Friday, March 4, 2011

For whom I wore it: who's my audience?

Last night, my husband and I had along talk about personal style and the audience for whom one should be dressing. He admitted that he sometimes doesn't like the outfits I choose and that he feels he should have the freedom to tell me, just as I should have the confidence to tell him when I think a particular combination works less well than an another. This came up because he was a little shell-shocked by how much I'd changed my hair and felt that he wasn't clear enough in just letting me know that he'd've preferred I'd gone less dramatic (he did admit, though, that he likes my haircut - so, yay?).

I'm not telling you this so that you can indignantly condemn my husband for quashing my spirit. It just got me to thinking - who am I dressing for? And should I be dressing for anybody? Part of me wanted to tell my husband to eff off because I am free to wear whatever, but...another part of me - naturally enough, I think - obviously does want to look as attractive as possible for my husband.

So what? Who do I dress for? Should I dress for anyone other than myself? Fellow Style Nation dwellers, if you wear something that a significant other hates on sight, what do you do?

[I want to assure y'all, though, that my husband made it clear that if he doesn't particularly like one of my outfits, that...okay. It's not like I'm gonna be sent home to change.]

[God, don't start hating my husband, okay? He's a wonderful man. Just a little old-world.]

Anyway, with this conversation fresh in my mind, I played it safe today when I ran some errands:

I wanted to go with something plain and simple: a black tee and khakis seemed to be just the ticket.

Wow, I'm still kind of shocked whenever I see a picture of myself. NO HAIR!

FIERCE! What would Tyra say?!

What are your weekend plan, people? My best friend since birth is coming to visit for a couple of days with her new boyfriend. I foresee a lot of eating and laughing. 

Black tee: H&M, remixed
Khaki pants: Gap, remixed
Boots: gift from my husband via a shoe store on Ermou Street, Athens, remixed


  1. I laughed when I read your title, because we ask that question in the museum world ALL THE TIME. Not necessarily about what we're wearing, but about whatever we're creating to present to the public.

    And when we ask ourselves that question, there's a balance we always consider. The first (and I'm about to get constructivist on your ass) is what the audience is bringing to the encounter - what's in their metaphorical backpack of knowledge, opinions, experiences, etc. The second question is what do we want the audience to take away with them?

    When dressing, I find I think about the second question as much as the first. Yes, I dress appropriately for the given situation, but then I always challenge myself to see how my clothing choices can bring around additional outcomes of my choosing to the interaction.

    P.S. Holy crap I love that haircut on you. And it makes me want to cut all mine off, but I worry that with curls I'll look less artsy and more Art Garfunkel.

  2. I dress for whomever will be my audience when I go out for the day. For instance, I am planning an outfit for tomorrow that will have some fun girly detail to it. Things my boyfriend would never notice nor care about, but I am spending my day with my bff and I know she will. I also pull my hair back a lot because my bf says he likes it better. So I feel like it's a mix. I begin my dressing for me (I mean they're my clothes, I wouldn't have bought them if they were awful) but then slowly gravitate towards details that others will like.

  3. I love your new look. My father always made clear that he preferred my hair short. My husband always made clear that he preferred my hair short. I acknowledge their preferences, but tend to wear my hair (and clothing) as what is comfortable to me.

    The rhetoric of haircuts.

  4. Part of me wants to GRR at your husband, but I know that's not where you're at, and that's cool. I will tell you though, about a guy I dumped for this very offense, after 6 months of dating. I got my hair cut (going from a little below shoulder length to a bob very similar to my current one overnight). The first thing he said to me upon meeting for breakfast the next day was (put-upon sigh) "why do all my girlfriends always cut their hair and get fat?" I sat through breakfast, silently boggling. And then I just kind of didn't see him again, put him off whenever he called wanting to see me, etc. It was a straw/camel's back kind of situation, but still -- who SAYS something like that out loud?

    I tend to wear what I want. I've let super-casual-dressing men kind of pull me down to their level in the past, sort of by osmosis. Like, if they're not making any effort to look sharp, why should I when I am with them? But I wouldn't do that now, were I to date someone.

  5. Interesting question. I've had a boyfriend hate my short haircut in the past. I was kinda annoyed when he got all happy when my hair grew out again.
    I usually cut my hair according to my whims, and dress for my audience. Usually, my audience is my students. For my colleagues, I go super casual, because we are a relaxed department.
    I hope that your fella comes around. He's probably not used to this great look yet.

  6. Interesting question indeed! I tend to dress for myself with an eye to my audience. First and foremost, I need to feel comfortable. My husband once admitted that he didn't understand the whole boots with skirts and dresses movement - I thought that was really funny and tried to explain, but then we both decided that he just doesn't get some things and that's ok. I don't expect that my husband will like everything that I put on, just as I'm not crazy about all of his sartorial choices - and frankly if he doesn't get why boots go with skirts then should I really trust his opinion ;)
    I love your new haircut, it looks great!!!

  7. Cynthia - can we take a moment to talk about how much of a tool your ex is? GROSS.

    All y'all - I also tend to dress for an audience (namely work environment/students) when I'm teaching or being otherwise professional (interview, dinner with elderly neighbors). My issue of course is that now that I don't work at the moment, my audience is my husband. And he doesn't like all my choices. I think, Allison, that what you're saying seems to be a happy balance. I think a big issue for ME is not to take criticism too harshly (a problem for me with years of self-esteem and mom issues), especially if it's constructive and good-natured.

  8. Cynthia's story reminds me of something my boyfriend told me on our second or third date. He had just gotten a haircut, showed up at my door without having told me, and was so relieved when I told him how nice it looked. Evidently every break-up he had before we started dating occurred right after he cut his hair! I don't know if there's an actual correlation to his cutting his hair and getting dumped, but wanted to share anyway.

    My boyfriend, like Allison's husband, doesn't get some of the things I wear either (he constantly pokes fun at me belting things), and I know that when he voices such opinions, it's meant as constructive feedback, not harsh criticism. Sometimes I take it into account, but ultimately, I dress in a way that makes me feel good.

  9. I read this last night and I had to ruminate on it over night because I think it's super interesting. First of all, I don't think anyone is going to hate your husband for having an opinion!
    But then I have a question for you; why did you start this blog? (don't get me wrong I love that you did). Who was the audience you intended to have, what audience do you want to have?
    If your husband is your current audience would you change your style for him?
    I'm asking all these questions because I ask them of myself too. Granted, this is too much for a little comment box but my parents asked the same thing of me when I started blogging so I think it's interesting.

    Great topic girl!

  10. Anne - you're right. I don't have to take my husband's criticisms as a criticism of ME. Just opinion on my outfit. IT'S NOT THE SAME THING.

    Miss B, you gave me an epiphany: I love what you wrote. You're right - I started this blog to develop my own personal style when not at work. If someone thinks something works better than something else - why not listen to their opinion, right?

  11. This is a great post! I've thought about this issue a lot since starting my blog, since it totally changes the idea of having an "audience" for how I dress. I can't say that I really have a final decision about this particular issue, but I do try to think about it a bit more when I'm making new sartorial decisions.

  12. Dress for you. Cut your hair for you. And when you feel pretty your husband will realize that a haircut doesn't change who you are but it can make you feel more confident and sure of yourself. That in itself is sexy.

  13. Thanks for the kind words, Clare. It is kind of a never-ending issue, no?

    And, welcome, meegiemoo! I hope you stick around! I have to admit - I am firmly on your side with this. Although, last night I did ask my husband if he wanted me to just grow out my hair and he quietly said, "No. I like it a lot now." HA!