Competitive Dressing Isn't Everyone's Reality

An ad from Lord & Taylor
Isabel Wilkinson at The Cut recently posted an article praising Rihanna for acknowledging that women dress competitively. "She uses fashion as something more than a tool for self-expression: She uses it as a weapon, as a means of self-defense, as a tool for social jockeying." It's obvious to anyone that it's important to Rihanna to take risks, grab attention and sit at the top of the best dressed list for every event. But not all women are Rihanna. We don't look like Rihanna, and we don't act like Rihanna. So why is her statement about defending herself with fashion supposed to represent woman-kind?

Ms. Wilkinson goes on to say that women build a hierarchy of money spent, brands worn, trends hit, and confidence flaunted based on what we wear. What the author doesn't realize is that noticing someone is wearing a well-tailored dress doesn't send all women into a jostle for rank. Competitive dressing exists in some subcultures, in some environments, for some personality types; but that's not everywhere and everyone. My part of the world is a far fashion cry from the New York party scene.  Sometimes, we just appreciate that someone is in a cute dress. Rather than being competition, she's a kindred spirit.

I saved the ad on the right maybe six years ago because it just galled me. The fundamental problem with it is that friends don't live to make each other jealous. That's not friendship. Not being a competitive person, I don't assume other women are trying to make me jealous. Trying to be better than other people and constantly comparing yourself to them will drive you crazy. I will never have Jessica Chastain's fabulous red hair. I will never have Cate Blanchett's pale, unblemished skin. All the dieting and exercise in the world will never get me Coco Rocha's hips and thighs. I can't be anyone but myself, so why should others be my rubric? 

Ms. Wilkinson wants women to "get real about the ways women use style to compete." Here's some realness: Ernest Hemingway said, "There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” Don't worry about if someone is dressed better than you or spent more on her clothes than you. Ask only if you are being your best self.


Anonymous said…
Why, oh why does the media always turn women against eachother? I hate the term 'frenemies' also...
Jael Paris said…
I am SO awkward when meeting people. When there is a woman in the crowd whose outfit I like, I know I can at least talk with her about shopping. It's more comforting than anything else.
Anonymous said…
This is so transparent. Yes, make women believe that clothing is a competition so that they buy more of it. Make them freak out and feel insecure so that they purchase stuff weekly.
Jael Paris said…
Expensive designer things, no less.

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