Reader Request: Outside Opinions

What do you do if you have an item of clothing that everyone else seems to dislike, but you love?

Reader Louise e-mailed this question to me a couple of months ago:

What do you do if you have an item of clothing that everyone else seems to dislike, but you love? Do you wear it? Keep it in the closet, but wear it rarely? Get rid of it?

Here are the specifics of my case, but in a way they aren’t really important as it is a style philosophy that I’m interested in: I just bought a denim skirt to replace one that wasn’t fitting comfortably anymore. I wear the old skirt at least once a week as it is a staple of my wardrobe. The new skirt is fairly long (mid-calf), full, buttons all the way up the front, washed/faded denim with the classic faded gold stitching/pewtery hardware. I thought it was classic, but when I showed my husband, he said it was matronly. He rarely has any clothing opinions, so that alone gave me pause.

But I still really like the skirt and it is still really comfy and exactly the right length for my needs. I hate to know my hubs is thinking “matronly” every time I wear it. (I’m 47 BTW, and we have no kids, so matronly is rather wince-making for me.)

What would you do if your husband expressed a dislike of a particular item? What about a close friend? What about a group of women who you mostly like, but aren’t particularly close to? At what point does anyone else’s opinion but your own put the kibosh on it?

Louise’s note made my heart hurt. I think all of us can relate to purchasing a garment, feeling elated about it, and then showing it off to a friend or loved-one whose negative opinion completely sullies the garment’s formerly golden status. Here’s what I told her:

You should wear clothes you love, that make you feel awesome about your body. Period. If other people hate them, that is NOT your problem. Style is personal, and so is taste. If we loved everything that everyone wore, it’d be a damned boring world. There are countless reasons why people may hate the clothing you love, and attempting to decipher those reasons is futile. While I think that input from friends and loved ones can be valuable – and some folks are lucky enough to have friends/loved ones whose stylistic input is always spot-on – in the end the decisions are all yours.

When Husband Mike sees an item freshly bought and tells me he hates it, I make him tell me why. I get everything from “unflattering” to “just plain ugly” in response. I take his input very seriously, as he has great taste. He also takes my photograph on a regular basis so he really does know what works and what doesn’t. HOWEVER I also listen to my gut. If I absolutely adore something and he absolutely loathes it, I keep it. And you know what? Nine times out of ten he will unwittingly compliment me when I wear it to work or on the weekend in the context of a fully-styled outfit.

Because making clothing work is really all about styling. No matter how awkward something looks out of context, once it’s effectively styled it’ll work much better. It’s an elusive skill set, but cultivating the ability to style your outfits is well worth doing. If I may be blunt, Tim Gunn would probably make all sorts of faces and noise if you showed him this skirt … but he’d also be able to find a way to style it that made it look like the next big trend. Because Tim is a skilled stylist.

What I recommend for items that get big love from you and big hate from others is to create five outfits using the item as a focal point. Go for very different looks – super casual to relatively fancy. Try all sorts of footwear, tops, scarves, jewelry, belts, a variety of colors and layers. Take photos of the finished outfits and then put the photos away for a couple of days. THEN see what you think. Then see what your loved-one thinks.

I don’t think “matronly” will ever be a compliment … but I DO think that plenty of garments that appear “matronly” out of context can look fan-freakin-tastic when styled with some pizazz.

Skirt image via Shop National.

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  • I think a lot of times it’s a matter of styling, as you say, Sal, or just putting it on. Sure, there are times that my husband just doesn’t like an outfit of mine (sometimes I listen to him and change something, sometimes I don’t). But there have been so many times where he’s “hated” something I showed him and then loved it when I actually put it on. Go with the gut, I say.

  • Erin

    That same thing just happened to me with a jacket I bought in Spain. I think it’s adorable, and a beautiful green color. Only after I’d worn it for several months did he tell me it looks like something an old lady would wear. It definitely changes how I will see myself in it…

  • As a first point of reference, check out how great A-Dubs looks in her long denim skirt here: http://inprofessorialfashion.blogspot.com/2010/12/no-repeats-long-skirtswardrobe-orphans.html
    and how snazzy Shelia is here: http://sheilaephemera.blogspot.com/2010/12/leather-for-work-and-what-i-didnt-wear.html

    It’s absolutely all about styling, and I bet Louise will look fantastic.

