Should Your Significant Other Determine What You Wear?


Happy monosyllabic rainy Friday morning!

Oh, fine, we’ll say more about it. On YourTango, a man asked:

I have a new girlfriend who is quite tall. she is 5’7″. I am kind of short for a guy. ok, i’m 5’1. Anyway, she is really fashionable and usually wears heels that make her look much taller even. I ask her why she needs to wear such high heels when she is tall already. she says she is not tall, she’s just average and that many of her friends are taller than she is. I still say she is tall. so my question is, should tall girls wear high heels?

My first response was “the only reason that girl should not wear high heels is because they make it harder to run away from guys like this.” Not really. My real first response was “the question isn’t ‘should tall girls wear high heels, dude, the question is ‘why are you being such a dick about it?’” But that reaction didn’t seem shoe related enough, so I changed it to that thing about running away in heels.

Now, to be fair, okay, the guy is clearly a little insecure. It must be hard to be on the short side if you’re a man. That’s tough.

But still, what a lame question. What’s the guy’s goal, here? To get a lot of responses that say “yes, your girlfriend should only wear flats” which he can then show his girlfriend in the hopes of getting her to switch to flats? There are a few responses that criticize his girlfriend’s insensitivity, so maybe he succeeded. I don’t know. But I think it sucks that he’s badgering his girlfriend about her choice of footwear at all.

Now, I’m equally thrown by articles in women’s magazines about “how to makeover your boyfriend!” or “How to get him to throw out his stinky old pair of jeans!” Because, at least in private life, our clothing choices are not anyone’s but our own. The last time most of us had our clothing picked out for us, we were about six. We’re grown ups now. We can all generally choose what to wear for ourselves. And there’s probably a reason that we wear what we wear. That reason is “because we like it.”

Now, if your SO comes to you for advice – because you’re fabulously fashionable just like Mark Zuckerberg -then of course you can help them out. Sure. Tell them you think they’d look extra hot in [insert item of your choice here, most likely a polar fleece hoodie with the sleeves rolled up].  But otherwise, it’s just not your business. If you hate the way your boyfriend or girlfriend dresses and want to make them over so you can feel more comfortable dating them, then maybe you should remind yourself that you are not Stacy London, and life is not an episode of What Not To Wear.

Your significant other is not an accessory that exists to look cool standing next to you. They’re a person, with their own style. And they can pick their own clothes. And, goddammit, that woman has a right to shoes.

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    • Lindsay Hartman

      Agreed! Every woman has a right to heels! And any guy so insecure that he can’t handle it isn’t worth the trouble.

    • Eileen

      I don’t think it’s wrong, necessarily, for someone to ask his/her significant other (nicely) if s/he would consider wearing or not wearing [fill-in-the-blank] – my mom gave up heels when she got serious with my father (she’s 5’10″ to his 5’3″). But if the answer’s “No,” move on. Obviously this taller girl finds you attractive or she wouldn’t be dating you. Obviously you find her attractive or you wouldn’t be dating her. Love is too hard to get hung up on shoes.

      • Kamila

        Agreed. I think the problem here isn’t what the dude wants but how he goes about asking for it. Maybe if he had told her about his insecurities they could reach a mutually satisfying compromise.

    • Lainey

      Jennifer….you really are hilarious!

    • Stephanie

      Am I totally lame because I give in when my boyfriend says that a dress/skirt/shorts are too short, or a top too revealing? It drives me a little crazy and I always make fun of him to my friends about it afterwards, but in this regard, I feel like showing my respect to him is worth giving up a little piece of my personal expression. Agreed, or no?

      • Elle

        Disagree. He says it’s too revealing because he feels he has dibs on your body and doesn’t want other guys looking at you, and by giving in to that you are in fact totally lame. It’s sad that you think how you dress reflects on your level of respect for your boyfriend :(

    • fyoself

      I’m a guy, and the only reason I’m at your site is because Allie Brosh hasn’t written stuff at her site in a while.

      I’m 6’2″, and my amazing GF is 5’7″. If I were 5’2″, I’d hope she’d wear flats for me. That is all.

      Real talk.

