On sartorial advice from a barefoot husband

BarefootNot too long ago I bought a dress. It is understated, navy blue, short sleeved and just above the knee. It’s fairly demure but also light and cool and great for meetings in the heat of summer. So when Cape Town doused us with some crazy early spring heat I got it out and wore it all day with much happiness. In the evening I added leggings as spring evenings cool down fast and went off to dinner with my barefoot husband and a friend.

As we parked and got out of the car the barefoot husband looked at me and exclaimed, “Oh!”, pause, “That dress looks much better with the pants on.”

Pants. Yes, those would be leggings, but ok.

“Oh really, love”, I said, stopping in my tracks and raising an eye-brow, “and why is that? Was it not good earlier today?”

He hesitated for a fraction of a second (in hindsight I’m sure he wished this had been longer), and then plunged right ahead.

“Well,” he said calmly, “it looks much less like a tea-cosy now.”

A tea-cosy.

I kid you not.

And this from a man who doesn’t wear shoes and whose wardrobe I rescued from being stranded in the early-80’s when I met him.

The irony is that if you had asked me whether, generally, I would take advice from the barefoot husband the answer would have been an unequivocal “yes”. One of the many things I love about him is how thoughtful and informed he is, and how measured his advice always is, especially on things like difficult clients or tricky relationships. He is my default advice-giver. But even he, it seems, has limitations!

So the lessons are self-evident, really. There are 3 simple golden rules to giving advice:

  1. Stick to your knitting

Only give advice in territory you are rock solid on. Period. When in doubt, don’t mention the dress.

  1. Always be humble

Even when you’re sure you’re right, don’t assume you are.  And don’t say the first thing that comes into your head, especially about the dress.

  1. Be willing to be wrong.

Sometimes you’ll be wrong, and the best thing then is to bow out gracefully. Don’t add another foot to your mouth. Put your advice down and back away from the dress. Slowly.

Mostly, though, giving advice – whether professionally or sartorially – is to be done cautiously and carefully. Or not at all.

Far fewer tea-cosies that way lie!

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