Javascript is not enabled.

Javascript must be enabled to use this site. Please enable Javascript in your browser and try again.

Skip to content
Content starts here
CLOSE ×
Search
Brought to you by
Leaving AARP.org Website

You are now leaving AARP.org and going to a website that is not operated by AARP. A different privacy policy and terms of service will apply.

10 Sneaky Ways to Update Your Spouse’s Style

Subtle comments and surprise 'gifts' may be the spark that sets things in motion

Couple clothes shopping
Marc Romanelli/Tetra images/Getty Images

Are you crazy about her but not the neon leggings and overdone makeup? Adore him but wish he’d quit the combover, buy new jeans and groom his beard? Anyone who is 50-plus and in a relationship knows the signs. Your significant other (whom you love to the moon and back) has a few look and wardrobe issues. You’re itching to make them over ... or at least encourage a few tweaks. But how to do that with no hurt feelings? It’s possible to inspire change without emphasizing flaws. Here are 10 style-enhancing things to say and do with tact and grace.

1. “Funny how new glasses make everyone look better.”

(Clockwise from bottom left) Gina Gershon, Wendie Malick, Jamie Lee Curtis, Steve Buscemi and Meryl Streep
(Clockwise from bottom left) Gina Gershon, Wendie Malick, Jamie Lee Curtis, Steve Buscemi and Meryl Streep
Leon Bennett/Getty Images for The Hollywood Reporter; Bryan R. Smith/AFP via Getty Images; PATRICK T. FALLON/AFP via Getty Images; VALERIE MACON/AFP via Getty Images

If there’s one change that’s simple to spark, it’s new frames. Make streaming platforms (like Netflix, Hulu and Apple TV) and nighttime talk shows your coconspirator for this one, since celebrities 50 and older frequently sport bold, flattering glasses. Visual evidence is always compelling, and your comments can lead to a trip for two to the optical shop. Point out that glasses sit front and center on the face and can create a more contemporary look in anything you wear from jeans to an evening gown — even if you change nothing else.

member card

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

Join Now

2. “They were having a major sale.”

(Left to right) Anderson Cooper, Anthony Anderson, Jennifer Garner and Catherine Bach
(Left to right) Anderson Cooper, Anthony Anderson, Jennifer Garner and Catherine Bach
MEGA/GC Images; Gregg DeGuire/FilmMagic; BG004/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images; JOCE/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images

Just do it. Sure, it’s kind of sneaky, but this is your chance for an upgrade. Toss or donate their baggy, bulky sweats; pilled or otherwise offensive leggings; and worn-out stinky sneakers. Timing is everything, though, since pricey activewear from labels like Athlete, Lululemon, Under Armour and Vuori go on sale at the end of a season and sometimes in a mid-season flash sale. Another option: Head to Old Navy, Target and Baleaf on Amazon for cost-efficient choices all year long. Stick to classic base colors like black, navy and gray for a street-smart look that goes from treadmill to brunch, along with practical details like pockets for cell, ID or keys, trimmer cuts and higher wider waistbands. You can always add a pop of color with a quilted vest or sneakers.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

3. “Your hair would look so great like that.”

(Left to right) Cate Blanchett, Lucy Liu, Michael Keaton and Kevin Costner
(Left to right) Cate Blanchett, Lucy Liu, Michael Keaton and Kevin Costner
Astrid Stawiarz/Getty Images; Gary Gershoff/Getty Images; Emma McIntyre/Getty Images; Joe Maher/Getty Images for Paramount+

Thinning hair or a receding hairline are touchy subjects for even the most confident among us. Sometimes a spouse will overcompensate with length — keeping their hair high-school-yearbook long, or wear a stringy combover over a bald top with a limp ponytail. People-watching at public places like restaurants or sports events is one good way to prompt a change — and so is TV. You might encourage her to chop to a bob for a thicker look, or propose he go short for a similar result. Volunteer to go with them and suggest they bring photos on their phone for a before-cut consult.

4. “Matching clothes counteracts chip and ice cream binges!”

(Left to right) Antonio Banderas, Djimon Hounsou, Ellen Pompeo and Rosie Perez
(Left to right) Antonio Banderas, Djimon Hounsou, Ellen Pompeo and Rosie Perez
Pablo Cuadra/WireImage; Michael Loccisano/Getty Images; Dia Dipasupil/Getty Images; Steven Ferdman/Getty Images

Weight gain and belly bulge are sensitive topics for men and women. No one likes to discuss extra pounds (or their passion for cookies and carbs). Explain in an offhand way that wearing all one color is your little secret solution for dealing with extra pounds and bloat — but that it gives everyone an instantly sleeker shape. Then you can slip in some specifics and additional tips. You might suggest they pair dark jeans or black pants with dark navy, charcoal or black tops to get a near match (good enough!) and untuck their tees.

Entertainment

AARP Members Only Access to Special Entertainment Content

Access curated AARP entertainment articles, essays, videos, films and more

See more Entertainment offers >

5. “Your shoulders are sooo sexy!”

