Friday, May 30, 2008

The Edge

How competitive are you? Speaking specifically, when it comes to getting dressed, do you dress to compete with other women?

At school there is always the Alpha girl. She is the one who is the prettiest, the one with fabulous legs, the one who always wears the right brand, or who's father has the most money. Most of us spend our school days either wanting to be her friend, wanting to be as good as her or pretending not to care. I do wonder how much we grow out of this.

When speaking with someone the other day, they said that they truly don't believe that all women are competitive. In my experience I have found that every woman I have met, who has been honest with me, is competitive with other women on some level. I'm not necessarily referring to feeling that they have to look the same, but perhaps it exhibits itself in the form of house, partner, skill envy. Another form of Status Anxiety. (K.Line, I know you'll relate to this).
When I was at the gym yesterday, I overheard this conversation between two women in the car park.

Woman one, " Did X invite you to afternoon tea tomorrow?"
Woman two, " Yes, X is so lovely, she's invited all the kids too."
Woman one, "Yes, she is. I'm not going though."
Woman two, "Why not?"
Woman one, " Because she's always so glamorous and I can't compete with that!"

Seriously, was she prepared to forgo an afternoon with someone she thinks is lovely just because she feels she can't 'compete' with her in a group? It made me wonder just how lonely X must be if this is the general reaction to her generous invitation.

If I am honest with myself, I know that I have a very competitive streak that rears its head now and then. When it comes to getting dressed, I don't dress to directly compete with other women I socialise with, as none of them really have my aesthetic. I tend to compete with myself. This perhaps comes about as I have a very small and limited social circle at present, and I find that I am at my best when in competition of sorts. I like to be motivated, driven and pushed to achieve something new and, to my eyes, better. Competition can be a double edged sword. Forcing us into places of anxiety, worry and debt. It can also make us strive to achieve our best, giving us that kick up the arse we need on our off days.

How much, if at all, does your competitive streak kick in when you are in front of your closet in the morning?


Imelda Matt said...

I've ALWAYS wondered about this...while men assert dominance vertically , women dominate horizontally. Factor in dressing (in theory the great leveler) and you've got Ash Wednesday in the making!!!

I've worked predominately with women most of my working life (didn't see that and I've seen this play out day in day out. Since I moved to Sydney I would say I dress to compete with myself (cos I'm not competing with many fashion plates) but in Melbourne it was 'man your battle stations'.

ps - I'll email you tomorrow re your comment...sorry it's take me so long :(

Alya said...

I dont dress competitvely.. But I DO dress according to the occasion, and I sometimes try to dress complimentary to what my friends are going to wear.. So we don't look too different.

enc said...

I have a terrible habit of comparing myself to others. I check to see if I look better, worse, or the same as others in a look. Or, I check (at the gym) to see who's in shape, and how I measure up. It's embarrassing, but there it is. I was feeling too-casual this week in the company of a very fab friend, and I was thinking I need to step it up a little.

Kelly said...

Honestly, at least in fashion, my competitive urges never appear. I'm sure they would if I were somewhere full of fabulously stylish people, but as it is I'm basically the best-dressed person in my office and social groups (I'm not trying to toot my own horn. As I write this I'm wearing a brown wrap dress with a pastel floral slip peeking out to serve as a cami, 3 stacker rings, and some bronzey sandals. Not exactly high fashion. But it's better than the XXXL Tweety Bird shirts most of the other women in my office wear). So, more often than not, I actually come up with fabulous outfits and have to tone them down so I don't feel so out of place. I am getting a lot better at it, but sometimes when I show up somewhere having spent any amount of time on my clothes, makeup, and hair, I feel incredibly superficial next to my friends who basically rolled out of bed and out the door. Granted, a lot of them pull the very-casual look off very well and look pretty doing so. But that makes me feel like I'm trying to hard even more.

But I can't say it doesn't feel good when they all come to me for advice before a time when presentation really matters, like a job interview or fancy date.

WendyB said...

