I have a friend who truly doesn’t care what people think of him. Yes, truly. He says, ‘He is who he is… he’s happy with himself.’ I often imagine how I’d feel if I had that level of self-confidence. But who am I kidding? I absolutely care what people think. I don’t want to look like a clown and I don’t want my partner to remind people of bad fashion choices they made ten years ago! What do you do when you don’t like your partner’s style?
It’s a question someone asked me a few months back. I received a comment from a woman who said she’s dating the ‘loveliest man…. hilarious, intelligent’. Only problem, he’s mid-40’s and still wearing hoodies on dates. Presumably with a slogan tee as she mentioned he doesn’t wear shirts with collars. She asked if this was a silly reason for not agreeing to another date. Perhaps I’d have said yes if I hadn’t had gone on a date with a guy wearing baggy jeans, a cream top which made him appear half-naked and crusty-toe showing sandals. If that doesn’t sound too bad… well, you didn’t see him.
Sure, we’d only arranged to go to some basic bar, but I felt embarrassed. Not to mention annoyed – I wasted so much time crafting my outfit. While I’m no Alexa Chung or Zendaya, I’m also not one to put on anything and follow trends regardless as to whether they work for me (old photos don’t count).
Can you change your partner’s style if you’re already in a relationship?
In the early dating stages, we’re allowed to be judgey and overly critical. If they haven’t made us fall in love yet or listened to our pointless life drama, they haven’t yet gained loyalty. Four dates in, I’m not sticking around with a guy refusing to not dress like a slob. In a relationship however, we have to actually care about hurting our partner’s feelings – we can’t just ignore their calls whenever they turn up with an arm full of beaded bracelets.
Although style can seem a petty reason to break up with someone, style itself represents an extension of ourselves – who we are and how we want others to perceive us. I want to look at my partner and feel proud of his overall appearance; style is part of what makes him sexy. If I couldn’t stand his dress sense, how would I feel when out with him?
With that said, before mentioning that you don’t like your partner’s style, there are some things to consider first:
Is their style part of their personality?
Let’s say you’ve fallen for a down-to-earth, content, free-spirted person – someone who doesn’t place a huge emphasis on fashion – can you expect them to be in vogue with the most stylish looks and tailored pieces? Yes, they may have the most embarrassing sandals or a hat belonging to a 70’s cowboy, but isn’t that part of them?
Is how they dress part of what makes them confident?
Have they spent time building a look that works for them and makes them feel good?
How do I tell my partner to dress better?
If you still feel your boyfriend wears old clothes or you don’t like the way your girlfriend dresses, there are some ways to encourage a wardrobe makeover.
Ask them about their look
Your partner’s style might be something they’ve not really thought about. People get stuck in ruts and can continue to wear the same pieces without much change. When asking about their style, resist the temptation to blurt, “Why do you wear such awful clothes?” Unless you have that level of honesty, probably best to avoid.
Buy an item you’d love for them to wear
Now, I’m not suggesting you go out and find the plainest top possible when every item your partner owns is bright and colourful. But you can slightly tweak their usual items for something different. Word of caution: don’t throw away the receipt.
When you like something, really encourage it
We want the people we’re dating to think we’re stunning/hot/ravishing (you get the point). If you like something, really compliment that. As Chicago Tribune explains, your partner will feel good receiving your compliments and will therefore want to wear more things which receive your praise.
Look for compromise
At a nice restaurant, can they put on a nice shirt? At the park with ice-cream, can they wear their strange slogan tee?
If your partner’s style is bad and it doesn’t seem to reflect who they are, would they be willing to try on clothes you feel are a better fit?
When you don’t like your partner’s style, should they change?
This is where it becomes difficult – most of us feel we shouldn’t have to change our clothes. Our style is part of who we are. So, if we shouldn’t have to change, how do we then deal with wanting our partners to be different?
To me, it comes down to each partner adapting. If you don’t like suits or fancy dresses, but your partner loves them or wants to take you somewhere where that’s the dress code, why not wear one on occasion? If you’re not confident and your dress sense shows that (ill-fitting, old clothes), why not let your partner make another suggestion?
Looking at my partner, I feel his clothes are selectively chosen with what aligns to him – I wouldn’t want to make him adapt that. But absolutely I will tell him if he picks up a shirt I cannot stand. Not that he has to listen to my opinion. It’s important to not address this subject as, ‘You need to change because I don’t like it’. Immediately, that makes people feel the need to defend themselves – who wants to be told how to dress? Think carefully where you’re coming from – sometimes we have to accept the ridiculously long scarf and over patterned skirt.
Are you following me on Instagram? Debate these topics further @thestyleoflaurajane