Figure Flattering Clothes: Yes or No?

Plus size blogger Joi @InMyJoi

I cannot count how many fashion related articles I read throughout the past year (you know, way back in 2015) that discussed the concept of dismissing the importance placed on and or value of wearing figure flattering clothing. Like a whisper constantly in my ear, the crowd said: ‘Disregard how clothing looks on your body. Focus on how the clothing makes you feel’. Everywhere I turned, the same mantra seemed to be on repeat over and over again: ‘Who cares how it makes you look? Wear it anyway’.

So, I pose the question to you: Do you care whether or not an article of clothing flatters your shape? What do you think about this shift in priorities?

Plus size blogger Joi @InMyJoi

For as far back as I can remember (I’m older than I may look), and even in my grandparents’ style eras – the goal was the same: Aim to look your personal best. Back then, that meant wearing clothes that flattered your shape and size in “traditional” ways. Now it seems that the culture of thought is shifting (or perhaps has already shifted) all the way to the other extreme: ‘Who cares what’s flattering? Wear whatever you please!

Plus size style blogger Joi @InMyJoiGranted, some items that you may initially feel will not be appealing on your particular frame can in fact turn out very well. We’ve all had those moments: You love the way an item looks on the rack in the store, but you assume that it won’t work on you. Then you hesitantly take it into the dressing room, you know, ‘just to see’. Surprise, surprise!!! It looks fantastic on you! You hurry to the sales counter to purchase the item, not caring whether it is on sale or not.
But…what happens when you try on an item and can tell right away that it makes you look bigger or wider, clashes with your skin color, or highlights features that YOU don’t care for on YOUR own body? Is the new culture of thought that regardless of how an article of clothing looks on you personally, or how it makes you feel while wearing it- just as long as you ‘like’ it, you should wear it, and proudly? This thought process gives me cause for pause…

Plus size style blogger Joi @InMyJoi

I am an advocate of stepping outside of your comfort zone, and applaud people who do. But when it comes to my own choices, I choose to exercise limits along with personal discretion. As you can see, I am a plus size woman. I am thankful for the many clothing styles that are currently available in my size. However, it is my personal choice and right to steer away from wearing certain cuts/styles of clothing. Anything that has me feeling uncomfortable in the warmth of my private dressing boudoir will not make it out to the cold harsh world.

Plus size style blogger Joi @InMyJoi

To sum it all up simply: I wear what is flattering to ME, according to my personal (See examples here, here, and here). Although I love seeing others rock various styles of clothing, particularly genres that are vastly different than my own, I know that certain styles are not in line with my personal discretion. I am intrigued by this new philosophy and quite interested to see how it plays out, but speaking for myself personally, I will always take into consideration my size, height, body type, and even skin color when it comes to clothing choices.

It’s your turn: Does wearing figure flattering clothes have any import to you?

Until next time, catch me over at InMyJoi and on social media @InMyJoi.

XO

Jacket: Michael Kors (also worn here)| Dress: Vintage| Belt: Eliza J.

Socks: Nordstrom| Shoes: Nine West

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I’m Joi and I blog my personal style via In My Joi. I’ve always enjoyed dressing up, yet notably, my personal style took on new dimensions when I hit my 30’s. You’ll find me saturated in bright colors, draped in vintage, and topped in hats. Occasionally I venture off to black and white combinations or take a playful dabble in mixed prints. It has been said that style is a way to express who you are, without having to speak. I wholeheartedly concur. Each day of life offers up a blank canvas, a fresh opportunity to use style to express different dimensions of my authentic self. Join my style adventures via Instagram, Tumblr, or Facebook!

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  • livi

    I dress in a way that makes me feel happy and comfortable. As a short, fat woman, trying to dress in a figure flattering way that adheres to traditional beauty norms is pointless. There is no clothing on earth that will make me look taller and thinner, so my basic requirements are clothes that are comfortable to move in, and stay in place (or are loose so the fall back into place without needing me to tug on it).

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts Livi! I’m short too, and have left the idea behind of trying to appear taller as well! Who needs achey feet 24/7 because of unrealistic heel heights?! Comfort is #1 😉

  • I love that outfit! I think people should dress for who they are, and you look like what your grandparents might have called headstrong. Fitted clothing in saturated colours suits that personality better than loose flowy pastels (though they have their place). I prefer fitted myself, but it’s not a practical choice for all activities.