  • I’m with you, Sally. I think it really is all about the styling.
    Most of my friends aren’t as interested in style and/or fashion as Cath and I are, so most of the time what I wear makes them look at me like I have three heads. Even if Cath says she doesn’t like something- I can usually convince her otherwise 😉

  • GingerR

    I think listen to your critics but consider the source.
    If your husband never says anything about what you wear and suddenly pops up with “that makes you like like a dumpy matron” then you know that there may be a problem. If he is pretty free with the comments and doesn’t like something then you can weight his skirt comment down.

    I think there are other looks out there that are more stylish than the long jeans skirt while still being comfy and husband’s comment might be a clue that a change in approach to casual wear might be worthwhile. Not every man wants to be married to a woman who looks like a member of the Duggar family (no offense to the Duggars who I believe dress that way out of extreme modesty).

    Garmets that a young woman can get away with will make a 40+ woman look older than she is. Perhaps it’s time for a style update.

  • Nanina

    This made me think of something I recently encountered while shopping with my boyfriend. In 99% of all times I go shopping, I do not take him, because he will be bored out of his mind and it’ll take the fun out of it for me. But this time, we went to get him a much needed winter coat. The story how we got him his coat the year before is actually also worth a mention: We went to get one for him, and I pointed at one saying “This is nice, why don’t you try it on?” And he was like “Uh, no… I don’t like that at all.” Well, he snuck back to it 10 minutes later, tried it on and loved it ever since. It was a new style for him, more grown-up (needed at 29 with a growing business) 😉 But he lost the coat and there we were, trying to get a new one. He had the old one still in his head, and so we ended up with two options in the end: One that closely resembled the old one, but was slightly off in fit and color (black. It’s not his best color). The other one was a minimalist coat in a browned grey with some black stuff added to it (like a hood). It was better both in cut and color, but he dismissed it, saying it “looked like Grandpa’s coat”. Coming from his sense of style, which he acquired some time in the 90ies I guess, this statement would have been true. But the times have changed, and this coat was actually from a young, cool male brand and I very much thought it looked the part. I could see where he was coming from, taking on his perspective. But me, having read a lot of style magazines and blogs, just couldn’t agree. Well, in the end he bought the first one, and now he has to live with the fact that he will not close the jacket for the cut looks less than stellar then. And he is a bit vain 😉 Plus, it is constantly below zero in temperature here. By the way, I am sure he thinks camel is an old people color, but as anyone who has looked in side any style-related publication this year knows, it is reborn as HOT 🙂
    Ok, this was way longer than I intended, and the point simply is: Sometimes, men can not see what we style-savvy ladies see. There style eyes are stuck somewhere in the past ^^ And this is coming from someone who does not like whacked-out outfits at all. I like the classic, minimalist style. No fuss 🙂
    That said, I’d take in more opinions, and if all my friends and family who I trust in their judgement say it looks stupid on me (fully styled, even), I think I’d bury it deep in my closet.

  • For sure! In fact, my husband declares his true feelings about the “unsexy” wardrobe items on a regular basis. Fortunately, I don’t really care 🙂 Having said this, yesterday I debuted my new boots to a friend and her initial response wasn’t glowing. Then she found out how much they cost and I know she did her best to come back from the edge. But it was too late.

  • I care deeply what my husband likes and dislikes, but with that said he likes what I like to call slutty, trailor trash style. BTW I’m not knocking trailors, we used to live in one, but it’s a widely recognized sterotype….I mean no offense to anyone! My body type is not flattered in anyway by this “style”, not by any stretch of the imagination. So we compromise. I pick things that he and I both like for general wear, some things that he doesn’t necessarily love for when he won’t be around much and things he loves for when we are together at home basically. It works for me, and him. Compromise, it’s so hard sometimes!! 🙂

  • Hearthrose

    I dress for my husband when I’m with him, so I woudn’t wear something around him that he didn’t like. That means that I have a couple of pieces that are “things to wear for the girls”, because *I* like them, the girls like them and … he still hates ’em.

    Anyone else can like it or lump it.

    As for denim skirts, the hub in question might associate long denim skirts with Conservative Christian Mommies (one of whom I am, and the “long denim” beauty issue is something we discuss on our own boards – it’s very practical stuff, but a lot of hubbies don’t like it). If the writer loves it, I might suggest styling it a la Coldwater Creek or really punking it up for her husband, see if that changes his tune.

  • It’s funny, the main style takedown I can remember came from an old boyfriend regarding…a long denim skirt. That was in 1998 or so, and I no longer have the boyfriend but still have the skirt. It’s been with me in and out of like 15 pounds and many personal style shifts and I think it kicks ass.
    http://www.flickr.com/photos/mavenhaven/2899807887/
    My husband is not always so down with what I wear, esp because showing off my bootie is not always my first priority. Occasionally that takes the wind out of my sails, but I try to remember that I’m balancing function and form when I dress and wear things that make me feel good.

