“Flattering” and “unflattering” are two of the few words that make me want to kick an elderly person. Just the other day, my mom told me that the coziest oversized dark grey turtleneck I was tempted to drop some bones on at Lou & Grey was unflattering. “It just does nothing for you,” she said. “That’s not the point!” I snapped back like an annoyed teenager, a little too aggressively for a public dressing room. The point is that it did do something for me –it made me feel good. The point is that it felt like I was floating on a cloud with twenty golden retriever puppies, and I liked it. And who doesn’t need that level of comfort in their lives in the dreary New York City winters?
For me, oversized clothes are like crack. I can’t get enough. Dresses that might be able to convert into a tent for you and your friend to sleep under when you’re camping? That’s my style. Part of it is due to comfort — there’s something really reassuring about feeling like I’m swimming beneath a sweater. It’s like, the world could be ending or Donald Trump could win the presidential election but everything’s going to be okay because I’ve got 4 feet of wool wrapped around me to protect me from it all. The other part of the equation is, of course, due to body insecurities. As much as I’d like to turn off the self-conscious part of my brain and walk into the middle of the street wearing a transparent poncho from Duane Reade with nothing underneath it, I’m not there yet.
Clothes that people might generally deem as “flattering” make me wildly self-conscious, specifically about my butt. What I’m lacking in the chest area I make up for in the back. During my college years, I got a lot of unsolicited comments from men (and women too, surprisingly) for having an “abnormally large” butt when I would wear tight dresses or mini skirts. “That should make you feel good,” my friends would always tell me. But their comments made me want to hide in my closet because who actually wants to be routinely sexualized for wearing something that fits their God-given curves? Not me. Gradually by the end of college, I started phasing out my tighter clothing for less-fitted options (oversized turtleneck dresses were my jam), and gradually the creepy comments became fewer and fewer. And here I am now, yelling at anyone who dares to mention that what I’m wearing is unflattering.
“Flattering”is in the eye of the beholder, and it’s a personal preference. It’s also a hot button for a lot of people, as we saw from the debate on this Ready to Stare dress. Different people like different styles and just because you throw a belt over something that could pass for a potato sack doesn’t mean the potato sack is now inherently better with a cinched waist. In a way, I know we can’t help but think of fashion in terms of body flattery because fashion media drills it in our brains that figure-flattering clothing should be the only thing we’re shopping for (hey, Vogue, thanks for these coat options.) But it is entirely possible to dress well without dressing to flatter your figure. And people who don’t dress to flatter their figure aren’t in need of saving from countless listicles and style advice from fashion experts. Some of us are even proud to acknowledge that our clothes are unflattering.
So let’s stop putting so much weight on the concepts of “flattering” or “unflattering” and let people wear whatever they want that makes them feel like their life is a Beyoncé video. For me, I get that feeling from shapeless knitwear and dresses that don’t hug my curves, and I’m not changing that any time soon (sorry mom.)