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Reader Request: Contradictory Figure-flattery Advice

conflicting advice

J. added this question to the suggestion box:

What about advice for when your sense of what’s flattering is self-contradictory? Most advice only addresses one dimension at a time, and sometimes the applicable bits of advice directly contradict one another. To give an example – I am very chesty but also have a tiny waist and an hourglass figure. Sounds easy: cinch in that waist with a belt. But I am also tremendously short-waisted and can’t wear anything but the narrowest belt at my natural waist. Therefore I should wear a very narrow belt, or wear the belt a little on the low side where I am still fairly slim. But I’m also short … I imagine that many women struggle with this same type of problem, and I’d love to get your advice.

Oh yes, it’s true, addressing one figure-flattery priority may monkey with another. And isn’t THAT aggravating? I wish I had a simple, straightforward solution for this one, but I’m afraid I just don’t. Here’s what I can tell you.

Prioritize your priorities

The most important and effective thing you can do is to decide which figure-flattery priorities take precedence within an outfit. If wearing a belt shows off your waist, but also emphasizes your short-waistedness, you’ve gotta pick one or the other. Is it more important to show that waistline, or to make your silhouette appear more balanced? Pick one, let the other go.

Adjust your eye and expectations

Figure-related advice can get really nit-picky. Add that nit-pickiness to the mental catalog of comments and observations about our bodies that has accumulated over the years, and you may end up with a distorted view. That floaty blouse could be the perfect color for your complexion and help you downplay your midsection, but it might simultaneously make your bust look bigger. As it turns out, THAT IS COMPLETELY OK. Not only is it extremely difficult to flatter your everything all at once, but in all likelihood no one but you notices the figure-related minutiae of your outfit. Try to let your eye adjust to things that may be deemed “unflattering,” but are really just fine. Then adjust your expectations of your outfits. One in 40 will be perfect, the rest will fall short. Luckily, most everyone else has that same track record, too.

Experiment

Advice should always, ALWAYS be a jumping-off point. As J. points out, most style advice is given in a vacuum: Sure, it’s great to know how to make your legs look longer, but depending on your unique proportions those techniques might create disproportionality or add volume or do any number of other less-than-desirable things to your figure. So try to carve out some time to experiment. Say you’ve got a dress that makes your waist look great and your butt look not-great. What happens if you add a wide belt? A long jacket? A crinoline? What if the hemline were shorter? How about drawing attention upward with a statement necklace? What would happen if you put a skirt you love OVER the bottom half of the dress and leave just the top half showing? Sometimes, you’ll find a garment that is amazing in one respect and disappointing in another. It’s up to you to determine if there are work-arounds, or if you should just donate and move on.

Unsatisfying, no? For me, too, friends. But as Mick says, you can’t always get what you want, especially if what you want is for all of your outfits to flatter your entire body. I might’ve added that last bit myself.

Images courtesy Nordstrom

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