Should You Let Your Lover Tell You How to Dress?

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“When you have a little girl, it’s like how can you teach her that you’re in control of her body? If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world. She can’t cut my hair but that’s her hair. She has got to have command of her body…” – Will Smith; Parade Magazine interview.

If you follow US pop culture, you’ll know that Will Smith’s daughter, Willow, age 11, has an eclectic sense of style. Hippy clothes. An almost shaved head. Pink hair. A fake tongue ring. She dresses, as she likes. Meanwhile, blogs critique her style, and the Smiths’ parenting.

Image credit: thehollywoodgossip.com

Several people question whether a young child should be able to dress as she wants. Shouldn’t her parents tell her what to wear? In a knee-jerk reaction, most of us will say yes. After all, when we were that age, we had to dress within the boundaries our parents set for us. So why shouldn’t she?

But when I link the idea of people’s mates dictating how they dress, Will’s statements ring true. Many women decide what to wear, based on what their man likes or dislikes.

I’m focusing on women, because, most times, this issue affects them. And if you add weight issues, it’s double the pressure. Men, while they are still judged, tend to experience less. Although I do have a male friend who says he had a girlfriend who told him how to dress. “We didn’t last too long,” he added.

Let’s acknowledge some of the factors at play. We all dress a certain way to please others, to be socially accepted, and, specifically, in a relationship, to seem more beautiful, or handsome. Some women dress a certain way because their man likes it, and it’s part of their whole keeping the flame of physical passion alive routine. However, at what point do we go too far with our need to please our partner and get their validation?

Some fear that their man won’t be interested…

Some fear that their man won’t be interested, if they don’t look always look appealing. They’re fighting self-esteem issues and a fear of abandonment. “If I don’t look good for him, somebody else will,” they think. They always feel pressured to look sexy. They absolutely need the validation.

Some never cut their beautiful, long hair, even though they want to. Why? Because their man would have a fit.

I have a friend who has beautiful, long hair. For years, she wanted to cut it. But because her boyfriend was very vocal about how much he didn’t like short hair, she didn’t cut it – even though she could never stop talking about the virtues of no longer feeling her hair on her neck in the heat. Years later (and I mean years), she finally cut it. He still hates it. But she’s become confident enough to wear it how she likes. And, fortunately, he’s not controlling. So he doesn’t demand that she change it, though he wishes she would.

That’s a very different reaction to another man who grabbed his girlfriend’s weave, and told her that she looked ugly, and that she had to take out immediately, which she did, although everyone else thought she looked beautiful.

It’s also a different reaction to another woman I know whose ‘man’ insisted that she walk around the house wearing makeup. “He expects me to look like a sex kitten all the time,” she said. He also insisted that her eyebrows weren’t well done, so he did them himself. And he told her to lose weight, when, by general society’s standards she was super slim, and could make the average guy snap his neck to give her a second look. Surprisingly, as feisty as she was, she submitted to his demands.

Unconsciously, we let people dictate how we dress ourselves.

This brings me back to Will Smith’s statement: “If I teach her that I’m in charge of whether or not she can touch her hair, she’s going to replace me with some other man when she goes out in the world.” Maybe your social conditioning influences whether you say yes to every request to change that top, put on more or less makeup, or wear perfume.

Unconsciously, we let people dictate how we dress ourselves. As children, we let our parents tell us how to dress. At that age, we have to let them. As adults – even when we think we’re modelling our own sense of style – we let magazines, society, not-so-good-looking people who are self-proclaimed, style queens, and our lovers tell us how to dress.

When it comes to body image control in relationships, you’re probably lucky enough to not have experienced this outright. But imagine if you were asked to change your hair or your style…would you? How far would you be willing to go? What about if your looks dictated whether your partner stayed or left?

Why do some people ask their partners to change their style? Some people do it to exercise control. Some, like the guy who loves short hair, just have a preference. Some people do it, because they know that their partner will dutifully say yes. It’s something that people deal with – depending on the control dynamic in their relationship. And it can happen at any age.

I’ve also seen it happen to other girls, when I was a teenager. Most recently, we saw this on reality (or fake) TV, with Kanye West totally replacing his girlfriend’s (Kim Kardashian) wardrobe, and changing her style, while she goes along with it to please him, and with the belief that it’s good for her look.

When I first started writing this article, the 90s jam by Sybil, “Don’t Make Me Over”, came to mind.

“Don’t make me over

Now that you know how I adore you

Don’t make me over

Now that I’d do anything for you.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VYLlLq-9bbA

She was talking more about personality and behaviour, but the same applies to looks.

I think it’s fine to want to look a certain way that will please your partner. But, what about when it becomes an issue of feeling as if your value rests in complying with his/her wishes? What if you start to feel as if someone is remaking you, or encroaching on your taste?

Style is an extension of ourselves. It’s a form of self expression. So why would we let someone else dictate the extent to which we express ourselves? Because we sometimes lack the confidence to do otherwise. Basically, we’re afraid that someone else will think that we’re not cute enough, or sexy enough. Or maybe we do it because we’re just infatuated or in love. Maybe we do it because we’re accustomed to other people telling us what to do with out bodies. Maybe we do it to get an extra compliment. It can’t be because all of us have a low self-esteem. Right?

