I dress like a tomboy: jeans, T-shirts, hoodies, and work boots. My boyfriend of a year wants me to wear skirts and dresses more often. Nothing trashy. Just not my usual tomboy wear. This weekend, I wore a sundress to brunch. It made him so happy, and he kept telling me how beautiful I looked. I did feel a little uncomfortable because I'm not used to dressing like that. Some women in my circle are like, "He should accept you as you are. Don't change for a man." Am I giving up some important source of power?
Your boyfriend's asking you to sometimes wear a dress for him, not hold out your wrist so he can chain you to the pipe in the basement with the six other sister wives.
There are women out there who still see dressing to please a man as some sort of Stockholm syndrome thing -- participating in your own (flouncy, spaghetti-strapped) subjugation. So, it's possible that those advising you "Don't change for a man!" are just trying to help you be a modern and empowered woman. Of course, one could argue that actually being a modern and empowered woman means you don't have to dress like you're hoping to get a call to clean out a sewer line.
Maybe those in your advice coven really do believe they're acting in your best interest. Maybe. Social psychologists Roy Baumeister and Jean Twenge report that it's widely believed that men drive the "cultural suppression of female sexuality" -- which could include shaming women for how they dress. However, in reviewing the research, they make a persuasive case that it's primarily women (often without awareness of their motives) who work to "stifle each other's sexuality."
This is right in keeping with research on female competition. While men fight openly -- "Bring it! I will ruin you!" -- women take a sneakier approach. As female competition researcher Tracy Vaillancourt explains it, women fight for their interests using "indirect aggression," like gossip, mean looks, disparaging remarks, and other underhanded tactics to "reduce the mate value of a rival." Underhanded tactics? You know -- like suggesting you're selling out womankind if you wear a skirt or winged eyeliner.
In other words, your best interest and these other women's may diverge -- though they may not consciously intend to hurt you. As for whether you should throw on a dress from time to time, consider that if you love somebody, you do sweet things for them. Sometimes, this requires a bit of a stretch on your part -- like from the teen boys' section of the department store to that rack in the women's department. A person's clothes say a lot about them, and a man will be happier if his girlfriend's don't scream, "My hobby is crushing beer cans against my forehead."