Wardrobe Envy Is Real (& Could Be Hurting Your Friendships)

On the surface, wardrobe envy sounds like a silly, momentary problem that probably only applies to people who are too privileged to have real issues to worry about. When you dig a little, however, it becomes clear that experiencing wardrobe envy on a regular basis can be indicative of much deeper issues that affect larger areas of your life. If you can't stop comparing your sense of style to your sister's or you secretly daydream about a mysterious, closet-only fire breaking out at your best friend's house, it's time to examine what's lurking below the surface.


Beauty and fashion may only be skin deep, but your feelings about them can reveal hidden truths about where you are in your journey of personal growth and self-acceptance. Join us for a deep dive on wardrobe envy, how to figure out what it may signify for you, and what you can do about it. 

Assess your true feelings

Much like anger, envy is a secondary emotion — a feeling that exists to protect you from a more devastating primary emotion you aren't yet ready to process. For example, getting angry and screaming at your friend or significant other for showing up late to an event that is important to you is a defense mechanism. Deep down, you actually feel unappreciated, neglected, unloved, or maybe even unlovable. Those emotions, however, are very painful to feel and require a high level of vulnerability to acknowledge; it's much easier to let anger take over.


Feeling envious of your friend's wardrobe is a similar situation. Whether it's their overall style or the actual garments in their closet that trigger you, envy and bitterness are much more comfortable emotions than the deeper feelings they protect you from. If you regularly feel envious of your friends' wardrobes, it's time to get real about what's actually happening with your feelings. Spend some time writing in a journal about the way seeing your friends' wardrobes makes you feel. Does it bring up insecurities about your body? Your own sense of style? Your financial limitations or lack of confidence? Dig deep until you find the primary emotion at the core of the issue. 

Communicate openly

Once you've identified the emotions at the core of your wardrobe envy, it's time to 'fess up to your friends. Depending on the way envy presents for you, various assumptions may have already been made about how you feel about certain people. Finding out that you're struggling with wardrobe envy due to your own emotional triggers will be a relief to those in your friend group who might be feeling slighted or even disliked by you.


Share the results of the soul-searching you've been doing. Explaining to your friends the way that you've been experiencing envy as a secondary emotion can help them understand where your feelings and actions have been coming from. It may also lead them to examine their own relationship with envy and other secondary emotions in the context of their personal lives and triggers. In the end, you'll all likely be brought closer together through your openness.

Experiment with your own style

Envy might not be a particularly pleasant emotion to experience, but it can be a productive one. Identifying what it is that you envy about your friends' wardrobes can clarify what it is you want for yourself when it comes to style and fashion. Once you have those answers, you'll know where to take action. If your envy centers around how perfectly all your friends' clothes fit, for instance, don't assume that the same isn't achievable for you, regardless of the difference in your body shapes or sizes.


If the perfect fit is what you're pining for, consider buying fewer wardrobe pieces and investing the rest of your budget into having them tailored. If you're envious of the way your friend expresses themself through colors and patterns, put some serious time and effort into finding the shades that feel like home to you and adding them into your wardrobe. Put your envy to work for you by letting it lead the way to what you want for your own personal style

Be open to inspiration

Another way to reframe envy is to choose to see it as inspiration. When you find yourself starting to feel envious of your friend's outfit, accessories, or closet, take a moment to flip the script. Instead of getting dismissive or bitter, get inspired. If you feel a pang of envy when your friend strolls in wearing a new pair of platform shoes, instead of rolling your eyes and moving on, take note.


Rather than begrudging your friend, get excited about finding something you like that you can incorporate into your own wardrobe. Should you run out and buy the same pair of shoes your friend was wearing? Probably not, but that doesn't mean you can't find a similar pair you love that represents your personal style, thanks to the inspiration her pair provided you. Fashion trends are inherently social; there is nothing wrong with taking cues from others and finding out what you like by observing the people around you.

Find a will and a way to your desired style

It's easy to end up feeling defeated when you face limitations that your friends may not have to deal with. In the current era of massive inflation, these limitations often boil down to financial restraints. However, a limited budget doesn't have to stop you from curating a wardrobe you love just as much as your friends' sartorial choices. As long as you're willing to take your time and put in the effort to find and collect the pieces you truly feel connected to, you can build a wardrobe that expresses you who are.


The easiest way to overcome financial limitations when building your own enviable wardrobe is to embrace secondhand shopping. Check out thrift, consignment, and antique stores in your local area or online consignment platforms like ThredUp and Poshmark for affordable staples and unique vintage pieces. If you're after designer items, take a look at online luxury resale shops like The RealReal. Once you know what you really want, you can channel your wardrobe envy into creating a personal style fiercer than you ever imagined possible.