  • Lyd

    I love vintage, and most of my friends are not adventurous with their clothes, so when I buy something vintage they think it’s old-fashioned (like the awesome plaid pleated skirt dress I got not too long ago). But then I mix it with modern and casual items, and they all adore it. So I’d say don’t get dicouraged – experiement.

  • GlamaRuth

    In cut, length and color, the reader’s skirt actually sounds a lot like Stella McCartney from last spring – http://www.net-a-porter.com/product/79639 – so she is actually on trend with it! But a lot of men don’t understand, or care about, fashion cycles, they just know what they think looks good. I have a very style savvy husband, but he is still a straight male. There are some of my more body-obscuring architectural pieces that he is just never going to like, but I dress for myself, my office and other women, and for him in the evening. But back to the skirt – it sounds very 70’s revival (McCartney’s skirt design was based on memories of her mom in the 70s), and the whole Charlie Girl Aesthetic has been having a good run of it. Try styling it with chunkier wedges, or high boots with a fitted, not slouchy, calf and a bit of a heel. Keep the tops slim – not necessarily fitted, though a nice scoop on the neckline might go some way to reconciling her husband – and either waist length or tucked in, maybe with a wide leather or sash belt. Even a chunky sweater would work, so long as it skimmed closely and stopped at the waist or high hip. Basically, if you love how you look and feel in it, it will come across in how you carry yourself, and that confidence makes you more attractive – he’ll get that even if he doesn’t get the skirt.

  • Leah

    Never say never in fashion. I believe that any kind of item can work if styled right. Fashion is cyclical – what people’s eyes are trained to think looks good changes regularly. Trust your taste and experiment with your clothing 🙂

  • Amy

    I would give my husband’s opinion a great deal of weight because he doesn’t give wardrobe comments to be snarky. If my husband said that something was matronly, I’d really, really try to view the item objectively because there are a lot of items to which I’m emotionally attached, but they’re not necessarily stylish or flattering, even with an attempt to style them up. I think a bigger challenge with denim is that it can look dated just by a shade of its color or cut, so it would require extra styling to modernize. But it could be very boho chic! I can see a really great hat & scarf with that skirt!

    I love vintage 60’s dresses hemmed to tunic length to avoid polyester overkill. Combined with leggings & boots, I get comments about dressing like a vintage Trekkie, but I don’t care! I love ’em! You need to balance the comments of others with your own individualism.

  • Colleen

    I think this may have more to do with the accidental associations clothing has – as others have pointed out, this style of skirt is associated with a very modest and conservative religious movement. It may be that that association that makes Loise’s husband feel “off” seeing her wearing it.

    I feel the same way about the traditional Palestinian keffiyeh that became popular with hipsters:

    http://atlasshrugs2000.typepad.com/.a/6a00d8341c60bf53ef01156f495192970c-500wi

    http://california-fashionistas.blogspot.com/2007/12/best-of-balenciaga-2007.html

    Personally this appropriation made me uncomfortable because of the loaded cultural associations of the garment. I felt that it was dismissive to wear as a fashion item – not unlike wearing a yarmulke or a hijab as a fashion statement. The denim skirt may not be as directly connected to a religious statement as these items, but it’s on the same spectrum in my opinion.

    • T.

      Thank you for the comment about the keffiyeh. I had to google that to learn more. However, I am still not certain what makes something keffiyeh-inspired, rather than just a scarf. Is there some quality to it, or some specific design? Thanks.

      • Colleen

        My understanding is that the checked design is considered a distinctive feature, especially the black and white version. However I have seen colored versions (even neon pink) that I immediately identified as a keffiyeh because of the checked pattern (though I have no idea what the wearer’s intentions were).

  • Charlotte

    I love your idea of taking pictures and coming back to them a few days later – would definitely help “see” the skirt as people from the outside do, as opposed to just “feel” it.
    In this case, since Louise has been wearing this type of skirt for a long time, I imagine her husband objects to this one skirt very specifically, and I’m also wondering if a little bit of tailoring might be worth considering? This is a wild guess, but the word “matronly” really specifically evokes an unflattering fit at the waist/ hips to me.

  • Wear what makes you happy and screw what everyone else thinks. Provided it is not unsuitable for the occasion or likely to cause trouble, wear it with pride!

