Fashion and Friendship: When Dressing Becomes a Competitive Sport

Posted by on Jul 14, 2011

We’ve all experienced it at some point in our lives: girlfriends who make a competition out of every situation.

If you’re happy about a glowing review at work, she has reason to believe she’s on the verge of a promotion. You’re pleased that your man is ready to commit and make you his “girlfriend,” her boyfriend is going to ask for her hand in marriage. Your five year-old got an A+ on an English quiz, hers will probably skip kindergarten by the end of the week. And the list goes on.

This kind of insecurity and antagonism also plays out in fashion. For example, when shopping with your girlfriend at the mall, she may grab the same dress you did and remark that it fits her differently (read: better). Or after piecing together an outfit that captures your unique style, you’re frustrated to find her wearing a similar look only days later.

It’s easy to determine that such competition is a manifestation of your girlfriend’s lack of self-knowledge and love. But there are other ways that competitiveness can materialize through your wardrobe that aren’t as easy to detect.

While I’ve often found myself the specific target of a competing friend, deeper reflection revealed I’m guilty of competing too but in a different way. At brunch one Sunday, my good friend pointed out that I make a habit of overdressing. When I pondered why, I realized I harbor the desire to be the “best-dressed” at every event I attend. My goal was not to compete with one particular girlfriend, but rather to crush the competition as a whole.

It’s a mindset that is reflected and encouraged by popular culture. Fashion journalists write lengthy articles determining who is the “Best-Dressed” after an awards show and create columns like “Who Wore It Better?” that make fashion feel like a battlefield. Rappers and singers alike will point to material things like custom-made diamond watches and designer bags as evidence that they’re an upgrade from the competition.

And when we face our closets to pick out an outfit with that spirit of competition inside us, we stop dressing for ourselves and start dressing for the approval and acceptance of others.

That Sunday, I realized though my look has always been unique and I don’t copy my friends’ fashions, my sense of style was still too heavily influenced by outside forces. I had given the way I wanted others to see and celebrate me too much power. Sure people’s opinions will always play a role in what you choose to wear, but it shouldn’t be the deciding factor. And outdoing one another shouldn’t be the motivation for looking our best.

Whether you’ve found yourself competing with a friend’s look or gunning to be the “best-dressed,” here’s a checklist to ensure that your look is purely a reflection of you:

-Do you genuinely love what you have on or do you just love the attention you receive when you wear it?

-What would you wear if no one (your best friend, boyfriend, etc.) was there to judge your outfit?

-Does your look celebrate what’s unique about your body and not what looks good on someone else?

-Would it matter to you if no one complimented or even liked your look? If so, why?

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