    • Thank you Alexandria, I see the need for a confession is now in order: I have been called headstrong a time or two..LOL! Thanks for sharing your thoughts!

  • I think for me the issue about flattering isn’t that trying to look your personal best is bad, but that how we frame the concept of “looking your best” can really contribute to people’s body image issues, especially in the plus-size community.

    The fact that “flattering” is often seen as synonymous with “makes you look slimmer/smaller” can cause some real mental wobbles when you’re trying to embrace body-positivity while still wanting to enjoy clothes. It’s the old trap that says fat people can’t wear stripes, or peasant skirts, or anything too long or anything too short, or bright colours, or plain fabrics, or small prints, or anything boxy or anything strega/mori inspired or or or… on the basis that those traits don’t explicitly minimise our appearance. There’s something really freeing about deciding that, sod it, I think dark mori style is gorgeous and comfortable and I’m going to embrace it, regardless of whether or not wearing 3 layers of floaty, fluffy skirts makes my hips appear a bit wider than they really are.

    For me, divorcing “flattering” from how slim clothing makes me look has been more about fit quality. A top that is too tight or small for my ample chest can gape or pull or, at worst, flatten my chest into an odd, square, misshaped mass. And a top that is too short in the waist will expose the waistband of my clothes and leave me tugging it down all day as it rides up. Jeans and trousers that aren’t elastic enough in the waist, or are too tight, will pinch and leave red welts at my waist if I try to sit down in them.

    • Erika

      I agree. My definition of flattering is “does it make my actual body look appealing and good to me”. Sometimes this means wearing that all-black outfit that yes, makes me look taller and slimmer and sometimes it means wearing a long flowing stripey tunic that hangs off my bust and floats around me in a way that when I see myself in photos I can acknowledge isn’t making me look any smaller but is cute and suits me well.

      • Thanks for sharing Erika! The most important person to consider in style selection is oneself!

    • For quite some time “flattering ” has been synonymous with “slimming”. I am happy to see that idea die off! Yet when I think of “flattering” choices for myself, so much more is involved! For instance, I love wearing colors that flatter my skin tone. A friend of mine loves wearing certain shades of blue that bring out the color of her eyes- I consider those shades to be flattering on her.
      The fit of an item really is of prime import. I have items taken in that are too big in some areas, or let out, if certain areas are too snug. Pulling and tugging all day is for the birds! Yet some cuts/styles of clothing regardless of any alteration possibilities- are just not for me, who I am- as the whole person. Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences Vic!

    • Dust. Wind. Bun.

      I agree here – my objection isn’t to the concept of ‘flattering’, it’s to what ‘flattering’ is often used as a euphemism for: make yourself look as tall and skinny as possible. Like livi above, I’m short, and at my thinnest I’m still stocky (I accidentally got down to 15-20 pounds underweight as a teen one summer, and I don’t think anyone would have thought of me as skinny even then.) I’m like a fertility idol in miniature. I dress myself in ways I find flattering, but that doesn’t have more than a passing acquaintance with the standard euphemistic-flattering rules. That’s the great part – I get to decide. I have a big round butt, and if I decide that “making sure everyone notices it” is flattering (and hey, sometimes it totally is!), I don’t care if someone else thinks I should be trying to minimize it. It’s mine, and I get to decide what to do with it.

      Fit is a big part of this, as well as knowing what you like. I’m going through a period where I’m carrying around an extra 30-40 pounds above my normal setpoint, and when I look in the mirror, everything looks unflattering because I don’t feel like I look like myself. So I stopped looking! and just went with my instincts (well obviously I look to see if I spilled on myself or if my underwear is showing and such, but.) Some of the things I get the most compliments on break all the tall/slim rules, and if I hadn’t listened to my instincts, I wouldn’t have bought those things.

      I guess my main problem with the backlash against ‘flattering’ is that for a lot of women, it’s not freeing, it’s just one more thing they get told they’re failing at. Some people feel better when they know their clothing is flattering, in both the primary and the euphemistic sense. I encourage everyone to break away from just following the rules as-written and figure out their own rules, but I’m not going to judge someone for following or not following those rules – I’m only going to judge someone for judging others. We all need to do what makes us feel right, and as long as you’re not enforcing your rules on people who ought to be allowed to find their own, I’m cool with it.