  • Ouch. This debate actually brings tears to my eyes. I get a punch to the gut every time I hear a woman putting herself in the cage of what her husband likes, or doesn’t. It’s so much more painful than reacting to what other women think, somehow. Does your husband care what you think of his looks? I doubt it.
    I don’t know if Louise’s husband saw the skirt on a hanger, or if she had it on, but I’ve got to agree that styling can really make or break an item. Louise, just put yourself together a hot little casual outfit, and then see what he thinks.
    In fact, I’m inspired to challenge myself to style the heck out of some things that are butt ugly, just to prove the point.
    At the end of the day, though, screw it! Ovaries to the wall, wear what you love, you’ll be comfortable (physically and psychic-ly) and happy, and happy looks good on everyone.

  • Audi

    I think it really depends; there are always going to be things in a person’s wardrobe that they alone will love and other people just won’t get, and I think that’s fine. Put it in the ‘wear what you want’ category and don’t worry about what other people think about it. But if your loved ones are frequently telling you that your style is matronly or outdated, I think it might be time to discuss it further, and perhaps rethink your style. I see a lot of people simply getting stuck in a look that they feel comfortable with, but that doesn’t necessarily make them feel fabulous.

  • I’m really interested in the philosophy behind this question (Should you—-or *can* you—dress for yourself without regard for others’ opinions?), since I am visiting my folks for the holidays and have to endure negative comments from siblings about my style/clothing. I feel quite confident when living on my own, in a different city, but in answer to Sal’s questions in the last paragraph: YES, a negative outside opinion can COMPLETELY take the wind out of my sails. YES, these exchanges can permanently ruin the garments in question (for me).

    Friends/romantic partner are quite complimentary—or (even better) offer constructive options for styling an outfit—-but one word from a sister will send the skirt/shirt/boots/tights in question straight to the Salvation Army bin…

    I’m always hoping that I’ll grow out of this sensitivity but it hasn’t happened yet…

  • I usually have a hard time thinking I look awesome in an outfit if somebody has said I look terrible in it. I start to notice the not-so-flattering form or the matronly design…ishy thoughts just creep in.
    That being said, if you still don’t agree with your husband, go with your gut! There’s no reason to leave an awesome skirt in the closet simply because it’s not his absolute favorite.

  • Bubu

    Great question and fascinating discussion going on in the comments here. I listen to my husband, just as I hope he will listen to me if I have thoughts on his wardrobe, both because I think he has good taste and a fresh perspective, as well as because I’m his wife and I think it’s good for a marriage for the people to be attractive for each other – that goes both ways of course! That said, I also have to reconcile with my comfort level and style – he tends to like things a little sexier: more fitted, more skin, whereas I, especially in winter, don’t want to expose too much skin. Our running joke is that for years I wore only turtlenecks and he would say “goodbye neck” around November since he wouldn’t see it until spring. Now I realize I can get the coverage but a little more sass with, for example, a scoopneck and scarf. I’ve also realized that my style can go a bit “fuddyduddy” (my MOM said that once!) if i don’t try to keep it fresh and fun, so if he thinks something is frumpy, I try to pay attention and figure out how to de-frump it with some styling – e.g. bulky sweater or turtleneck with more fitted skirt or tights and boots…

  • rb

    I had to think about this one for a while, because I couldn’t get straight whether my reaction – get rid of the skirt – was because I can’t stand long denim skirts, or because her husband doesn’t like it. So then I thought of the item as something I’d like – say a black wool pencil skirt – and thought about what I’d say. And I still say, if he says he doesn’t like it, I’d get rid of it.

    In the end, when I think about how I dress, it is definitely influenced by my husband’s input. I am independent and stubborn, and I don’t take his input seriously on a great number of things, but as far as dressing, I want him to find me attractive. I’m fortunate that the styles he finds attractive (elegant, feminine, classic) are the same styles I enjoy, though we do disagree on an item or two. But for a staple of your wardrobe, if your husband hates how you look in it, why keep it?

  • as many have said, it’s personal, consider the source, how much do you like this style vs. how much do you care what other people think, experiment!, and mid-40’s is often a time when a person confronts the need for a style update.

    while it’s true anyone can wear just about anything with proper styling – do you really want to? it can be a big hassle and (in my experience) can lead to a lot of shopping for the pieces you need to make the first piece ‘work’.

    there are certain styles, cuts, textures, shapes, colors, etc. which flatter any individual person. filling your wardrobe with these type of items can make styling a lot easier, since you aren’t ‘fighting’ the clothes….. you’re also much more likely to end up with a unique and distinctive style. but it’s a personal choice as to how you want to / like to approach your clothes

    good luck! after all, it’s all just personal taste, and you can wear different clothes every day!! steph

  • I think you’re right on the money with the point about how it’s all in the styling, Sal.