I definitely don't dress competitively on a daily basis -- t-shirts and jeans aren't particularly fabulous. If I'm going to something special, I dress to stand out, but if I worry about anything, it's not living up to women, it's wearing something that they're going to point and snigger at. And then I wear it anyway. Basically I dress for gay men.

Cait said...

I'm not obsessed with fashion and am known for wearing 'weird' things but always put together - so I don't really think about comparing much. As for how I'm in shape, yes, but not really what I'm wearing. Here people tend to dress pretty nicely, and I've never been a jeans-and-t-shirt kind of person...making it hard to fit in when we visit the states!

And I loved the red leopard top!

Super Kawaii Mama said...

Imelda: So you can confirm my theory that every woman is competitive with other women on some level then. I'm not sure that we are always aware of it, but I'm pretty sure it is always there. As for Men in Melbourne versus Sydney, you are very correct. I can't say I ever met a beautifully turned out (straight) man in all my time in Sydney. There was a lot of flash, but nothing substantial. Melbourne is a different story, but I think we also have better fashion resources for men here too. (Although if I recall, Anton's has a store in Sydney now too. I do love their pieces.)

Alya: Dressing to fit in with the group; perhaps that is competition in another guise. Not wanting to 'win' in the dressing stakes so much, as not to lose.

Enc: The gym is diabolical for body competition. Whenever I feel my motivation to stay on the treadmill for that 30 minutes wane, I just look over at Uber Gym Girl, and her amazing physique gives me that kick I need.

Kelly: Oh my lordy! What a dreadfully sad work environment you must have. I would find it very difficult not to bring in a make over kit for the team at lunch time. As for toning it down, I sympathise completely. When I moved from Melbourne to Sydney a while back, I had to get an entirely new work wardrobe as what is considered chic here is a bit over the top for them. (We are a more arty/ creative city). I think it is wonderful that you dress to your best, just for yourself, every day. Perhaps it will inspire those around you too.

Wendy: You and I are alike in the pointing and sniggering factor. I know that if I head to the suburban grocery store and don't get at least a couple of point and stares, then I must have missed the mark I have set for myself. Gay Men - A wonderful audience.

Cait: Yep, that competition is always there in some guise I think, be it fashion or body. I must chat with you about fashion where you are, as I am fascinated by the emphasis on style in that cultural context.

fash said...

i try so hard not to be competitive, not wanting to come across to other girls as someone who cares more about what they think than my own preferences. but i think the competition, like you say, ups my game and makes me think a little outside the box. and as much as the good sportswoman inside me cringes to say this...there's nothing like showing up and looking better than a diehard fashion follower.
i just found you tonight, your blog is so much fun!

Super Kawaii Mama said...

fash: A very honest response, thank you. I agree, that there is always a little voice inside that does a happy dance on those occasions. So glad you dropped by, it's always lovely to meet new friends. I've just checked out your blog and there is certainly something we have in common; I too am somewhat of a lazy perfectionist!

K.Line said...

SKM: Such food for thought - perfect, iced cupcakes, bien sur.

I have to give this one some thought. I am certainly competitive on many levels. No point in denying it to myself or others. Particularly when it comes to my home / living environment and my need to be - or at least seem - perfect in that context.

I'm going to consider the style / clothing competition angle. My initial sense is no. I love to help everyone to be as beautiful as possible and I take the same approach with myself. But maybe that's not the whole story.

Something tells me there's a blog post in this! Thanks for great piece. K

K said...

funny perhaps it is competing but I do have a few friends that I'm very careful what I wear when I'm out with them and I'm extra thrilled if I get a compliment from these few fashion mavens. But overall I think I've always been very conscious of my presentation if you will.

As for the work environs well its all boys. sigh they don't notice much... which I might add is a good thing most of the time and just a bummer sometimes for I think I miss that girl talk.

"are those new boots?"
"Those stockings are fantastic"

If you know what I mean. Love your style by the way. And your skin is so lovely! (Is that a weird compliment)

Tizzalicious said...

Hmm, I don't think I dress to compete, but I definitely do pay more attention when I know I will see people who will pay attention to what I wear (other girls?). I think it's more of an insecurity thing though.