What your husband REALLY thinks when he says 'you look lovely': Four brave men come clean about their wives' favourite outfits
11:42 GMT, 20 September 2012
We've all done it: sought reassurance from our husband or partner about an outfit we love. Usually, he’ll tell us we look fabulous — but now it has been revealed that chances are he’s lying to keep us happy. A recent survey found one in four men regularly don’t like what their partner’s wearing — but half of them are too afraid to tell the truth in case sparks fly. Here, four brave men confess to their other halves the clothes they secretly hate to see them wearing…
Writers Tom Rawstorne and Charlotte Kemp, both 40, live in Kent with their daughters, Amelia, ten, Beatrix, seven, and Martha, two.
'I've seen sacks of flour with more shape'
TOM SAYS: Honest No. Cowardly Possibly. Practical Yes. Why else would I never have aired my true feelings about my wife’s sequined dress OK, picture the scene…
Honest: Charlotte loves this dress but husband Tom thinks it's unflattering
There’s a night out looming for us. Our daughters won’t go to bed, the babysitter’s knocking at the door, my wife and I are shovelling toys/clothes/dogs into a cupboard, and neither of us has even begun to get ready.
It’s a given that we will be late, but just HOW late has yet to be decided. So when, half an hour later, my wife finally comes downstairs, the last thing I’m going to do is launch into the sort of conversation that could last longer (and be more bloody) than the Hundred Years War.
She: ‘How do I look’
He: ‘Where’s your sword’
He: ‘Your sword. I assume your outfit is a homage to the Knights Templar. I think that’s the last time the “chain-mail tunic” was en vogue.’
It’s not just the sequins I don’t like — the colour doesn’t suit Charlotte and I’ve seen flour sacks with more shape.
Charlotte rarely makes a fashion faux pas, and I blame this aberration on the fact that the dress is a ‘trend piece’ — meaning some designer once made a tin-foil dress as a joke only for the rest of the industry to take it seriously, copy it and laud it as an item that no woman’s wardrobe should be without.
THE OUTFIT HE LIKES: Her dusky grey Vivienne Westwood dress is a classic, more flattering to her curvaceous figure and skin colouring — but I suppose it’s less likely to be any use in deflecting the thrust of a Persian scimitar.
Dusky: Tom would rather see Charlotte in this Vivienne Westwood dress, right, than her 'sack' dress
CHARLOTTE SAYS: ‘I’ve reached that point in life where I’m more interested in a second helping of dessert than a compliment from Tom. He says my tunic dress is shapeless, but that’s the whole point.
Wearing the Vivienne Westwood dress after having three children means squeezing myself into industrial-strength control underwear first. Even then, if I wore the dress to a dinner party I’d worry that my seams might burst during the main course.
This sequined Jigsaw dress is so comfortable by comparison. It skims the love handles a treat, and I feel slimmer in it because it’s not clinging to every inch. I can throw it on over jeans or leggings, and wear it with boots, pumps or heels.
Tom says I look like I’m wearing chain mail, but I feel glamorous in this dress.
All my friends love it and, to be honest, when it comes to fashion, they have better taste than Tom.
Writer Shona Sibary, 41, lives in Surrey with her husband, Keith, 45, a sales consultant. They have four children, Flo, 13, Annie, 11, Monty, nine and Dolly, three.
'She looks like a cross between a Russian peasant and an Inca tribeswoman'
KEITH SAYS: Shona has many variations on this look, which I call the Russian peasant meets Inca tribeswoman. This particular outfit is the one I hate most. It’s as if she couldn’t decide what to wear this morning, so she put everything on at once.
Russian peasant look: Keith thinks Shona wears too many layers which make her look fatter than she is
I know Shona feels overweight and wants to cover up her body, but all those layers make her look fatter than she is.
I’m not suggesting she wears a skin-tight catsuit, but it would be nice to see her figure sometimes.
I bought this dress for her when she was seven months pregnant with our youngest daughter.