  • Amy

    I’m somewhere in the middle here. I wouldn’t wear the skirt out for a date night with your husband, and would try to get a photo of yourself in it (and styled in at least a couple of different ways) to examine. I am the exact same age and situation. My husband rarely makes comments, but if he does I try to find out why. If he says that something is unflattering and I don’t need it for function alone, I very seriously consider getting rid of it. Not because I am a stepford wife, but because I trust him and his opinion as much or more than a close girlfriend.

  • Sal

    I can definitely see how the question of husband/partner input looms large here, and it’s really interesting to see so many varied perspectives on that question. But Louise was also asking for input about ANY outside opinion – friends, family, etc. She was curious about the more general idea that someone else’s negative opinion of a piece or style could permanently impact how the wearer feels about it. Just wanted to point that out! Carry on!

  • Louise

    OP here. I am *loving* this discussion! Your reactions and opinions are running much of the gamut that I ran internally about this darned skirt. The fact that there is no real consensus actually helps me reconcile my mixed feelings.

    Thanks, Sal, for posting my dilemma here. This is such a loving and kind community under your gentle tutelage.

  • I do agree that it’s all in the styling (I have a skirt very similar – thanks for the link, Katie!).

    Growing up, the only comments I got on my style were either to be teased by the other kids for wearing 70s hand-me-downs (I’m in my early 40s), or my mom’s cryptic “Hmmm..hmmm.” I learned to have a fairly thick skin about my fashion choices and have realized over the years that if I feel wonderful in something, that’s what matters.

    My husband (and I’m sure my coworkers, friends, strangers too!) doesn’t always like everything I wear, but I’ll wear something different the next day. If a comment is specific (i.e. “that skirt makes you look dumpy”) and I trust the source, I’ll re-evaluate the item, but it’s ultimately my decision whether something stays or goes.

  • Whether or not someone’s dislike of my clothes deflates me really depends on who it is. I rarely listen to a word my mom or my best friend say about my clothes, basically because we have totally different styles. I don’t aspire to their styles (and it goes both ways – I know they’re not crazy about my clothes either) so it doesn’t bother me if they don’t care for something I’m wearing. On the other hand, my two closest cousins have a pretty direct impact on how I feel about my clothes. I love their styles so if they like something I have, or don’t like it, it really affects how I feel toward that garment. If they really didn’t like something, I probably wouldn’t wear it again just because it might “ruin” the garment for me. Other people in my life fall at different points in that spectrum. Everyone’s opinion has different weight over how I feel toward my closet. But I’m happy to say that most people don’t have the potential to make or break my feelings toward something. If there was a pattern of bad feedback toward a particular item though, even from people who normally I wouldn’t listen to, I might really start to question it.

    I do, however, think that some garments are just very objectively unflattering and unattractive. Many more are generally unattractive BUT can be styled well, in a way that makes them less offensive to my eyeballs. But I will say, I don’t think everyone has the potential to style everything awesomely. There are some things that certain people can “pull off” and others can’t.

  • Courtney

    It goes both ways, honestly – on days where my very staid and conservatively dressed co-workers *really* like my outfit, I wonder about what kind of vibe I’m giving off with that pair of dress slacks, blouse and matching sweater (vs. the more ecclectic clothing I usually wear to work.)

    One of my male co-workers is the best fashion soundboard I have (he’s quite happily married, so it’s not like that). If he dislikes something I’m wearing, I give it a very critical eye – often he’s right, and the color is unflattering or the proportion of the outfit is off, etc.

    My advice: consider the source!

  • MrB likes everything except for “sack” dresses … and other baggy things. So I listen to him on that one topic!

  • Jen

    I have a velvet dress that I absolutely ADORE, but my boyfriend hates it. Winces every time I wear it. He calls it my “couch dress”, because he says it looks it was made from an old granny’s couch.

    For a week or two after I bought it, I took his opinion seriously and suck it in the back of the closet. However, I felt so wonderful in it (silk velvet is LUV) that I couldn’t help myself, and now I wear it once a week.

