette or palette. When a fitting begins, I know I need to establish a trust immediately. If I'm working with a celebrity or personality, I want to honor their personal style, but if I'm working with a model, they're often a canvas for the narrative. It depends on the project, but I do often want to inject my personal sense of style in my work — that's very much part of what makes a client choose to work with you again and again. It's an aesthetic choice rather than what I tend to wear day to day — I'm not dressing others in my clothes or to match my personality, but rather using my taste to make them look their best or capture a mood.
Lauren: To me, style is ease. The first step when styling someone is always to ask them what they feel comfortable in, and what they are drawn to wear. If you force something, it immediately comes across as false or artificial and the clothes end up wearing the person. I can suggest things I think would look great, but ultimately if someone feels strongly about a piece of clothing or a look, their enthusiasm will come across regardless of whether it is the “right thing” for them to wear. I think people focus too much on what is thought to be “flattering” and what suits their figure or the dress code or whatever it is.
ON WHAT THEY AGREE ON - AND WHAT THEY DON'T
Taryn: We agree on a lot! Lauren has great taste. We both love a miniskirt and a grandma heel. Lauren is typically quite dressed up, whereas I tend to be a bit more casual. I love breaking a rule. But one thing we agree on is to always be dressed appropriately for the occasion, whatever that may be — it shows respect for yourself and your companions.
Lauren: We agree that you should invest in pieces that you really love, as opposed to just purchasing pieces that don’t excite you. We both wear the same key pieces from our wardrobe over and over and it’s important to us to spend money on clothing that both inspires and excites us, by companies that we feel align with our views and thoughts on the world today. We almost never disagree on the ethos of style. We have a very similar point of view and understanding of fashion and style, so I think while we personally have different preferences in fashion and in our wardrobe, we agree on the big things.
ON WEARING WHAT MAKES THEM FEEL MOST LIKE THEMSELVES
Lauren: I feel most like myself when I am wearing something I really love. That could be anything. Spending time and money on vanity, and seeking beauty, makes sense to me in the way that if something allows me to check one worry off my list, that is something worth pursuing. Feeling confident and beautiful and being able to completely forget about your appearance allows you to focus your energy on other things.
Taryn: I love an earth tone and tend to wear warm, sandy, tawny shades most often, with a bit of dusty and jewel tones thrown in - I'm always looking for a new color combination. I also love fashion history and will include subtle nods to the past (such as miniskirts, wide-legged trousers, a square-toed boot) but am always obsessed with modernity and what's next. It's not the most sustainable thing to say but my favorite outfit is whatever's new. I do wear my clothes to death, though, to the point where things feel like they should be buried when they're reached their expiration date — I experience so much in each garment.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.