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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  • what-what

    Great article… so true I had a friend like this overdressed for everywhere. I agree about the aspect of being “best dressed”, I have no idea how she felt it about it, or her reasoning behind it.

    But I want to know where do you draw the line at imitation vs competition?

    I had a friend that if someone complimented me on a lipstick colour or blush she would have the same brand and same colour the next week. If I was complimented on a makeup look she would ask to use my makeup although she had similar/same products as if mine would give her a different look, she began doing this with a lot of things. I found it all intriguing and was quite flattered at first but another friend saw it as competition and after a while it felt like it was, like she was trying to mimic the look to get the same amount attention she felt I got. I don’t know maybe its how you perceive the situation, or is it the intent behind the friend’s action that makes it competition.

  • I’ve seen the “fashion as a competition between friends” scenario play out in my own life. I had a close friend whom I’ve fallen out with for various reasons, but one of the things that used to drive me crazy was how she’d bash girls who owned Chanel handbags as being “silly,” “ridiculous,” “unoriginal,” and having too much money for their own good–all this while knowing that I had two. On the other hand, she’d always covet quilted leather bags with chain straps and be delighted if she found a deal online for a vintage Chanel bag (although she never bought one herself). She’d pride herself on having found a quilted leather bag with a chain strap that was “somewhat more original” than the Chanel 2.55. I’ve since concluded that there was probably a lot of insecurity and envy operating behind her irritating behaviour.