    • Jochen

      I think people need a guys perspective here in order to avoid confirmation bias, so I guess i’ll give my own ( I got linked here by a friend who complains about the same thing,)

      I don’t think it’s pathetic for two people in a real relationship to give and take criticism on their clothing habits, and adjust accordingly. I mean, you SHOULD take your other’s opinions to heart considering you actually give a shit about them, and it’s not someone you’re just fooling around with. I don’t think the dude needs to be demonized for pointing something out that’s honestly bothering him, same for a girl towards a guy. And if the response is an immediate ” LOL SUCK IT UP I DRESS HOW I WANT ” then that reflects your character/principal. Specifically, reflects that you prioritize something trivial like asserting your independance in the most childish way imaginable over the feelings of your boyfriend/girlfriend. In that case, you shouldn’t be with eachother. It’s egotistical. It’s not controlling to simply suggest someone change a habit or something that bothers you, rather, it’s egotistical to completely disregaurd how they feel just because you can’t be assed to be more conscious of the things you do that put off your lover.

      ” Disagree. He says it’s too revealing because he feels he has dibs on your body and doesn’t want other guys looking at you, and by giving in to that you are in fact totally lame. It’s sad that you think how you dress reflects on your level of respect for your boyfriend :( ”

      I disagree with this on pretty much every level. I hate to break it to you, but if two people are in a monogamous serious relationship, then you DO have dibs on eachothers bodies. You shouldn’t be flaunting your shit everywhere if you’re taken just so you can masturbate your own self-esteem because you don’t feel people think you’re sexy enough. This isn’t the guys insecurity, this is the girl’s insecurity towards her own body image. You shouldn’t be openly encouraging other guys to eyeball fuck you if you’re in a relationship with someone else, unless you’re in a mutually consentual polygamorous relationship, or ” open dating “.

      Alot of girls will say it’s not about pleasing other men by dressing that way, but to make themselves feel sexy. I think thats a fraud. It makes them feel sexy because it makes guys notice them in a sexual manner, thus reassuring themselves that they ARE sexy. Which is the same shit. Your self-esteem shouldn’t be based around how many people want to fuck you. Like I said, that’s egocentric and ethically fucked up for whoever you’re with. Nobody is forcing you to change your dress and behavior, so don’t give me that ” blah blah men are controlling women should assert independance ” shit because it’s not controlling. You don’t HAVE to be in that relationship. If you don’t agree with the terms, don’t sign the contract.

      A relationship is about mutual benefit, respect, betterment, appreciation, and security. And you aren’t really benefitting that guy or showing appreciation by throwing yourself out there like that. Honestly, I wouldn’t stick around for that shit. It’s not worth the trouble. It’s not worth looking like the bad guy all the time to everyone around you for what everyone will label you as controlling, when really it’s just not wanting to be walked all over and treated like every other guy who has the hots for that girl. If that’s the case, he should have just hit it and quit it, because there aren’t any of the usual benefits of comitting to a relationship with someone who has that bad attitude and complete lack of respect for another human being.

      and this is why I think alot of girls think guys are just alpha-male assholes who want to fuck them and leave, when really I think it’s just that alot of guys have had a history of relationships that didn’t do them any good, so they try to avoid that path. Men and women keep perpetuating eachothers stereotypes because we don’t understand eachother. We don’t talk about our real feelings to eachother in an honest and up front matter. Because when we do, we either get branded as controlling or a slut.

      Back to the main thing though. I think it’s good the guy brought it up and was honest. That way if she persistently doesn’t give a fuck, he can leave and find someone else that’s better for him. And the girl to. Whatever choice or answer she gives, as long as it’s honest, i’m glad. That way if the guy keeps badgering her about it and she doesn’t want to change that aspect of her character, she can leave and find someone who’s more compatible with her terms and behavior.

      Everyone benefits.

      • Lindsay Hartman

        My question for this oh-so-sanctimonious gentleman is: how much would you change about yourself to benefit, respect, better or appreciate your partner. What if she wanted you to wear lifts in your shoes so that she could still wear heels? How about you can’t ever go to the gym again because she doesn’t want you sharing your body? If everything needs to be so equal, why is only one person’s insecurity an issue?

