You’ve heard me spout endlessly about the importance of figure flattery. My little arsenal of tutorials was created specifically to help you decipher which styles work for your unique bod, and just this week I wrote about the importance of learning to flatter yourself stylishly. But what makes something a flattering piece or ensemble? What separates the cool and stylish from the staid but complimentary? What are the elements of flattery?
When I’m contemplating a potential clothing purchase, flattery figures into my decision-making process 99% of the time. And to determine if an item is truly flattering, I generally consider the following factors:
What is the shape of the garment? Does it give any hint as to the shape of the body inside it? If not, it will remain in the realm of the unflattering. Example: I love giant, boxy, slightly-cropped sweaters. LOVE them. And I’ll be damned if they don’t make me look like a burly construction worker. I can offset a boxy sweater with skinny jeans to create an artsy-cool look … but if I want to appear feminine and svelte, I need to pick another cut of sweater to flatter my figure.
Do the colors within an outfit enhance or deaden your complexion, eyes, and hair? Do the colors within an outfit play well off of each other, or do they fight for attention? In my experience, color, or lack thereof, is the most neglected element of flattery. The wrong color can make you look like a flu victim, but the right color can make everything about you glitter and glow. Learning to utilize color is essential to flattering your natural beauty.
Can you tell from 50 yards away that it’s made of cheap, flammable crapfabric? Can you tell from 50 yards away that it’s made of expensive, handspun cashmere? Are the seams neat and secure, or jagged and sloppy? Clothing made from inferior materials via shoddy workmanship will generally be less flattering than high quality, well made clothing. Not ALWAYS true, of course. But generally speaking, well-made fabrics tend to flow better, and well-designed garments tend to fit better. A higher price doesn’t automatically denote a higher quality item, as we all know. But a piece that you’re certain has been well designed and constructed from good materials is more likely to flatter.
Can how you accessorize an outfit affect its ability to flatter your form? Yes and yes. If I try on a skirt that will hit me mid-calf, I must think very carefully about what my shoe options will be. If I try on a crewneck sweater, I must think about how I will downplay that unflattering neckline and decide if it’s worth constantly working around that feature with scarves and necklaces. Accessorization can make or break the flattery factor.
How does the material fall around the body? Related to quality, drape is essential to flattery. Clothing that moves and flows when you move and flow looks natural and elegant. Clothing that is stiff and brittle may rack up some coolness points, depending on how it’s styled, but it’s unlikely to flatter your female form.
Does it show bits of bod it shouldn’t? Does it mask absolutely everything? Go to far in either direction, and you hit “unflattering.” A hat, turtleneck, oversized sweater, wideleg slacks, and pair of tall boots is a look … but not one that is likely to showcase your delicate collarbone, slender calves, or fantastic rack. A tube top, miniskirt, and strappy sandals is a look … but not one you’d want to sport anywhere that isn’t a nightclub. Erring on either side of modesty will interfere with your efforts to flatter your figure.
Does it fit to the natural curves of your body without clinging or pulling? Although closely related to cut, fit has a bit more to do with garment size. You can select a cut of clothing that is exquisitely flattering to your shape – like an a-line skirt or sultry halter top – but if it doesn’t fit you properly, it won’t flatter you. If it’s a size too big or small, or if the construction is shoddy and it pooches or pulls, fit is compromised. But with fit in your favor, flattery is easily achieved.
Not sure I’ve hit all the high notes, but it’s a start! Very curious to hear if anyone disagrees with my choices, or has other items to add.
When you think of figure flattery in clothing, what elements spring to mind?
All images courtesy Boden.