It was fine as a maternity dress, but Shona still wears it three years later. She says it’s comfortable, but it reminds me of pregnancy hormones.
We have central heating at home — we’re not living in Siberia or the High Andes — so I don’t understand why Shona has to wear so many clothes at once.
As for her feet, she seems to be wearing some clumpy welly/boot hybrid, all set for planting potatoes or milking buffalo, but not right for the school run.
Why can’t she wear something a bit more feminine, like kitten heels or ballet pumps
Shona says I’m missing the point — that this outfit is ‘boho chic’ — but I don’t get it.
Since when do purple and petrol-blue work as a colour combination She looks hippy at best, dishevelled at worst.
Shona has much nicer, sexier and more flattering outfits in her wardrobe. I know, because I’ve paid for them. Why she chooses to step outside the front door looking like this is one of the many things I fail to understand about my wife.
THE OUTFIT HE LIKES: Much better. I can see my wife’s body, which looks fabulous in this dress. It’s pretty, feminine and puts me in mind of a Fifties housewife. Shona looks confident and attractive and I love her in red.
Lady in red: Keith would rather see Shona in this dress, right, saying he loves seeing her in the vibrant shade
SHONA SAYS: I know Keith hates what I’m wearing but since he’s not a senior-ranking member of the fashion police or, indeed, a style guru of any sort (you should see his wardrobe), I’ll decide what looks good on me.
I love this look. It reminds me of being a teenager in the Eighties, when I’d wear Doc Martens with a flimsy cotton dress and a cardigan. It’s difficult to explain why clothes make you feel a certain way, but when I’m wearing floaty dresses and lots of layers, I feel carefree and at ease with myself.
I like the individuality of this outfit. I know none of the other mothers at the school gates will be wearing it — they’re all in predictable Boden get-ups — because this look is my creation.
I know you can’t see my figure but, trust me, that’s a good thing, and I don’t have to worry about any bulges or the fact that my waist feels constricted.
You wear clothes that reflect who you are, and this is me — slightly chaotic, a bit too colourful, but never boring.
I’m actually passionate about my boots. They look cool, and I can go straight from supermarket to dog walking without having to change my footwear.
Writer Martin Daubney, 42, lives in East Dulwich, south London, and is married to Diana, 37, a picture editor. They have a three-year-old son, Sonny.
'Her wardrobe's 50 shades of grey – but it's done nothing for our love life'
MARTIN SAYS: Every item of clothing Di buys seems to be grey — safe-grey, neutral-grey, battleship, cloud, steel, and cobweb-grey.
Drab: Martin wishes Diana would show off her figure more and ditch the Ugg boots
Her wardrobe is 50 shades of grey but, take it from me, it’s had a less than invigorating effect on our love life. All those mornings when she huffed into the mirror and asked me: ‘Does this look all right’ and I said, ‘Erm, yeah’, I was lying — in the interests of avoiding another 20-minute outfit change where Di ended up looking exactly the same anyway.
It’s not so much individual items of clothing I don’t like, but when she’s swathed in baggy grey from head-to-toe, she looks like a wet weekend in Skegness. I think I understand Di’s shift from the multi-coloured girl I first met to Madame Gris.
Like all mums, she frets (unnecessarily) about post-baby weight that she’s convinced still lingers three years on, and going back to work after a year’s maternity leave was difficult.
This has manifested itself in a grey wardrobe that makes me think Diana wants to disappear.
As each day passed after Di gave birth to Sonny, a grey blanket seemed to envelope her — sometimes literally, as she wore jumpers like this one. Part-sweater, part-cape, it’s so voluminous it could double as a horse blanket.
As for those grey, wool Ugg boots, there’s never there been more sexless footwear than the Ugg, which should be renamed the Urgh. I don’t know one man who likes them. Di’s Ugg boots are the yang to the ying of the zipped Gucci heels she used to wear.