        You preach a whole hell of a lot about the need to give and take in relationships. I’m just wondering how much you actually think the a man should give and how much the woman should take?

        For the record, my husband and I are the same height. I wore 5 inch heels on my wedding day and he loved it. Why would I need to wear those heels on my wedding day? Because they make me feel beautiful and sexy. And I wanted to feel beautiful and sexy for my husband, not for our groomsmen. There are real men out there who can take being shorter than their partners. Maybe this woman just needs to find one of them.

    • Jochen

      So in the end, women have the right to shoes, and men have the right to tell their significant other to go rub against a rock., they quit.

      You always had the right to be who you want to be, dress how you want to dress, say what you want to say. But don’t act like the world does you an injustice when certain people reject the way you are. Because that person’s rejection of your personality is just as big of a part of who they are as your own quirks.

      I think we’ve all gone soft. We’re too damn afraid to say ” you know what, no, you ARE a shitty person even if that really is the real you. I don’t care if you’re just being you or not, because I think that’s a shitty way to be and not someone I want to be associated with. “

    • JennaW

      Look, Tom Cruise, if you’re that uncomfortable with tall women, stop marrying them!

    • Bill Colvard

      Ok, am I getting this right? Dude is 5’1″ and girlfriend is 5’7″ How are flats gonna help. She’s still got half a foot on him. And by the way, 5’7 is average for a woman. It’s dude that’s vertically challenged. (and rightfully insecure about it)
      But since flats won’t help, wouldn’t it be a better solution for herself to proudly don her towering Louboutins and just put dude on a leash so that he looks like the cute accessory that he is. If people stare, he can drop to the floor and lick her crimson soles. So passersbys last impression will not be of his shortness, but his kinkiness, which is better. Much better.

    • G

      I think a big thing guys don’t understand about girls is that girls dress both for guys AND girls even if they’re straight as a razor. That’s why we have these weird fashion trends that aren’t flattering at all to most body types, but women wear anyways. A girl may dress so she feels PEOPLE think she looks good, not just guys. And although I’d take it to heart if my boyfriend felt uncomfortable with something I wore, that’s probably because I was dressed like a hooker…which I’d never do…and which he’d never exaggerate on because he’s a secure guy.

      Point is, if you met your SO dressed a certain way, they most likely aren’t going to go My Fair Lady or Can’t By Me Love on you after you get into a relationship.

    • Abe Froman

      I think one thing to take into account is the fact that the 5’1″ dude was attracted to his taller girlfriend in the first place – and presumably, during their first meeting and first dates etc, she was wearing heels of some kind. If he didn’t have a problem with it at their first meeting, or on their first dates.. why is he suddenly bothered now? What has changed? She’s still the same person, isn’t she?

      Also, there’s this weird disconnect I’m noticing in these comments, where a guy is attracted to certain aspects of a woman, but then once she’s “committed” to him, there’s an expectation that those very things that attracted him to her should be toned down or curbed. You first noticed your girlfriend because she was wearing a totally sexy nurse costume on Halloween? Then you’d better be OK with her wearing a sexy kitten outfit the following year.

      Because – and this is important – MOST WOMEN DO NOT DRESS ACCORDING TO THEIR RELATIONSHIP STATUS. If a woman likes wearing wedge heels and sundresses, she’ll probably wear them when she’s single AND when she’s married. If a woman wears big dangly earrings, four-inch pumps, and pencil skirts, there’s no telling whether she’s in a relationship or not. Don’t assume that the single woman you’ve just met, and whom you’re thinking of calling, has dressed that way in order to get a husband – that’s a terribly medieval attitude, and it makes women seem like their every thought is attracting men, which I can guarantee you is not the case.

      Women look at the clothes in their closet and pick the things that make them feel good. Maybe those clothes make them feel good because they’re sexy, maybe because they’re soft and comfortable, maybe because they were on sale. You don’t know why they make her feel good – and more importantly, it’s none of your business. No one has a right to make a woman feel bad about what she chooses to wear – no matter what your relationship is with her.