In my review of the Closet Case Ebony dress, I asked you about the delicate issue of “flattering” clothes. There were so many excellent responses that I wanted to gather them into their own post!
(Why? Couldn’t I just tell you to go read the comments from the last post? Well, as a principal I work with says, “The person talking is the one learning.” As I write, I’m learning and reflecting… and as you write back in the comments, I trust you get that same chance to consider and consolidate your ideas! Which is a ridiculously teacher-y thing to say, but I am what I am. Shall we move back to the topic at hand?)
In my post, I said that a tent dress like this is not classically flattering, because it doesn’t make me look skinner. As a larger women, I definitely feel like that is the prime goal of figure-flattering clothes, which is probably why the word is contentious in the plus-size community. (For the best take on that, read Mary’s 2015 post for the Curvy Sewing Collective!) I am very curious though if women in a smaller size range hear the word the same way, or what else it implies to them?
At the same time, I said that I don’t really care – the dresses make me feel happy and sassy, which I think is ultimately what determines how good I look. We’ve all felt hideous in some ill-fitting or not-our-style garment, right?
So, what is “flattering” all about?
On to the good bit: your responses, paraphrased!
- Flattering clothes make you look the way you want to look.
- You, and only you, should determine what is flattering for yourself. Do not tell each other what is flattering unless they specifically ask!
- People judge each other by their clothes, and knowing how to “play the game” helps you present the persona you want.
- Knowing the colours and shapes that you love is empowering and builds confidence. (Here, here – that’s my experience of sewing in a nutshell!)
- Flattering is about clothes that make you more attractive, and humans like other humans who look nice. Don’t bother getting angry at the word!
- Flattering clothes accentuate what you have, in a good way!
- Flattering is about good fit, which will always make you look and feel your best.
- Confidence is flattering!
- Flattering clothes are a colour that lights up your face, and make you look happy and confident.
- Flattering is not one size fits all – it’s personal.
- Classically flattering clothes don’t always work with your lifestyle, be it pregnancy, nursing, running after little kids, or your profession!
- Don’t limit your wardrobe to what is classically flattering – when you are older, you might regret the fun clothes you missed experimenting with!
As I read your comments, I had a few thoughts. First, I’m so grateful that you debate and challenge my thinking in the most positive way, because what the world needs right now is respectful discussion. I like to know it’s possible, even on the most frivolous of subjects!
Secondly, while I might say this dress isn’t classically flattering, it’s very close. It accentuates the shoulders and lengthens the legs; the slim sleeves balance out the volume of the body. It’s also on-trend, which means it’s far less radical than say, a lagenlook outfit or an 80’s powersuit!
Third, there are all kinds of ways to achieve a flattering look. There’s shape, colour, fit, and fabric, just to name a few. Picture me in this pattern made of shiny beige lyrca, for example, and it’s much less cute… or two sizes up, with the shoulders falling off and the sides even wider… or with the skirt at a midi length, making my very short legs look even shorter. On reflection, I usually only push one variable (shape, colour, fit, fabric) outside my comfort zone at a time, and that keeps it feeling flattering.
Finally… with photography, I chose how to present my clothes to the internet. I took 100 pics and posted my favourite ones. I wore makeup, waited til the light was good, stood straight and put the camera at a good angle. Now, I did actually go to work in the black and white with turquoise outfit, exactly as is, and I don’t wear shapewear for blog pics or use Photoshop to change how I look. I’m 5’2″ and 185lbs, and what you see is what you get, just the best possible version. Isn’t that exactly what most of you said about flattering clothes?
The problem is all those infographics of what shapes you should and shouldn’t wear for your figure. It’s the universal rules that ignore your personal perspective. And while sewing allows many of us to sidestep those pressures, for some, flattering is a trigger word back to caring more about how others see you than how you see yourself.
So, flattering. Flattering clothes make you feel good, and look the way you want to look. Knowing what is flattering helps you present a chosen persona to the world, and that is empowering. I think few people would leave the house in something they feel is unflattering in shape, size, colour and fit… but that decision that it’s flattering needs to come from within. That’s why I think it’s a compliment best used with caution, or avoided. Isn’t it always easier just to say, “That looks amazing on you!”?
Can’t wait to hear your thoughts!
P.S. Disclaimer – No one has ever used the word flattering on my blog in a way that upset me. Would I be pissed if someone said “That dress hides your big belly really well so it’s flattering”? Uh, yeah, but none of you would be so thoughtless! ❤