DEAR MARY ANN: I work with a woman who spends her weekends clothes shopping. When she likes a co-worker's outfit, she asks where it was purchased and buys the same outfit. It has become the office joke and no one tells her where they buy their clothes. When she comments on my clothes, I ask her not to buy the same or similar outfit. Today we look like twins and I'm irritated as this happens too often. Any advice on what I should do, or is it a free world and I have to let it go?
DEAR FRUSTRATED: The clothes clone wants to be like you and your co-workers. The culture of an office does reinforce patterns of style and lends itself to identifying and experimenting with fashion trends. Copying a new way to tie or wear a scarf is an example of how friends influence what we wear. It sounds like this woman, however, has an advanced case of copycat behavior that borders on fashion identity theft.
Retailers use mass marketing and advertising to promote fashion ideas. Even though similar cutting edge garments are in many of the shops each season, it is tactless and brash to deliberately purchase the same attire as co-workers. Remind yourself that while the weekend shopper spends time and money trying to mimic your outfits, she will never truly capture your style. When you are next asked where you bought something, exaggerate your answer and with a wink and a smile simply say "Paris" and then get back to work.
DEAR MARY ANN: My friend is having her first baby and says she doesn't want a baby shower. We all want to celebrate with her and give her things she will need. Should be throw a surprise party for her?
-- EAGER PARTY PLANNER
DEAR PARTY PLANNER: Respect your friend's wishes and don't plan a baby shower or surprise her with one. Some women are superstitious about celebrating before their baby is born, while others don't want to be the center of attention as they await the stork's arrival. Giving birth has its own stresses. Don't add pressure by planning a baby shower for a woman who doesn't want one. The baby will receive gifts and things the mom needs without the fuss of a party.
Once the baby is born ask your friend if you can host a welcoming party in the baby's honor. If the mom's response is negative don't suggest any more parties unless you want to have one for yourself.
Need some Steel Advice? Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org or write to Mary Ann Wellener, Steel Advice Column, c/o Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, 34 Blvd. of the Allies, Pittsburgh, PA 15222. Follow Mary Ann on Twitter at @PGSteelAdvice.