Who Do We REALLY Dress to Impress?

By Arden Edelcup (The “Beauty Babe”

In the last few years, Thursday nights have become a ritual of “Girls Night Out” among my group of friends looking to gloss it up and sip some fruity martinis at a local trendy restaurant. After a day of working or chasing kiddies, we eagerly peel off our usual day-time “Mommy Attire” of leggings and flip-flops. We then peruse our closets for a pair of perfectly torn jeans, a sexy yet age appropriate blouse & relentlessly painful stiletto boots. Armed with our clutch handbag (with the subtle designer logo), a quick mist of sultry fragrance, an armful of spiritual but cool Buddha bracelets, we are rearing to go out and strut our stuff.

These weekly sexy get-ups are reserved ONLY for my girls’ night soirees.

As I was heading toward the door last Thursday, my hubby glanced over and said in a goofy voice: “Looking gooooood, baby! Where are you going all hot ‘n’ sexy?”

As I checked out my face one last time in the hall mirror, I breezily replied, “Girls Night Sushi at Leslie’s house.” He shook his head in mock disbelief and then chuckled with slight sarcasm, “Wow, remember the good ol’ days when you put that much effort into me. Looks like you’d rather look hot for your friends.”  I rolled my eyes and continued my journey out the door.

Admittedly, after 20 years in a cushy comfortable marriage to a man who has seen me give birth, I rarely feel compelled to entice him anymore. 

When I came home hours later from another fun-filled night spent sipping Skinny Girl Cosmos and engaging in “harmless” gossip, I immediately flung off my stilettos, scrubbed my glossy face clean, slathered on my smelly anti-aging potions and eyelash growth serum, tossed on a tattered T-shirt with strange food stains, and flopped into bed.  My husband grunted hello through his snores, and understandably rolled the other direction. My night-time skincare regime is not easy on any of the senses.

The next morning, I pondered what my hubby lamented the night before.

Why did I squeeze into those pricey Free People jeans for a group of women I’ve known since college? And more disturbingly, why didn’t it occur to me to exert the same heroic effort into sexing it up for him?  

Well, as any self-reflective middle-aged beauty blogger would do, I did a little investigative research into this and was shocked at what I dug up. Begrudgingly, I had to admit that the hubby stumbled upon a rather disturbing truism. We ladies like to dress to impress … each other.  A recent poll of 2,000 by Simple Skincare found two-thirds of all women dress up to encourage compliments from other women. More than a quarter said the most genuine compliments they received came from women — not men.  And 48 percent of women polled “actually prefer” to get a compliment from a female stranger as opposed to a man. This study ran contrary to my long-held, yet misguided belief that women were laser-focused on vying for that coveted male appreciation.

With this arsenal of newly acquired facts, I began to see that we women really do crave morsels of approval from one another. 

At my niece’s recent wedding reception, I found myself surrounded by a room full of familiar acquaintances dressed up with their manicured nails and sleek blown-out hair. During cocktail hour, all the women bounced around the room dispensing breezy air kisses, and this familiar mantra was repeated to everyone: “You look sooooo beautiful”.  This is followed by the obligatory responses of  “So do youuuuuu….”.  The shallow adulation filled the air and was used to describe everyone and everything from our “fabulous dresses” (Was that really a vintage Chanel?) to our “miraculous agelessness” (Who did that Botox? Her eyebrows were a bit Dr. Spock-ish). After a few minutes of polite “ego gratifying” banter, we slipped away to the next “complimentary” wedding guest.  To be quite honest, I barely remember seeing my husband during the wedding because I was very busy with this flurry of mindless chatter with women whose names I barely remember.

I pondered this female compulsion to observe, analyze, comment and compare ourselves to other women. (On a side note, if my husband focused on women with this SAME intensity, I’d have a private investigator hot on his trail).

By the time we reach adulthood, women are masterful in the not-so-subtle art of checking out the competition. Even when we delude ourselves into thinking we are being nonchalant — make no mistake we are blatantly and comically obvious.

Who has not walked into a crowded restaurant and felt the head-to-toe body scan being performed by other women?

Let’s face the fact that we don’t want to just glance casually because frankly we have a tremendous amount of information to process. We want to soak in the whole shebang from the daring neon blue nail polish, to the amazing gravity-defying boobs, and chic (designer?) handbag tossed casually on the table. Random thoughts start racing through our brains at lightening speed. “Damn that girl can make neon blue look chic … I could never get away with that polish color … I wish I didn’t bite my nails …”  Well, you get the picture.

Perhaps we are momentarily transfixed and mixed with emotions of curiosity, envy and awe. Or maybe we automatically compare ourselves to that woman, wondering what it is like to be her and sometimes, we see her as someone we’d like to know more about.  

A few years ago while in the middle of a fierce tennis match in scorching heat, I blurted out to my competitor as she lifted her glittering hand to serve: “Wow, your diamond is enormous! Can you come to the net so I can see it?”  Rather than be annoyed at my impulsive outburst, she flashed a huge smile, dropped her racquet and galloped right over to stick her hand in my face.  I don’t remember the match outcome but I do remember our sweaty ladies lunch afterwards where we immediately giggled about my “inappropriate lack of decorum”.  A simple and sincere compliment created a temporary connection that bonded us in lunchtime laughter with a whole group of women who moments before battled it out on the courts.

Even my friend who swears to be utterly disinterested in fashion, designer labels and state-of-the-art hair treatments, was downright giddy that a young woman stopped her at the grocery store to admire her “funky fedora hat” that made her look “hip and cool”.  She finally admitted that it made her day to bask in the glow of another woman’s admiration. I congratulated her for her “Glamour DO” moment and then we shared our thoughts on why we crave female validation.

We decided that a woman’s compliment just feels more sincere than a man’s because it is bestowed upon us without any awkward sexual undertones or expectations. 

There is no self-serving sexual motivation when a woman gushes that she thinks you rock those three-inch Jimmy Choos …

Yet for those of us who are lucky enough to be with a man who is still attracted to you in a mud mask and wicked morning breath, try to conjure up those dormant memories of how amazing it felt when you first rocked his world in your stirrup leggings, long glittery earrings and quite large, puffy hair. Yes, your wedding picture does not lie. Your hair was that huge, and while fashion and hairdos continue to evolve throughout the decades, that man never really gave a shit about any of it.

His compliments are totally, unabashedly, 100 percent coated in sexual innuendo and you should revel in it. I shamefully admit, that decades together have created an arrogant laziness that I justify as a testament to our solid union. But at the end of the day, it’s THAT man who will leer at you from head to toe and remarkably like what he sees. Mercifully, he is utterly immune to the lightening speed changes in fashion and style and impressive designer labels.

He quite literally just wants to see what’s underneath. 

There is a lovely simplicity to that and it should also be nurtured and not be taken for granted. So next time you are strutting past your guy with a very, very little black dress for your Girls Night Out, spend a second to give him a wink and remind him that it comes “off” for him later. And rethink the gloppy skin creams that night too. It takes such little effort to let him know that you may dress for the world, but you “undress” for him.

Lisa Barr, Editor of GIRLilla Warfare: Arden Edelcup is a Mom of three “Indiana Hoosiers” and owner, with her hubby Earl Edelcup, of Ross’s in Highland Park, Illinois. Check out her website: www.rosscosmetic.com.

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