Hannah Gillott with permission for Varsity

The only time I’ve ever come close to ending a friendship is while charity shopping. I would try to shirk blame for this, but I can’t – something comes over me when I set foot in a Sue Ryder that I can neither explain nor defend.

“My friends and I have started to play mind games while we shop”

I like to think I’m a good person. I try to be considerate. I try to put other people first. But as soon as I’m hit by the musty smell of a dozen old ladies’ moth eaten wardrobes, I become an entirely different woman. It’s not my fault. I’m an addict. When in an Oxfam, I’m selfish, greedy – and I hate to admit this – a terrible friend.

My friends and I have started to play mind games while we shop. “I’ll have it if you don’t want it,” makes the person who found their 6th pair of linen trousers that day suddenly decide they’re a must-have. So now, if we really want what someone else has, it’s a different tactic we employ: “That’s so cute! Like I wouldn’t buy it, but it’s so you”. For context, so you means ugly as shit. And when they ditch the 2000s (ironic?) baby tee (read: child’s top), you can scoop it right up.

Really, the issue is this: my friends and I want the exact same things. This, paired with the fact that the charity shopping regulars of our group happen to be roughly the same size, turns what should be a lovely afternoon trip punctuated by a chance to recoup with a Costa panini, into what I can only describe as a shopaholic’s Hunger Games. And the cornucopia? That £3 boatneck top with the flared sleeves.

Hannah Gillott with permission for Varsity

This competitive streak could easily be avoided if I had any semblance of personal style outside of our hive-mind. But sadly, I do not. In a world becoming increasingly obsessed with constructing a unique wardrobe, I am embarrassingly unable to, and I find myself dressing just like everyone else I spend time with. In fact, I notice that when I spend time with a new group of people, my style begins to slowly evolve.

Here’s an example: I had never seen the point of a skinny scarf until uni. But after a year schlepping back and forth from sidge, something felt off. I wasn’t quite the right temperature. Suddenly, a thin piece of fabric to keep my neck ever-so-slightly warmer than the rest of my body was exactly what I needed. Now, I have enough to fill my scarf rack (yes, I have one of those. It’s surprisingly useful).

This trait is something I’ve come to expect of myself. I’ll be moving to Spain next week, and can almost guarantee that I’ll slowly find myself swapping the North London X Cambridge look for a clean, Zara-inspired style. I’m dreading it. But I know it must be.

But I’m not embarrassed to admit this. In fact, I love dressing like everyone around me. I like that it’s not just mannerisms, phrases, and book recommendations I pick up from friends, but style, too. I can look at a pair of jeans in my wardrobe and think: God, I know exactly who encouraged me to get these when I reached a point of delirium in the Ely Cancer Research. I like the idea that while some home friends may be on another side of the country to me – or soon, the continent – they’ll be wearing the maxi skirt we fought over that one rainy day in Bath.

“I’ve had some of the best nights of my life in friends’ dresses – and hunched over a sink desperately scrubbing my sick out of friends’ shirts”

Clothes can constitute a sense of community. Call that an exaggeration – and it may well be one – but there’s a reason teachers continue to espouse the benefits of school uniform. There’s something comforting about wearing the same outfits as the people around you – something which makes you feel at home, and less of an outsider.

At uni, my friends and I have taken a shared look even further. We have a communal wardrobe (and by that I mean, my wardrobe has an open door policy, and I tend to make use of the state of indebtedness in which this leaves my friends).

Hannah Gillott with permission for Varsity

When packing up my clothes to head home, I found myself making runs across the corridors with bundles of going out tops I’d stolen, or trousers I’d nicked on those days when nothing fits right. And each time I opened my door, I found a pile of clothes returned to me from a mystery thief. Putting up my second year photos on my bedroom wall at home, I could look at each one and think: “So that’s where that top went”. I’ve had some of the best nights of my life in friends’ dresses – and hunched over a sink desperately scrubbing my sick out of friends’ shirts.


Mountain View

Freshers club night style guide

I’m not suggesting that anyone rebuild a wardrobe each time you make a new group of friends, or for each stage of your life. That would be absurd – and no one has the money for that, even if you restrict yourself just to second-hand shopping. But what I am saying is that there is nothing wrong with dressing just like everyone else. I’ll continue taking inspiration from my friends – and by that I mean stealing clothes out of their wardrobe – until they finally decide they can’t cope with the woman I become in a British Heart Foundation. Maybe then I’ll have to develop a personal style. But hopefully not.