‘Five Key Pieces That Are Flattering For Your Body Type’
‘Dress To Look 10 LBs Slimmer’
‘The Best Clothes To Flatter Every Shape’
Just a few headlines that popped up on Google when I typed in the phrase, ‘flattering clothes’. Just a few messages we have had pounded into us since birth. Since our Mum’s popped us out and society decided which babygros ‘suited’ our tummy rolls and whether we’d look more or less ‘slim’ with a dummy popped in. Or that’s what it feels like.
Every woman reading this post will know what their body shape is, from years of magazines, Trinny and Susannah and Gok Wan (or Coleen Rooney – remember her show?) classifying us as a pear, skittle, apple, upside-down triangle, blob of goo or runner bean.
I’m a ‘classic’ pear. Tiny tits, a visible collar bone, a waist (for 3 weeks of every month any way) and a big bum, thighs and hips.
I’ve been told for years what I should and shouldn’t wear and for 30-odd of them I’ve been listening.
I’ve worn skater dresses, a-line skirts, wrap dresses. I EVEN WORE BOOTCUT JEANS BECAUSE I WAS TOLD THEY’D BALANCE OUT MY HIPS. The horror.
I avoided anything high-waisted (my hip were too evident), anything skin tight (my hips were too evident) and anything that wasn’t ‘nipped in at the waist’ (my hips were too evident).
I had ‘classic’ apple friends. Who were told they’d be buried in a tunic and leggings but just wanted to wear a skater skirt and tight top a la Regina George or Lauren Conrad.
And I became obsessed with the concept of ‘flattering’.
Because what ‘flattering’ means is wearing clothes that makes my body conform to the societal standards of beauty. It means that cellulite is covered, rolls are smoothed over and lumps and bumps are hidden.
Flattering means making yourself appear slimmer than you actually are.
And as I journey towards body-acceptance, I realise more and more that not only is that a really fucked up concept, but also that I don’t want to dress for society, I want to dress for myself.
It’s an ingrained attitude to yourself. Flattery. Because it’s been drilled into us from all angles since forever. Since you first read an article that told you how to dress as a pear (which I wish meant putting on a pear costume and telling everyone else to fuck off).
Since I worse a suit to my prom because none of the taffeta, pastel blue and lilac monstrosities would ‘flatter’ my pear shape.
Since my Mum wouldn’t let me get Phoebe in Friends EXACT Gap, orange peacoat because I was too, ‘hippy’ and needed something longer to hide them.
So why are we all so obsessed with wearing flattering clothes? Why are we trying to kid other people that we don’t have an errant roll or cellulite on the front (AND BACK) of our thighs?
It boils down to, ‘fat’ not being deemed beautiful but societal standards. It boils down to those who do not have a healthy self-image wanting to be completely disassociated from ‘looking fat’.
It also boils down to ‘flattering’ as a concept laying side by side with diet culture.
So we pose in all the right angles for selfies. And we ask our friends to get the most, ‘flattering’ shot of us. We delete photos of us that we, ‘feel’ fat in. And we send clothes back that show our rolls as opposed to smooth over them. We have a rolling wardrobe of clothing types and shapes whizzing in our brains that convince us to buy or avoid certain items like a shaming Rolodex of self-hate.
Is that skirt going to cling to my hips?
Is that top going to hide my four-boobs?
Are those jeans so light that the shadows of my cellulite dimples will show through?
Is that top long enough to cover my lower belly pooch?
Running through this mental wardrobe (which I imagine resembles Cher from Clueless’s except with waaay lower self esteem) is as exhausting as typing out a tweet to Khloe Kardashian as she updates her app with more drivel like, ‘5 Ways To Look Skinny AF In Photos.’
So at what point do we say the ‘f’ word to this ‘f’ word?
At what point do we begin to deconstruct this notion that everything we wear must be flattering? Because who are we flattering? Not ourselves. We’re telling ourselves, each time we opt for something, ‘flattering’ that we have something to flatter. Something bad that needs covering up.
Or are we flattering society by not showing ourselves just as we are, because no one makes money out of self-love and acceptance?
It’s a struggle I know. Like with any other message we’ve had drilled into us since birth, re-training our brains to understand why we behave a certain way and trying to break that cycle isn’t easy.
All I ask is that the next time you mentally put together an outfit, you do it thinking about what you want to wear and how you want to look.
If a voice creeps in that tells you, ‘no that won’t be flattering’ or, ‘that doesn’t go with your shape’, or, ‘by wearing that outfit people will see you have rolls’, then I ask you to stop and analyse where those thoughts are coming from.
All I ask is that if you see a trend, an item or a style you want to replicate you do it with total freedom and abandonment of the concept of ‘flattering.’
Because our bodies, our styles, our self-esteem are ours alone. Do we want to contribute to the abolishment of our self-acceptance in a world that tells us we’re better off hating ourselves, or do we want to be unapologetically and proudly us?
Do we want to dress solely for the societal standards of acceptance and beauty? Or do we want to define our own standards of beauty and work harder to accepting ourselves?
It’s not going to be easy. We are going to put a pencil skirt back on the rack and think, ‘not today, Victoria Beckham’ but we can start the fight against ‘flattering’ today.