The jeans and a going-out top phenomenon

When Kelly and Chloe wore the same Urban Outfitters dress to the eighth grade dance, it was all anyone could talk about. 

This gossip had a choke hold on our grade, despite the fact that Urban Outfitters is a major retailer and there are approximately two eighth-grade-dance-appropriate dresses available on their site at any given moment. 

It was the talk of the locker room in Physical Education, and the conversation-starter the following Monday at lunch. 

I, being the sophisticated 14-year-old that I was, sported a business casual dress from Ann Taylor LOFT (“Because you will be able to wear it to other places!,” my mother reassured me). Needless to say, I was not sufficiently fashion-forward to understand this apparent faux pas. 

In the realm of appearance, women face an intricate problem — a pressure for women to be unique, but paradoxically the same, conforming to certain standards. 

Wear similar clothes, but not the same clothes. The relentless pull to stand out, but also fit in, all while navigating the constantly accelerating trend cycles. 

There are hundreds of women that have said this before, often far more eloquently and from a far more educated position when it comes to clothing
(cue the Ann Taylor LOFT dress).

Of course, these expectations extend to all clothes, far beyond dresses for the eighth grade dance. From the perfect white sneakers to the most striking sundress, it must be a woman’s own while also exactly as stylish as her friends. 

Womanhood is complex and beautiful but can also be at least partially summed up as texting a group of girls, “Are y’all dressing cute or wearing sweatpants?” a few times a month. It is a constant battle, except when it is not a battle. 

Although I am far from a trend expert, I have found one instance exempt from the pressure to wear different-but-the-same clothes at events. 

This getup defies the fashion rules that demand an unattainable ordinary extraordinariness and unites us when we are waiting in line to use the lone gender neutral bathroom at a frat house. This outfit is the tried-and-true jeans and a going-out top. 

It is easy to poke fun at such a ubiquitous outfit, especially the cyclical dialogue of “Well, what are you wearing? Jeans and a going-out top? Jeans and a going-out top? I am wearing jeans and a going out top!” 

Yet, jeans and a going-out top transcends practicality and style. Jeans and a going-out top is an emblem of womanhood and feminism, turning matching outfits from disastrous to a bonding moment. Any girl would squeal with delight if she found herself and the girl next to her wearing the same light-washed jeans and black tank top. Some may argue that such a relationship exists simply because there are few outfits that fit the demands of a night out (cute, comfy, reasonable in cost, machine washable). However, with the rise of athleisure, many outfits fall into all of these categories, opening up endless alternatives, and making it clear that the reason is not the outfit itself, but the context in which women wear the outfit. 

In a party setting, every girl is each other’s best friend, mom or bodyguard depending on the night’s trajectory. 

From a young age, people warn women to travel in groups, to cover their drinks, to watch out for not only themselves, but the girls around them. Jeans and a going-out top is not just an outfit; it is a uniform. 

At school, dance or work, bosses, teachers and parents celebrate individuality, and thus it pays to be a socially ept but outstanding individual. 

Appealing to the most people whilst not being average. 

At a party, women are a team. The conventional social rules do not apply to women, and as such, the rules do not apply. To wear jeans and a going-out top unify us. Getting ready in a crowded bathroom and trading accessories and secrets is often the best part of a night out. 

It is a distinctly feminist moment in a world that forces women to be the perfect wife, mother and girlboss. 

Jeans and a going-out top represents women coming together, rejecting the expectation to be constantly working for our partner, kids and career and instead work with eachother. 

For a rare moment, female friendships are at center stage, and jeans and a going-out top are the dress code, the female college experience.