“Your hair is a terrible style at the moment,” my sister said, peering at me thoughtfully over her pint glass. “But the colour’s good.”
We sat in the semi-darkness of an Islington pub which, despite charging £5 for a bottle of beer, seemingly could not afford lighting.
I pointed this out and Flo agreed, nodding but fixing her gaze on my roots. I hadn’t made things easy for myself: I had blown in, windswept and interesting, after an evening at the Arsenal down the road. The red scarf didn’t exactly go with my favourite mustard jumper and weighty bottle-green hat. Neither did the obnoxiously thick, rustling parka I’ve been wearing for eight years, but at least I was warm. Nothing ‘goes’ with winter, anyway.
My bedrooms are painted a consistently clean white and adorned by a single orange poster about happiness, which took my fancy after a miserable summer three years ago. Flo, on the other hand, has always managed to express herself through complementary turquoise walls, sprawling jewellery holders, and lots of feathers. Everything sprawls with a contented air of organised chaos. Mine is just chaos.
It was Flo’s first night at her new flat in Angel, and I cheerfully invited myself round for a sleepover, edging out her boyfriend. I see, with retrospect, that it might not have been a popular move. Passive-aggressive comments like, “I don’t have any pillows” and “I really don’t want you to stay tonight, go home” fell on deaf ears as I chose a shelf, pyjama set and toothbrush in my new second home.
Come morning, I spotted a person-sized fur coat in the wardrobe that I recognised from four years ago, when Flo presented it as a birthday gift before promptly taking it back to uni the next day. I decided to show my dominance – as a twin, it’s important – by retrieving the cream coat and wearing it to the office that day.
“You look really good,” she said, looking me up and down. This should have set alarm bells ringing.
Fashion was never my forté. In the past few months alone, I’ve been derided for wearing a grey polo shirt, whose shoulder pads caused widespread dismay; a top from Urban Outfitters (I thought that made it cool?) which more closely resembled a tea towel; and, of course, the notorious €1 grey fleece, the subject of several deeply troubling erotic poems that my old housemate wrote in first year.
Identical twins are, obviously, comparable. Though all evidence points to Flo being greedy with the style genes, I like to think of her as my fashion guinea pig. Just like a hatchback car, where you can ‘try before you buy’, I watch Flo careering through life, parading a myriad of textures and hues. Theoretically, this informs what I should or should not wear.
Squealing green ski goggles that are, apparently, sunglasses? Absolutely, go on then! Purple velvet lace-up heels? I suppose, deep down, I’ve always wanted a pair! Eyebrow piercing? Dad, with characteristic accuracy, said it looked like her “head was stapled together”. I gave that one a miss.
I wore the big old coat on the Tube, easing into it with every stop on the Northern line. By South Wimbledon, I was brimming with confidence and strode into the office, inwardly questioning if I should have followed in my sister’s footsteps and gone to a school of fashion, not journalism.
I waltzed in, waiting for the storm of compliments to hit. “I have never seen anything that suits you less,” laughed my editor. Even this could not get me down, and I persevered with the coat until the weekend, when it started to snow. My best friend Katy was down, and we headed out on Sunday during a particularly sleety spell. I generously offered her the coat, opting to wear something thinner, despite the cold. She spent the next hour loudly comparing herself to Macklemore on Tooting High Street.
Today I shunned the coat in favour of three sweaters, a checked shirt missing too many buttons, and my trusty green hat. During winter, I may resemble a new dad in his late thirties, but at least I’m warm. Luckily, the only style hurdle I have left to overcome this year is the inaugural Christmas cracker hat.
Flo texted me this morning: “By the way, I used a recent picture of you on one of my nanny applications, because you looked nice, and you don’t have an eyebrow ring.”