(Left to right) Katie Couric, Jane Seymour, Tamron Hall and Jane Fonda
(Left to right) Katie Couric, Jane Seymour, Tamron Hall and Jane Fonda
Robert Smith/Patrick McMullan via Getty Images; Arnold Jerocki/WireImage; Sonia Moskowitz/Getty Images; Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Is your “other” still fond of plunging necklines and minis? You know she’s stuck in a “sex appeal” rut, but how to broach this ticklish topic? No need to point out her now not-so-firm thighs. Instead, compliment her shoulders every chance you get (a little nuzzle is fine too!) and nudge her toward off-shoulder and one-shoulder tops and dresses in a classy knee-grazing or midi length. Let her know shoulders are a turn-on and look terrific at every age. They’re also an elegant way to expose skin without looking obvious or worrying about revealing sun damage or a crepey décolletage — but keep that part to yourself.

6. “I booked you a guy’s spa day at the salon!”

(Left to right) Javier Bardem, Josh Duhamel and Jude Law
(Left to right) Javier Bardem, Josh Duhamel and Jude Law
Edward Berthelot/GC Images; Steve Granitz/FilmMagic; Roy Rochlin/FilmMagic

Who can resist a few unexpected hours of gifted pampering? No need to wait for his birthday; frame it instead as a mini-vacay. Just be sure to book at least one extra treat like a foot, shoulder or scalp massage or a manly mani-pedi as bait for the real goal of a new haircut and facial hair grooming. Have a discreet word (before day of) with the staff. It doesn’t hurt to mention that a shaped beard or scruff and groomed nose, ear and brow hair are essential assets if you want to get noticed in a good way, be promoted or hired and boost your social life.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.

7. "That’s your best color!”

(Left to right) Holly Robinson Peete, Tracee Ellis Ross, David Eigenberg and Robby Benson
(Left to right) Holly Robinson Peete, Tracee Ellis Ross, David Eigenberg and Robby Benson
Paul Archuleta/Getty Images; Theo Wargo/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images; Elizabeth Sisson/NBC; Paul Archuleta/Getty Images

Sometimes the most unexpected wardrobe color is the one that really makes your spouse’s eyes sparkle and their skin glow — and snags the most compliments. Unfortunately, it may not be the one they wear often. Steer them toward flattering colors by reinforcing the positive whenever they do get it right. Cool blues, bright pinks and red and warm yellow can brighten a mature complexion that’s sallow or pigmented with age spots or dark circles and enhance eye and hair color. You can’t go wrong.

8. “I love your natural look best.”

(Left to right) Elizabeth McGovern, Blythe Danner, Lorraine Toussaint and George Clooney
(Left to right) Elizabeth McGovern, Blythe Danner, Lorraine Toussaint and George Clooney
Karwai Tang/WireImage; Roy Rochlin/Getty Images; Mike Coppola/Getty Images for Variety; Steve Granitz/WireImage

Do you have a partner who overdoes the styling or colors the gray away at home? Perhaps you think his short crop looks better without pomade and comb-in man-dye. Maybe her tousled bedhead, curls and silver locks would be more appealing and flattering than a sleek processed color and blowout. This may sound crazy, but it’s a compliment to suggest they do less. You might say, “Why not wear your hair curly all the time, it suits you!” or “Don’t you think gray hair is cool? I do!” It may be all the incentive they need.

9. “Let’s go shopping. I need new jeans.”

(Left to right) Sofia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Julianne Moore and Jose Garcia
(Left to right) Sofia Vergara, Joe Manganiello, Julianne Moore and Jose Garcia
JOCE/Bauer-Griffin/GC Images (2); Emma McIntyre/Getty Images; Edward Berthelot/Getty Images

Do you wish your spouse would ditch the glued-on skinnies or ancient, saggy baggy jeans? Ask him/her to come along on your own jeans try-on. It shows you value their judgment, but it’s also a surefire motivator to browse for themselves and ask your opinion. That’s exactly your goal, because it opens the door to an honest response. Since not everyone is as much into fashion and trends as you may be, this is the moment to sway some changes. You may get her out of skinnies and into a straight- or wide-leg style, or urge him to try a new brand and better fit.

10. “You remind me of ...”

(Left to right) Steve Carell, Tracee Ellis Ross and Emma Thompson
(Left to right) Steve Carell, Tracee Ellis Ross and Emma Thompson
Karwai Tang/WireImage; Marc Piasecki/WireImage; Dave J Hogan/Getty Images

When your mate needs an update, the look-alike incentive provides an immediate lure. If all else fails, the very idea that he/she has a resemblance to, say, Steve Carell, Tracee Ellis Ross or Emma Thompson can inspire a makeover without a big push on your part. Sure, they may ask for advice, but do them a favor and take two screenshots — one of them, the other of their doppelgänger. They’ll do the rest.

membership-card-w-shadow-192x134

AARP Membership — $12 for your first year when you sign up for Automatic Renewal

Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.