Heels hurt Di’s back since she gave birth, but why does she have to wear what look like those plug-in foot warmers for housebound grannies
When our house became infested with moths last summer, I prayed they’d munch these cursed boots into oblivion. Alas, it wasn’t to be.
I admit I bought them for her in Las Vegas, but I was a little too ‘refreshed’ after a poker win. My error: I’ll happily replace them with something sexier and less grey.
Brighten up: Martin would love to see Di in more vibrant colours, like the pink jeans and blue blazer, right
THE OUTFIT HE LIKES: I’d like to see Di in hot colours — I love her in these acid-pink Zara jeans and electric-blue cocktail jacket from Top Shop. The colours reflect her vim and verve.
DIANA SAYS: I’ve always liked grey, and it goes with everything. I don’t know what Martin’s beef is — and the less we say about his wardrobe disasters, the better!
I was a bit hurt to discover he had such an issue with the colours I wear, so I’ll do what any sensible woman would do — I’ll make him replace my entire wardrobe at his expense.
Maybe that will get me out of a rut, because I do know I shouldn’t cover my body up as much.
Colour can lift your mood, and I’m all for that.
Writer Rachel Ragg, 41, is married to Anthony, 71, a translator. They have two children, William, ten, and Matilda, eight, and live in York.
'What's with her Fiftie's Mrs Mopp look All she needs is a knotted hankie on her head'
ANTHONY SAYS: My heart sinks when I see Rachel in her favourite dress. It’s floral, and always reminds me of Fifties cleaning ladies. All she needs to complete the look is a knotted hankie on her head and a mop in her hand.
Frumpy: Anthony hates Rachel's favourite floral dress
I dislike everything about it. It’s made of artificial fibre, which I can’t bear, and looks like it’s been made from a pair of curtains in a particularly nasty B&B. The dress screams ‘middle-aged frump’, which Rachel certainly isn’t.
To add insult to injury, Rachel always wears it with my most hated item of female clothing ever: leggings. There are few things less flattering than leggings, especially when they sag at the knee.
Rachel usually wears this dress with her favourite cable-knit pink cardigan, which reminds me of the cricket jumpers we used to freeze in at boarding school. It makes her look mumsy and old-fashioned.
I can’t bear those sheepskin boots. Rachel has very nice legs, but the boots and leggings make them look short and stumpy. I find the whole outfit deeply unsexy. Rachel has a lovely slim figure, but she hides it in this outfit.
THE OUTFIT HE LIKES: She has some elegant, sexy clothes. I like her best in a long skirt with a nice blouse, shoes with a heel and some plain silver jewellery.
Her hat adds a quirky twist, and reflects her personality: elegant and slightly loopy.
She has some smart clothes, and I wish she’d wear them more often. I like seeing her look more elegant and less Mrs Mopp.
Elegant: Anthony would prefer to see Rachel in this long skirt and blouse with a quirky hat, right
RACHEL SAYS: I’m shocked that Anthony feels so strongly about my Cath Kidston dress. For me, it’s the perfect combination of style and comfort. When I wear it, I feel like a jam-making yummy mummy.
It’s my fail-safe outfit for school events: it can be dressed up with heels for speech day, or worn with lilac wellies for the summer fair.
Most dresses look ridiculous on me as I’m flat-chested. I’ve always felt confident in this one because I thought it hid my lack of shape, so it’s disappointing to find out Anthony finds it so unsexy. I’ve always felt safe in my ‘middle-class mummy’ Cath Kidston and Boden uniform — but now I just feel mumsy.
I’m surprised Anthony feels so strongly about my leggings, but I have ten pairs of them so he’s going to have to tolerate them.
He’s never mentioned disliking my boots before but if he’s happy to give me a blank cheque, I’m happy to go shopping for some elegant replacements.
The ensemble he picked as his favourite makes me feel as if I should be an extra in Downton Abbey. It’s frumpy and formal, and I hate it.