Diary of a Marriage: When Your Husband Hates What You’re Wearing

I like caftans and big sunglasses and leather crop tops and giant Mexican tunics. J. likes, well, everything other than that. What happens when your husband’s catchphrase becomes, “Honey, I hate what you’re wearing”?

Behold Em’s latest acquisitions, the aforementioned Columbian drug lord sunglasses and 1960s caftan that J. is most definitely not feeling.

A few weeks ago, J. sat sprawled out on the bed, stoically watching me as I twirled and pranced about the room in the new clothes I’d recently bought online. It was a makeshift fashion show of sorts, and he wasn’t having as much fun as I was.

“I hate it,” he said flatly, as I vogued in front of the bathroom mirror. His comment barely registered. Of course he’d hate it: “It” was a boxy black leather crop top, and I’ve come to realize that most husbands hate crop tops of any sort. Anyway, I didn’t buy it for him; I bought it for me—and, of course, for other style-savvy women who get that, right now, there are few things better than a crop top that shows just the teensiest sliver of skin above high-waisted pants.

Next up was a nude dress with narrow cutouts at the waist. I waited for his reaction, and it came, even more fiercely than before:

“I really hate that,” he spat. “You can see your skin!” Looking at his face, you’d think I was wearing assless chaps. I tried to convince him that the skin I was baring was actually pretty innocuous (there really isn’t anything too overtly sexy about the ribcage area) but his mind was set. He hated it. So there we were, stuck in the spot we so often find ourselves: I think I look great; J. thinks I look like a freak.

J. has become relatively immune to my flights of sartorial fancy. He doesn’t bat an eye when I wear twenty-three bracelets at once. He’s taken to walking at a snail’s pace so that I can teeter alongside him in my heels. And he actually loves most of my vintage, including a massive half-poncho/half-tunic thing from Mexico that I have taken to wearing as a dress. But there are some things J. just can’t on board with, and my leather crop top is one of them.

So, too, are the sunglasses I picked up last week. They’re huge hammered-gold 1970s aviators. I imagine that a Colombian drug lord owned them before I did. Or at least an extra in Scarface.

“You look like a pimp,” J. told me when I wore them to a Fourth of July party this week. I pretended I didn’t hear him. I also pretended I didn’t hear him when he made fun of the elephant-shaped wicker purse I carried, and I didn’t make a fuss when he refused to even look at the 1960s caftan I scored on Sansom Street last Friday. So caftans aren’t his thing. Nor are, in no particular order:

  • Turbans (This is a problem, because I adore a good turban.)
  • Pillbox hats
  • Females wearing jeans/shorts from the men’s department (And this is where I find my best slouchy denim.)
  • Orange lipstick (This scares him.)
  • Skirts-as-dresses (I’ve been doing this since college, and I still love it.)
  • Dresses over pants (Another holdover from college that sometimes—if done just right—can really work.)
  • High-waisted pants
  • Fascinators (Especially ones with feathers springing out from them.)
  • See-through tops
  • Wearing more than three necklaces at once (Hmph.)

I ask J. for his opinion sometimes when I’m dressing. It’s an off-hand question—“What do you think about…”—asked while I’m standing in our bathtub, looking at myself in the enormous gilt mirror propped up behind it. (This is the only full-length mirror we have in our house, so I’m often stepping in and out of the bathtub. It’s very odd.) Outfits that used to raise eyebrows now are met with an approving nod; I’ve learned that most of my looks need time to “grow on” J. before he likes them. So generally, I just give it some time. “You’ll grow to like this,” I assure him about fifteen times a week. It’s become something of a catchphrase in our house.

Still, it isn’t often when clothing elicits such a strong negative response as my leather crop top and cutout dress. Typically, it’s more of a “Well, I think you look really weird, but if you like it…” and by this point I’m already out the door, satisfied in the knowledge that because J. doesn’t quite get it yet, it must be good. Of course, most of my clothing isn’t exactly sexy—I certainly don’t own any other cropped leather tops—and I tend to veer more towards eccentric 80-year-old lady than twentysomething sexpot. So, like most things I wear, J. just has to get used to it.

Recently we had dinner with another, slightly older couple. He’s a buttoned-up hedge-fund guy; she owned a fashion showroom in New York and has a predilection for the wacky: huge volume and mismatched prints. She gathers her close-cropped hair in little rubber bands that stick out from her head in tiny pigtails, and she rips up old Comme des Garcons jeans to make wild pillows. They’re the fancier version of J. and me.

“Does he like your style?” she asked me conspiratorially in the kitchen, nodding at J.

I told her that sometimes he likes it, and sometimes he doesn’t—and generally when he doesn’t, it means I’m onto something good. (At this moment, we noticed her husband and J.—both in khaki shorts with cotton polos—chuckling at my elephant-shaped purse.)

“I think it works out perfectly that we don’t share the same taste,” she said. “Because, really, we couldn’t go to a work function both looking like this. It’d look like the circus came to town.” I started to look at J.’s toned-down a little bit differently. Maybe his muted style really was the perfect foil to my bolder looks. Maybe opposites really do attract.

The other day, I put on a 1960s apple-green belted sheath dress that I hadn’t worn in a while. As I was putting on my makeup, J. sat on the bed looking at me until I turned around.

“You look awesome,” he said.

It gave me butterflies. Awesome. “Really?” I said, excited. “Okay, but I’m not done yet…what do you think about…” I added a pillbox hat. I imagine he rolled his eyes, but I’d already headed downstairs.

We were back in our spot, and we were comfortable.

Does your groom ever have a really strong negative reaction to what you’re wearing? If so, do you wear it anyway?


Getting married? Start and end your wedding planning journey with Philadelphia Weddings' guide to the best wedding vendors in the city.