    And I just bought the same dress in a different colour. TAKE THAT! 😀

  • Kim

    Yes, I’m going to have to echo a lot of what others have said: it depends. If it’s my mom, for instance, I usually don’t take it too seriously because for all her (many and wonderful!) gifts and talents she’s never struck me as especially stylish. If it’s my friends, I evaluate: some of my friends dress a lot more provocatively, and I don’t feel the need to keep in step with them on that; some of my friends are from warm climates (we go to school in New England) and don’t understand why I would want to own a “practical” piece of clothing, which I disregard for my own sanity 🙂 But if I got an honest criticism from someone whose taste I trust I might reconsider. Even then, though, if I decided I really liked it for whatever reason (even if I conceded it was kind of ugly and kept it just because it was really comfy–because sometimes you NEED that), I would probably keep it.

    I find it interesting all the comments which talk specifically about wanting to be attractive to your husband. Is that a generational thing? I’m 21 and I dress in a way that I think is flattering to my body and therefore attractive to dudes, but I can’t see modifying my day-to-day wardrobe for a guy. Wearing or not wearing something on a special date or something because I know what he likes, sure, but not my everyday stuff. But I guess I can see where this might be different in a very long-term relationship, especially if you’ve been married for awhile and your primary feedback on your appearance comes from one man. If a guy I was dating didn’t like what I wore…I’d find another, haha 😉

  • Whether or not someone’s dislike of my clothes deflates me really depends on who it is. I rarely listen to a word my mom or my best friend say about my clothes, basically because we have totally different styles. I don’t aspire to their styles (and it goes both ways – I know they’re not crazy about my clothes either) so it doesn’t bother me if they don’t care for something I’m wearing. On the other hand, my two closest cousins have a pretty direct impact on how I feel about my clothes. I love their styles so if they like something I have, or don’t like it, it really affects how I feel toward that garment. If they really didn’t like something, I probably wouldn’t wear it again just because it might “ruin” the garment for me. Other people in my life fall at different points in that spectrum. Everyone’s opinion has different weight over how I feel toward my closet. But I’m happy to say that most people don’t have the potential to make or break my feelings toward something. If there was a pattern of bad feedback toward a particular item though, even from people who normally I wouldn’t listen to, I might really start to question it. I do, however, think that some garments are just very objectively unflattering and unattractive. Many more are generally unattractive BUT can be styled well, in a way that makes them less offensive to my eyeballs. But I will say, I don’t think everyone has the potential to style everything awesomely. There are some things that certain people can “pull off” and others can’t.

  • personally, outside input may affect how I feel about a garment (both positive and negative), but most of the time, it isn’t enough to change my mind if I love or hate something with a passion. Ultimately, I dress for me, and I’m happiest when I dress for me. There are some things my husband has hated that he’s later come to appreciate. I don’t know about my friends, honestly. I’m mostly friends with the type of people who, if they hate something, will ask me why I like it rather than trashing it out of hand. Plus, I think all of my friends know that I have eccentric taste – and that seems to be okay! I can wear something they consider ugly if I want to.

    and personally, I think your denim skirt sounds fab! I am way into full, calf-length skirts these days because (1) I thought they were totally in! and (2) I am tall and am totally enjoying rocking long hemlines (I couldn’t *find* a maxi skirt three years ago; I love that they are everywhere these days). My mom had a skirt just like yours in the 80s or 90s and if she had it today, I would TOTALLY steal it and rock with some heels, some cute tights, and this j crew tank I have with a plunging neckline and bejewelled front – you know, just to mix it up a bit. Maybe even a big sparkly belt.

  • A lot of the items that took me forever to wear were the ones that got bad comments from my husband and sister. I am really glad I didn’t part with those items, and eventually I stopped caring as much and started to wear them. And now that I’ve worn them so much, my loved ones changed their minds and instead think those clothing items are awesome pieces and part of my style.

    I know our loved ones mean well, but I think those comments can only hinder creativity. I really have tried my best to ignore those comments as much as possible — I don’t want my self confidence to oscillate because of others’ preferences for how I should be.

  • Rachel W

    Wow, interesting debate : ) I would say that I mostly agree with Sal. I wear what I like, period. However, I think that, just every writer needs a good editor, the opinions of others on our clothing can be helpful. Our bodies change as we get older/lose weight/gain weight/have babies, etc., and sometimes it can be hard to register that change. Like the woman who has lost 50 lbs but still dresses in baggy clothes or the gal who is so determined that she is still a size 8 that she doesn’t notice her growing muffin top — sometimes we need another person to put things into perspective (weight is just a convenient example — I don’t want to hate on anyone for their size). That being said, the person should be someone you trust, who is non-critical, and who’s taste is relatively similar to your own — whether it be a spouse, family member, or friend. Still, take comments with a grain of salt. If something fits well, and you feel totally hot in it, critics be damned.

