One of my first and fondest clothing memories is of a pint-sized accessory: a hairclip.
It was a tiny white satin bow with curlicues of red, blue and yellow ribbon twirling out from either side, and I adored it. That bow rarely left my bangs for most of first grade.
My sister had the same exact one, of course. Because when you're 6-year-old twins, you either have a matching two of everything, or you share one thing. In this case, my beloved hairclip was one of a set.
From the time my twin sister Jenna and I were little, people saw us as one (very cute!) unit, especially because we had no other siblings. Never mind that we're fraternal twins, meaning that we don't look nearly as identical to one another as, say, Cameron and Tyler Winklevoss.
When we were babies, my mom dressed us in matching outfits, and because she had her own sewing business, she could score bolts of fabric at JoAnn's, come home and whip out adorable dresses in no time for us to trot to kindergarten in. I can hazily remember my mom wheeling us around the zoo and the library in our hometown of Cleveland, Ohio, in a double stroller, with us wearing identical t-shirts and toddler jeans or plaid dresses. Neighbors and passerby loved it.
But as Jenna and I got older, we started picking out our own clothes to wear to school. My memory of this is obviously a little vague, so I asked my mom how it all went down.
Apparently, Jenna wanted to pick out her own outfits even as a toddler. "She liked to mix plaids and prints," my mom recalls to me. "She liked loud and glitzy."
But what about me?
"You picked out navys and browns and quiet colors."
Well, that explains my brief career as a librarian.
But even though we had started selecting our own outfits at age 5 or so, Jenna's and my styles were pretty limited to what our parents and family members bought for us. We mostly sported the elementary school fads of the time: t-shirt ties and white Keds with socks.
In high school, swayed by the stylings of Britney Spears and the Spice Girls, I started highlighting my hair blonde, not so much as an attempt to differentiate myself from Jenna but because, well, it was the frosted tip '90s. (Eventually I returned to my natural brunette ways, because I don't think my dark eyebrows were fooling anybody.)
Over time, Jenna and I settled into our separate identities and interests, and attended separate colleges. I started my foray into writing, while Jenna was a whiz at art and design. We also nurtured our own style tastes over the years. I spent much of college in Miami in shorts and flip-flops, and Jenna usually looked more professional. She even started sewing her own clothes, which made me feel like a slacker every time I slouched into a Forever 21.
We're 28 now, and Jenna and I both live in New York City; I'm in Brooklyn and she's on the Upper West Side. And even though our geographies finally coordinate again, we've definitely honed our own sartorial eyes. Jenna would be the first to tell you she's the dictionary definition of "preppy"; she's dragged me to J.Crew more times than I can count and probably does the Jenna Lyons look better than Jenna herself. I tend more towards Urban Outfitters and vintage-y type styles, and I'm usually adorning myself in some kind of leopard print or stud detail that has a rock and roll flare. Jenna's style icon? Stacy London. Mine? Kills singer Alison Mosshart.
But despite our differences, I'm constantly in awe of my sister's fashion sense. Even when we meet for coffee and she's just come from a run, she looks fabulously put together in her workout clothes, whereas I'll resemble a frizzy mess that fell into a Beacon's Closet rack.
Decades after our matching pinafore dresses, I don't think Jenna and I will be sporting coordinating outfits any time soon. (Save for one moment of Brooklyn serendipity that you can see in the slideshow below.) I think we'll always cherish our diverse styles, much in the same way that we've spun off into different career paths and social circles and personalities. Our wardrobe preferences are part of our identities that are no longer rooted in being a unit, a package deal, as they were in childhood.
But I have a secret. One recent Saturday on a lilting spring day, I tiptoed into a J.Crew near Rockefeller Center, lured by the Skittles-colored pants in the store's window displays. I was determined to work some on-trend pastel bottoms into my spring wardrobe. There was no apter place to go.
After an hour of tentatively stuffing my hips into different shades of coral and cobalt pants, I marched a pair of kelly green Cafe Capris to the register. Whipping out my debit card, I made my first significant J.Crew purchase. I smiled to myself. I knew Jenna would be proud.
Check out some pics of our emerging style timeline below! Can you tell us apart?
Follow Jessica Misener on Twitter at twitter.com/jessmisener.