Yes, I tell my husband what to wear – and no, darling, its NOT suede waistcoats

Yes, I tell my husband what to wear – and no, darling, it's NOT suede waistcoats



00:44 GMT, 22 March 2012

Every wife has her secrets. Some women treat themselves to shopping binges on their husband’s credit card, then hide their purchases under the bed. Others enjoy a little light flirtation with their gardener or postman, or feign ignorance about how the car acquired that nasty dent. My own guilty habit is this: when my husband Guy is out of the house, I sneak upstairs to his wardrobe, find the item of clothing I dislike the most, and bury it in the dustbin.

Over the years, russet-coloured velvet
jeans, yellow and maroon tartan trousers, several denim shirts, T-shirts
proclaiming his love for Roxy Music, boxer shorts that pre-date our
(ten-year) marriage and several pairs of red socks that scream ‘hooray
henry’ have all disappeared mysteriously from his wardrobe.

the shout comes ‘Have you seen my . . ’ I reply sweetly ‘Sorry
darling, haven’t seen it for a while,’ knowing full well that the item
in question is probably sitting at the bottom of a recycling bin.

Annabel's choice

His choice of outfit

Dressed to impress: Guy wearing Annabel's choice of outfit (left) and pictured dressed in his own selection of fashion items (right)

There are a few survivors — a green denim shirt, a pair of salmon pink trousers and a hideous tan suede waistcoat bought in Bavaria. But, between you and me, their days are also numbered. In this, admittedly underhand and deceitful, manner, I have remodelled his wardrobe to my taste. I know that love is supposed to be blind, but as far as I’m concerned it’s not colour blind. Not where red socks and russet trousers are concerned anyway.

It may be shallow and controlling to dictate what he wears, but it seems I am not alone. A new survey has revealed that two-thirds of men wear what their partner chooses for them. And most of them are quite happy for her to do so, admitting that they lack the confidence and taste to dress well. Frankly, the other third should take note. They are probably those deluded men who wear long baggy shorts and tight T-shirts well into their 40s, clinging defiantly to their youth. Or embrace middle-age too enthusiastically by wearing orangey-brown suede jackets with sky-blue denim.

Often it is not the individual items themselves that are offensive, but the way in which they are worn. Pink or red trousers might be passable on their own, but team them with a blue blazer and loafers and it’s Hello Alan Partridge. When I first met Guy in the mid-Nineties, he had floppy hair and wore tweed jackets with jeans. He was handsome but a bit of a young fogey. I’ll never forget him turning up at a friend’s party wearing a tweed jacket, like a fusty academic, while everyone else was in jeans.

When I first met Guy in the
mid-Nineties, he had floppy hair and wore tweed jackets with jeans. He
was handsome but a bit of a young fogey…

After I had steered him in the direction of a short, sharp haircut and persuaded him to abandon the tweed jacket, he looked about ten years younger. Nowadays, I generally like what he wears (possibly because I’ve bought the items for him, or pointed him towards them): Converse trainers, jeans, stripy or patterned shirts, subdued socks. Nothing too cutting-edge, but not stuffy either.

Even so, he still makes the occasional fashion faux pas — like the time when he turned up at a rather right-on friend’s party in a shirt printed with Playboy covers. The Bavarian waistcoat still makes the odd unwelcome appearance, as does a bizarre hat that he bought on a stag night in Munich and which he now insists on donning for walks. Another survivor of successive wardrobe culls is a cream linen jacket that Guy likes to wear out to dinner but which makes him look like an official at a bowling tournament, or an ice-cream salesman.

Not to mention the patchwork shirt that might be all right if he lived in a hippy commune, but in the midst of rural Wiltshire looks distinctly Wurzel Gummidge. I’m biding my time to shuffle those into the recycling bin. But it must be done subtly because, unlike the men in the survey who either trust their partner’s judgment or ‘give in for an easy life’, Guy doesn’t really welcome my fashion advice, insisting on wearing the things I despise just to annoy me. Not that I should really complain, as I seldom comply with his wishes. If I wore what he wanted I would be teetering in six-inch heels all day and doing the school run in a rubber mini-skirt.


Like most men, I don’t particularly care about what I wear, mainly because I think worrying about clothes is a mark of vanity — or being Italian. However, I am an opinionated chap, so on the rare occasions when I do buy clothes — about every two years — then I am insistent that I should buy the clothes that I want, and not the ones my wife wants.

Since we’ve been married, I’ve had to make many changes to appease my wife — eating vegetables and getting up before 9am, to name just two — so surely my wife can give some ground in return and allow me to wear what I choose After all, she did fall in love with me when I was supposedly dressing terribly, so surely I can’t have looked that bad

Fashion inspiration The chart-topping British folk band Mumford & Sons rocking the classic look

Fashion inspiration The chart-topping British folk band Mumford & Sons rocking the classic look

I’m also deeply resentful that she has taken it on herself to surreptitiously launch strikes on my wardrobe. If I did as much to her wardrobe then she’d be on the phone to a lawyer immediately. The thing is, I can never work out what she has against so many of my clothes. I’m now 40, and I suspect she’s trying to turn me into a 28-year-old. So, out go the solid loafers and in come the Converse trainers.

Goodbye as well to tweed and linen jackets and in comes a pea coat, which, let’s face it, is just a donkey jacket with middle-class aspirations.
I do give a little ground. I’ll admit that the pink trousers make me look like an Army officer — but I bought them on a trip to Manhattan, and every time I wear them they remind me of a brilliant holiday. The Bavarian waistcoat looked great in the German village I bought it in — but I concede it may not have travelled well.

Part of the problem is that I buy clothes for comfort and longevity, which tends to make things a little fogeyish. This means moleskins and not Gap jeans. This also means a proper shirt and jersey, and not some flimsy long-sleeved T-shirt. Another impediment to me dressing in the modern clothes my wife likes is that I’m simply not built to be a clothes horse. I am more of a clothes pig.

I have an Anglo-German build, which is the product of centuries of beef and sausages. I’m never going to look good in the type of skinny boy-band gear that Annabel would have me wear. Like most of us chaps, what I look best in is a really well-cut suit. However, as I work at home, dressing like Don Draper is about as likely and as practical as Annabel dressing in a pencil skirt and heels to muck out our goose.

There is one irony of course, and that’s this: the fogey look is currently in fashion! Look at the chart-topping British folk band Mumford & Sons — all kitted out in tweed and waistcoats. So it seems I can dress like an old buffer and yet be trendy. Now all I have to do is to dig all my old clothes out of the back of my wardrobe. I’m sure they’re still there, somewhere. Annabel, have you seen them Annabel