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3 In fashion

in defence of flattering dressing

Flattering: (of a colour or a style of clothing) cause (someone) to appear to the best advantage.

Google any word plus ‘definition’, click ‘show more’ on the Google info box thingy, and up pops a little graph showing the popularity of your chosen word over the last hundred years or so.  Oh-so-reliable Google tells me that my word, ‘flattering’, has massively declined in popularity over the last century.  Unsurprisingly – I mean, language has changed a hell of a lot and I highly doubt the word ‘selfie’ was used in conversation in 1917.  But looking at more recent years, it seems like we’re ditching ‘flattering’ from our descriptions of clothes more and more.

There seems to have been a backlash lately against dressing in a traditionally ‘flattering’ way, but I think it’s a little more complex than just changing trends.  (Almost) gone are the days of diagrams comparing womens’ bodies to various fruits and inanimate objects (spoon? peanut?), and now it’s all about dressing for your style, taste, and occasion.  Dressing how you *should* for your body type has pretty much gone out the window, especially in fashion blogging land.

There’s no denying that the idea of dressing to suit your body shape stems from the idea that women should dress in a way most pleasing to men.  On the most primitive of levels, it was about broader hips and fuller breasts as an indication of fertility, back in the day of men going out to hunt a bear for dinner.  So y’know, quite a while ago.  That evolved into the long-lasting era of the corset (small waist, big boobs)… then women’s garments loosened around the 1920s…  nipped in waists returned in the 50s (small waist, big boobs, again)… and since then womens’ fashion has gradually shifted into ‘whatever the F the woman wants’.  Hallelujah for that.  I mean, I don’t think men ever dressed specifically to show their biceps and therefore hunting abilities, did they?  I digress.  That’s where the whole idea of ‘flattering’ dressing originated, anyway.

The shift towards ‘we’ll dress however we damn well want, thank you very much’ is rooted in feminism, and along with this shift came the trends for saggy crotch trousers, baggy dungarees, and basically anything that rebelled against the small waist, big boobs, stereotypically ‘feminine’ figure.  Fashion week always has good examples.  It’s become the done thing to not give a shit whether an outfit is flattering and just have fun with all kinds of shapes and styles.  And to this I say: HELL to the YES.  Dressing however YOU feel most confident is the way to go, always.  Apologies for the caps.

skirt: H&M | boots: c/o PrettyLittleThing | top: old and I can’t for the life of me remember where it’s from

However (there’s always a however, isn’t there?), personally I do feel most confident in something that would fall under the traditionally ‘flattering’ umbrella.  Minus the big boobs part, because this gal’s 32Cs are never gonna make a statement.  I feel best when wearing something that nips in my waist and lengthens my legs, and more self conscious in anything that makes me look straight up and down.  Not because anybody tells me to or I’m trying to appear a certain way to others, but because that’s just my personal taste.  It’s how I’ve always liked to dress, and is the reason you’ll never see me with a baggy top and baggy bottoms.  Typically ‘edgy cool’ clothes just don’t feel like ME, and I feel like a sack of potatoes.  I never got on board with the ‘ugly shoe’ trend no matter how popular big clompy shoes were; I just know I’d look like a complete dick.  I’m not edgy in the slightest and anything ‘ugly cool’ wouldn’t suit me (in my eyes) – mainly because I’d feel self conscious and consequently hold myself differently.  Give me classic over edgy any day (wild child I know).

I’d consider my small-ish waist to be one of my best features so I like clothes that highlight that, not because it’s stereotypically what suits my body type, but because I just feel most confident.  Dressing in a ‘flattering’ way doesn’t have to mean hiding parts of your body or trying to change the shape your body looks, but just about playing up your best bits (in YOUR opinion, not because somebody says you *should* show off your hips or shoulders or whatever).  We dress for ourselves these days, and there’s no denying that you generally feel better about your day when you feel like you’re looking your best.  So I think the definition of flattering has changed: what once meant ‘looking best to others (ie. men)’, now means ‘dressing to feel like your best self’.  The word has been reclaimed, if you will.  And I don’t think trying to feel your best can ever be a bad thing, can it?

lily kate x

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  • Reply
    28th September 2017 at 2:07 pm

    Yes to this entire post. I’m petite and have recently developed hips and I don’t look good in most of the trendy oversized clothes, they make me look like a confused, short adult/tall child. I’ll stick to dressing in a way that makes me feel comfy and good about myself, regardless of what anyone else says x

    • Reply
      lily kate
      3rd October 2017 at 11:29 am

      Thanks Jen! Oversized just doesn’t work for some of us does it? I’m tall and just feel like I look ginormous in too oversized clothes. You dress for you, and only you!

  • Reply
    saving for best (or not)
    18th September 2018 at 9:21 pm

    […] it in H&M last summer – the oh so flattering shape (that inspired this blog post – in defence of flattering dressing – if you fancy a read) and the tie-knot-paperbag-waist-thingy that well, I just really liked […]

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