While most of us would claim that once we like how we look, everyone else will have to follow suit, or get out of the picture, when in a relationship, we tend to try to please the other person – during the early stages when we’re trying to impress them, or even after we’ve established a relationship and have become attached.

Should we say yes or no to how someone else wants us to look? I see nothing wrong with wearing that dress your man loves, or that shirt that your girlfriend thinks makes your arms look ‘cut’. But you’ve got to know why you’re doing it.

 

Image credit: desktopnexus.com

Karel Mc Intosh

Karel Mc Intosh is the Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Outlish Magazine. She's also the Lead Communications Trainer at Livewired Group, where she conducts workshops in business writing, social media, and other communications areas. A real online junkie, when she isn't surfing the Internet, she's thinking about surfing the Internet. Find out more about her here or tweet her @outlishmagazine.

12 Comments

  1. Shanna Carpenter

    August 27, 2012 at 3:01 pm

    I had an ex that didn’t like when women wore nailpolish. I didn’t paint my nails for three years, and even though I wasn’t that big on nailpolish before, it bothered me the whole time that there was something I felt I couldn’t do with my body because of somebody else’s opinion. Now, I get a bright red manicure on a regular and I love it. When I look down at my hands, I remember that I can do what I want, when I want, and I feel a wonderful sense of freedom.

  2. Charmaine Mcintosh

    August 27, 2012 at 3:40 pm

    Unless you know you have really poor taste NO WAY!!!

  3. Shanna Carpenter

    August 27, 2012 at 7:16 pm

    I had an ex that didn’t like when women wore nailpolish. I didn’t paint my nails for three years, and even though I wasn’t that big on nailpolish before, it bothered me the whole time that there was something I felt I couldn’t do with my body because of somebody else’s opinion. Now, I get a bright red manicure on a regular and I love it. When I look down at my hands, I remember that I can do what I want, when I want, and I feel a wonderful sense of freedom.

  4. Kevin C

    August 27, 2012 at 10:35 pm

    Nice one, K. :)

  5. OUTLISH Magazine

    August 27, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Shanna Carpenter Up for copying and pasting your comment in the comments section for the article? – Karel

  6. OUTLISH Magazine

    August 27, 2012 at 10:59 pm

    And Charmaine Mcintosh

  7. Shanna Carpenter

    August 27, 2012 at 11:16 pm

    done! <3

  8. OUTLISH Magazine

    August 27, 2012 at 11:43 pm

    Thanks 😀

  9. Janice Roach

    August 28, 2012 at 8:03 pm

    No you cannot! You met me like that and loved me, why try to make me over! Then I would be what you want and not who I want to be.

  10. Cate

    August 30, 2012 at 3:18 pm

    In short no. Only a controlling partner is going to insist you bend to their whims, and in that case, you should leave.

  11. Trinitolian

    August 30, 2012 at 11:02 pm

    “Several people question whether a young child should be able to dress as she wants. Shouldn’t her parents tell her what to wear?”

    In my view, no. I’m with Will (and Jada) Smith on this one. What they should do is teach their children (daughters AND sons) about respect and love for their own body (i.e., that it is unique and more than just something for others to objectify, criticise, adore or abuse), reinforce that teaching by personal example and if need be, help them make appropriate clothing choices a habit by actually going shopping with them (not just buying the stuff and bringing it home and saying ‘wear this’).

    Then again, that does sound like a lot of hard work. Far, far easier to say ‘do as I say’ and be controlling rather than put the effort in to be a parent and inculcate lifelong habits. Somehow I think Willow Smith is secure in her parents’ love for her regardless of whether her hair is black, pink or green, whipped or not.

    Should you let your love tell you how to dress? Only if you’re also prepared for them to tell you what to eat, when to eat, who to see, where to go, and what to do when you get there. If that sounds like your cup of tea, more power to you. It ent mine though.

  12. Jean

    June 23, 2016 at 4:22 pm

    Why does Will, and other dads think that the way they interact with the daughter in the family, that the daughter will let her future man, treat. her that sane way.

    See, we as females have allowed men to think that they have influence over their daughters and their minds. Why do we as females let men think they can control us, or make those crazy rules? Your dad treating you a certain way does not influence you. It is the way your mother and dad together raise you and your brother. They both have power influence over the daughter and the son. But the mother, because she is also a female and the like gender parent, she is the daughter’s go to parent for style and dress. Your mother contributes to the way you turned out too,
    not just your dad.

    Please females, stop saying thank you dad for raiding me or doing all you did for me, as of he is the only parent you had, NOT! Your dad did not raise your self esteem. He did not. Females fall for so many lies and deceit . Females tend to do and say whatever men tell us or want us to do. This is wrong. After all our moms do for us. How dare we do mom this way.

    So to the point, what does Will have to do with the way his daughter dresses and fixes her hair. Let her mom do that, if anyone does it, the mom should be the one.

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