      That, and if you think you’ll get my horizontally-striped sleeveless jersey maxi-dresses away from me, I think you, me, and my big round butt need to have a conversation, and my butt only speaks HULK SMASH, k? 🙂

  • oohlookasquirrel

    In high school, I only wore individual articles of clothing that made me happy, as long as I was not wearing some sort of uniform. I was weird and quirky, and I’m happy that I made those choices when I was young and my choices didn’t matter terribly much. In my 20s, I had to try to be professional at points and ended up wearing a lot of clothes I strongly disliked simply because they fit on my body, did not make me look dreadful, and I could wear them to work without anybody complaining. At some point, I realized how unhappy I was with my wardrobe and I snapped. There had to be middle ground between clothing that made me happy and clothing that I could look vaguely professional in. And there was! It started me on a journey that has lasted years. I do wear clothes that I believe flatter my current figure, but that rule is secondary to wearing things that bring me joy.

    Lesson learned: Liking an article of clothing on a hanger does me zero good. If it makes me happy when it is on my body, awesome. Otherwise, it will be great on somebody else and I should not hold onto it in case I can make it work someday. Some days, I put on something beautiful only to find that I feel miserable after wearing it five minutes, and it goes straight into the thrift store bag.

    (I love the idea of trying on a ton of items in dressing rooms, just in case. You never know if you never try it! I didn’t experiment with necklines for years because I thought I couldn’t pull them off, and now I wish I’d started in high school.)

    • I really enjoyed reading your thoughts- thank you for sharing! I agree, balance is key. Wearing full skirts in bright colors don’t make me look slim, but they certainly make me feel happy! Things that don’t make my mark are also plopped in a bag for donation, gone are the days of holding on to it- ‘just in case’, LOL!

  • Devon

    I have discovered (after the horrific trend in the 80’s to wear clothes so baggy that they concealed all body shapes) that snugger tops suit me better. I feel good when I can look curvy in something soft, and I don’t care if it clings to my modest belly. I still have a couple of thick, long and loose turtlenecks that I adore. They hide my shape and maybe make me look heavier (and shorter), but they feel so good, and the colors are so good for my face, that I just don’t care. I will continue to wear them until they are worn out.

    I love to look at fashion magazines, and I’ve gotten better at realizing which styles I could rock (and like) versus which I would be either rock or like, but not both.

    • Thanks for weighing in Devon! It’s fun to have more the one clothing genre to play in, depending on your style mood and or need(s). Who can resist feel good clothes?!

  • Thank you for your comments Monica, and for the compliment! I too have viewed figure flattering tips as optional- not mandatory. Feeling fabulous wearing something goes much further than any rule or tip IMO. I love to dress according to what I feel makes me look and feel my absolute personal best. Indeed, confidence is the best accessory! When you have it, it shines through 🙂

  • Ruth Slavid

    I think you look fabulous too. I can’t imagine a better outfit for when you want to be ‘out there’ and noticed. But of course flattery/ comfort is also to do with attracting the amount of attention you want, and sometimes we want to blend. Do you have days like that as well when you dial down the colours?

    • Thank you Ruth! Funny thing: I’m an introvert and strongly prefer not to draw any attention. However my heart of hearts loves color in bright, rich, and tantalizing shades/hues. What I wear is generally guided by my mood and or timing (sometimes I grab the first thing I see when I’m in a rush). Within the last two years I began to purchase black clothing items, for the first time in my life 🙂 I find myself gravitating to black now more than I ever have. I don’t wear it to blend in- but because for me it is a totally new style experience, and I’m enjoying it.
      P.S. Bright colors permeate my wardrobe from tops to bottoms and everything in between.

  • Love this post! You’re right that flattery is about so many aspects of clothing, not just how it flatters your body. And as others have noted in the comments, part of the move away from dressing for figure flattery is to escape the notion that this means dressing to look thinner. I like to think of it as more about dressing for proportion. Certain clothing shapes and lines just look better to my eye on my body’s specific shape because they are in proportion and harmony with each other. And sometimes you just know what works by the way the clothes make you feel–I can tell by your photos here that you feel great!

  • Agree that the “rules” are just guidelines. For many people, they’re helpful simply because it gives you a place to start if you don’t otherwise have one. From there you can add on style (personality), color and more. It can also help to look at what you love to wear and see if there are any patterns there–those are your own rules 🙂