    I have to say, I’m a little unsettled by the number of commentors who seem to only dress to please their husbands : ( I’m not married, but I live with my boyfriend of 3 years. Sometimes, if I’m not sure about something, I’ll ask his opinion. I may take his advice, if it confirms what I was thinking, or I may not. For example, he hates moccasins and thinks they are granny-ish, but I really like them, and they are a staple of my wardrobe from late Spring to Fall. I know that he thinks I’m attractive and sees me as more than the way I dress, moccasins or not. Similarly, he could wear the most dork-tastic outfit, and I would still find him cute and attractive. I’m not saying NEVER dress to please your husband, but always and unconditionally… c’mon ladies.

    As for Louise’s specific case, I think my opinion may be swayed by my personal taste. My gut reaction is, “toss the skirt.” Yes, it CAN be styled in a way that is cute and age-appropriate, but if it is a staple of her wardrobe, I think all that styling will be exhausting week after week. It would be difficult not to look like either “conservative christian mommy” or “hippie kindergarten teacher”. And, unless you’re tall with slim calves, mid calf-length skirts look VERY frumpy. I say, a nice pencil or A-line skirt, knee length, in a twill or a cotton sateen, would be just as functional and go with so many more outfits. But again, that is only my opinion, and what feels good to you is most important.

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  • Elizabeth Annn

    I would say that one of the primary questions to ask yourself is “Am I now going to feel matronly/frumpy every time I wear this?”

    A “who cares what anyone else thinks, I dress for myself” attitude is great if that’s actually how you feel. However, if every time you put on the skirt you’re going to be thinking “I look frumpy. I look frumpy” ignoring the critics isn’t going to be empowering; It’s just going to make your feel bad about yourself.

    I think the important issue is less about how the garment looks and more about how it makes you feel. Other people’s reactions, especially people close to us, can have drastic effects on how we feel about ourselves. Perhaps they shouldn’t, but sometimes it’s best to lose the battle over a single item for the sake of winning the larger war of feeling beautiful inside and out.

    That being said, style the item a couple of different ways and see if you can get a positive reaction out of your husband. You may be able to bring him around to your way of thinking. If you can’t, it’s time to examine how much his comment will affect the way you feel about yourself when you wear the skirt.

  • Gracey

    I think that styling plays an important role in how a clothing item looks (and is received), but I don’t know that every think can be styled successfully. A long denim skirt though, I think that can definitely work.

    I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t have a husband to have opinions about what I wear. But, I do know that there have been times, with friends, family and boyfriends alike, that I’ve loved what I was wearing and got some very negative reactions. It sometimes makes me wonder if I know how to dress myself (I am fairly certain I do, but still…) but for the most part I persevere and try not to let their reactions affect my reaction to what I’m wearing. (I think I’m able to wear what I like in the face of their disapproval because I don’t consider any of them to be very fashion-forward – it’s easy to disregard their comments).

    That being said, I think a couple of people advised above not to wear it if your husband’s negative comment is going to make you feel frumpy or matronly when you wear the skirt. Because if it doesn’t make you feel good when you wear it, no amount of styling is going to help.

  • Oh, this post took me back about ten years… I had bought a pair of amazingly soft loafers, and they happened to be pink. I loved the look, and they were super comfortable as well. My boyfriend at the time hated those shoes. He hated them so much that every time I wore them, he’d come up with new insults. For a while I kept wearing them anyway; I thought that if I loved them, there wasn’t anything that could make me not wear them. After weeks and weeks of negative comments I eventually got tired of the taunting and gave the loafers to my mother. And you know what, I still regret giving up on them. I should have listened to my guts and held onto my guns (and loafers).

    Overall, I think that every piece of clothing can be styled to look right. It might take a couple of attempts to make it work, but so what. We have time, right? And yes, there will be always be pieces of clothing that others don’t like, that is just a matter of personal taste. We just have to be true to ourselves and our own tastes.

  • Caroline

    Sometimes a persons comment tells you more about THEIR taste/style than it does about your clothes. Someone who hates chunky jewellery isn’t (usually) going to tell you your chunky jewellery looks great on you. My husband is a much more classic person than me, he has a great eye but I wouldn’t feel like me wearing what he would pick for me. LOL – when he says I look “elegant’ I know I have to funk my outfit up a little so that I will feel great!!

