Why Do I Get Jealous Of My Best Mate’s Wardrobe?

Anything You Can Wear I Can Wear Better. Welcome to the ugly world of Competitive Dressing


by Debrief Staff |
Published on

Last Saturday, an increasingly common (but nonetheless unwelcome) scene started to play itself out on my bedroom floor. It was early evening and a couple of my friends had come round to have a glass of wine and get ready before we headed out to a nightclub down the road. The first arrived clad in her normal regalia – annoyingly sexy in nothing more than a pair of jeans, a t-shirt and some trainers – but when my other friend arrived she declared she had ‘nothing to wear’ and asked if I had something for her to borrow.

Bypassing, for a moment, the fact that she did seem to have something to wear (she hadn’t turned up naked), I begrudgingly took her to my room and tried to pick her out something she’d like, but I could bare to be parted with.

As more and more perfectly reasonable options fell out of her hands and on to my floor, she pushed past me and decided to have a ‘look for herself’. With a sinking feeling, I realised she was going straight for an ancient but well-loved Vivienne Westwood dress almost identical to the Zara one I was wearing, only much, much sexier and much, much more expensive. Bollocks, I thought, how they hell was I going to get out of this without letting her wear it? But my annoyance had nothing to do with giving an already tipsy mate of mine an expensive dress I might not see back for a few weeks, and everything to do with the fact that the dress would really suit her and she would very likely look a lot better than me tonight. And if there’s anything about dressing I don’t like doing, it’s loosing.

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Welcome to the frustrating, ridiculous, pointless and expensive world of the ‘competitive dresser’, where just looking good doesn’t feel half as satisfying as looking better than your mates. My competitive dressing started when I was 13, when me and a girl mate at school used to pour over copies of Vogue and try and figure out how we could look like all the Chanel models on a Tammy Girl budget.

Our mutual interest in fashion quickly turned into a mutual interest in one-upmanship in our outfits– which were, at 13, already pretty questionable. I wore one of those Sienna Miller coin belts (in my defence it was the early 2000s), so next time I saw her she was wearing two. She bought a hippy looking peasant skirt, so I bought a hideous vintage, floor-length, synthetic Ossie Clark rip-off that crackled when I walked.

Fast forward to our school’s mufty day and I actually came in wearing a feathered headdress without any hint of irony and she was wearing a tabard that made a substitute teacher mistake her for a dinner lady. That’s the thing about competitive dressing, it’s not big and it’s not clever, but it sure as hell can get very ugly. And totally unfashionable.

None more so than the time I let my competitve dressing nearly ruin my friend’s wedding. Me and my girl mates – the vast majority of whom are closeted competitive dressers like myself – received our inviations to a uni friend’s summer wedding the previous October. This gave us a whole nine months to let the outfit planning become completely hysterical. I heard one of my friends was getting an Yves Saint Laurent-esque trouser suit made whilst on holiday in China, which was enough to find me panic applying for a credit card so I could buy a Dolce & Gabbana dress I thought could live up to her outfit (ok, I admit, to totally surpass it).

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Me and my friend arrived at the quaint, country wedding as if we were sauntering into a cocktail bar in Manhattan and when we saw everyone else’s demure, subtle offerings we suddenly realised we looked less like chic, stylish women of the world and more like dolled-up Donatella Versaces. With more hairspray and a tad less fake tan. If I didn’t feel like enough of a dick that night, you should have seen me when the credit card bill arrived. I’m still paying it off.

All this silliness rarely has nothing to do with men. Most of the men I’ve dated like me best when I’m wearing mininal makeup and dressed down in jeans and a t-shirt, so why is it that I end up spending a fortune on clothes, bags and shoes that I know only other women will not only appreciate, but envy as well?

For me, my competitive dressing comes out when I’m trying to communicate with women something that I don’t feel able to communicate by myself. I want my clothes to send other women a message – that I’m sucessful, confident, sexy, in ‘the know’ – mostly when I’m feeling at my most insecure. A woman at ease in her own skin doesn’t need a handbag to tell the world that she’s coping, her body language and demenour does that for her. A woman who is feeling confident doesn’t need to buy that metalic Alexander Wang skirt to get that across, because it shines out her face anyway.

When I’m happy I couldn’t really give a damn what I’m wearing because I’m too busy having a good time – it’s only when I’m feeling down that I give my friend's wardrobes a moment's thought. So next time your competitive dressing friend is driving you 50 shades of cray with her nonsense, give her a break – she might look alright, but chances are she’s feeling like shit.

Picture: Beth Hoeckel

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This article originally appeared on The Debrief.

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