Why I Owe My Older Sister For My Sense of Style

by Melodi Erdogan

Growing up with an older sister had a lot of benefits to it. As a child, she looked over me when mom and dad were busy, she saved me from threatening waves on summer vacations, and she even taught me how to read — which is particularly difficult when you’re a toddler growing up in a bilingual household (my parents immigrated to Canada — where my sister and I were born — from Turkey). As a teenager, she took me to my first real concert and snuck me into bars. And even today, when we live states apart and are lucky to see each other a few times a year, I still call my big sis my best friend and partner in crime. She’s someone I have always looked up to and she’s always had my back, through thick and thin.

While I have a lot of reasons to thank my sister (besides, you know, saving my life a couple of times and getting me out of trouble with the parents), I’m most grateful for her endless support and inspiration as I discovered my own personal style. While I always had a penchant for plastic chokers and graphic leggings, my sister was my adviser and role model when really honing my personal style. I remember the day I picked up her issue of Teen Vogue as a sixth grader and flipped through every page to see what she had bookmarked and ogle at all the items she liked and the different photographs she noted that inspired her. Like most things, I caught on to her interest and fascination in style and design, and vowed to learn more about them both.

At that time, my sister’s style was bohemian and casual. She would wear destroyed denim and old, beat up T-shirts — not to mention long maxi dresses in muted comfort colors. She never took style literally like I did. I thought that in order to be stylish, I needed to emulate the looks in Teen Vogue exactly. So when we went shopping, I’d only pick statement pieces and designer knockoffs. Then I’d put together an outfit I was proud of, and walk up to my sister to see what she thought of it. Usually her words weren’t exactly what I wanted to hear, so I was typically upset upon hearing them. But today I appreciate her honesty and bluntness because she ultimately taught me the importance of choosing clothing to feel comfortable — to feel yourself, and not just to copy a magazine or to please someone else.

As I grew older (and begged my sister to take me to every mall excursion she planned), I began to develop my own personal style. At first, I borrowed a lot from her and her wardrobe, attempting to pull off the boho, casual style. But I became more interested in dark colors and the adoption of boys' T-shirts. My sister then started getting preppy, and I got girly; then she got girly, and so on and so forth. Today, she’s much more glamorous than I am, and I’m more prone to basics. While I know I’ve always been the one looking to her for style help, I know she considers me a source of inspiration also, so it’s nice to bounce items and looks off each other for sartorial advice and direction.

By some miracle of a higher power, my sister and I fit into the same clothes and shoes — even though her bust is notably larger than mine, and my behind it notably larger than hers. Think Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants but with two whole wardrobes and not just a pair of jeans. So whenever I visit her or she visits me, there’s always an exchange of clothes, accessories, and makeup (and of course the inevitable argument over which items to keep and which to take). That being said, there’s one rule we swear by when it comes to clothes exchanges: If the person who bought the item has yet to wear it, or it is relatively new, it is off limits from trade!

Despite our occasional fighting and frustration with one another, I truly do credit my sister with my endless fascination with fashion and the constant discovery of my personal style. While I can’t speak for every set of siblings, I appreciate the relationship sisters have, especially when it comes to a creative outlet like style. Just look at Beyoncé and Solange Knowles (friendly sibling hair rivalries are normal), Kendall and Kylie Kardashian (they even match!) and even the newest sister duo, Gigi and Bella Hadid (and even more sisters who are models in the business). And though I’m sure their sister dynamics are MUCH different from what I’ve experienced with my own, I would also bet that they’re somewhat similar — especially when it comes to style.

I am almost sure that if it weren’t for my sister introducing me to the world of fashion and design, and encouraging me to experiment with my own personal style, I wouldn’t be where I am today. In fact, I don’t think I’d be writing this if it weren’t for her. While it’s difficult to prove as much, I’m quite confident that my sister is wholeheartedly responsible for this hobby of mine — a hobby that has clearly become more than just a hobby. I’m grateful for her willingness to have coached me in the sport of style and to this day, inspire me on what it means to express one's true self.

Plus, it’s always nice to have a second wardrobe.