  • Meegan

    Just “discovered” this website via Alice at Redbook (or as I think of her, “Mrs. Finslippy). I love it! Yay. This particular post makes me mad at myself for listening to my best friend when we were shopping in Vegas. I wanted to buy a blouse. It had birds on it. Yes, birds. But it was AWESOME and it looked GREAT on me. Strangers in the dressing room said so, but screw them, I KNEW it! But she was so insistent that it was a one-trick-pony that I would loathe after one season…. Rats. I shoulda gone with my gut. (I will say that my friend and I generally share the same aesthetic, she has great taste and tells it like she sees it which makes her a great shopping companion.) I tried to find said blouse on the interwebs but other people were smarter than me and it was sold out every.where. 🙁

  • Fruitful

    I agree with Courtney that it goes both ways. Sometimes a particular person’s favourable comment is actually a red flag that I shouldn’t be wearing that, lol! If someone with meh style likes it, it might just be empirically meh :D.

    There’s another way that this “goes both ways”. That is, seeing the negative reaction in context of all reactions to your wardrobe, instead of in isolation. What clothes get great responses (from people whose opinion you respect)?

    Rather than avoiding clothes people don’t like on me, I tend to gravitate to clothes people (including myself) do like on me. Instead of worrying about whether I ought to avoid something, my focus is on repeating and reinforcing the wins.

    Of course, it’s not all about the opinions of others. I try to cultivate an objective eye as well as confidence in my own judgement. That said, we often agree. For example, I think I look great in red and other people’s reactions confirm it.

    (But when it comes to say, teal, some people like it on me – they are the ones who look good in it themselves – others tell me it does nothing for me. I agree with them :)).

    My point is there is a difference between clothing that’s “maybe” and clothing that’s a resounding “yes”. Instead of actively avoiding the “maybes” it’s more instinctive to go for the “yeses”, and this happens naturally, without stress or strain. It’s not about fear of the negative, it’s about attraction to the positive.

    You could also try on some outfits you feel very “yes” about and compare them with outfits with the skirt. Get a global feel for what works best.

    Sorry I veered off the topic of being influenced by other people. I just think that the answer to the (agonising, looping, defeating) problem of external pressure is to shift focus.

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  • gaviota in spain

    I know a lady who regularly wears skirts like this in the summer, aqnd they look good on her. However she is slim, 5’10 and 82 years. I support your right to wear what you want, however the word frumpy comes to mind.

  • Rachel

    One person, who cares what they say, but if a bunch of people said the same thing about a piece of clothing, I’d look a little more closely at it – particularly if it was something specific (“it makes you look pregnant”) and not just that they didn’t like it. I like lots of clothes that other people don’t like! But if everyone is getting the same impression from a piece of clothing, and that’s not an impression you want to give, it might be something to re-think.

  • lyrebirdgully

    Hi Louise, it’s a while since your question got posted; sorry I couldn’t get to reply sooner. I wonder if you’ve tried your denim skirt in new outfits, as suggested by Sal and other commentators?
    I’m a huge fan of wide calf-length dresses – the majority of my skirts are this length and I wear them summer and winter. They suit both my style and my preference for showing off parts of my body other than my knees (I’m 58 years old); and, having worked out what cut suits my figure, I have now stocked up on this length bigtime. Lots of people associate this skirt length with dowdiness, but I can assure you that calf-length skirts can and do look attractive, when styled right and when the right cut meets the right body shape. (BTW, I have an absolute horror of appearing matronly.)
    To receive a negative comment is shattering to one’s confidence; and it’s only natural to lose faith in the offending garment that caused the comment. But if we are to maintain a unique fashion personality (i.e. our personal style), I believe we have to restore and rebuild our confidence in our OWN fashion judgement. I think it’s absolutely essential to be able to trust your fashion instincts. I don’t mean that we should ignore criticism and forge ahead regardless – I feel we can use criticism to prompt us to analyse more closely what we’re creating with our outfits, and to learn more about the art of creating the look we want. We can turn a negative experience into an opportunity to review an old familiar look, and to scrutinize our outfit choices with a really fresh eye. If you have done even a little outfit experimentation and testing, you are certain to have a better handle on styling skirts— hope you are having fun finding out once-and- for- all whether your old/new favourite makes the cut!

  • Ha! This is a great post–I noticed reading through the comments that other women have had usually opinion-less husbands comment on long denim skirts and I am no exception! I bought this skirt about 3 years ago at age 25 and have liked it–especially for fall as it is a great transition piece into tights for winter. My husband always comments that I look like one of those “church ladies” that walks around the mall in it…here is the skirt in question:
    http://i8.photobucket.com/albums/a18/girlbuffalo1/IMG_2654.jpg