Posts Tagged: style

Reader Request: When Flattery and Preference Clash

unflattering clothes

Mollie submitted this great question:

What do I do when the clothes/cuts that I find meet my figure flattery goals (for me fitted but not clingy) don’t match all the aesthetics I’d like to include (interesting structures, relaxed fits)?

I’d wager most of you have wondered this very same thing. You adore a garment, it feels marvelous against your skin, but it doesn’t show off your figure in a way that pleases your eye. Do you sacrifice figure-flattery in favor of design, or do you prioritize the silhouette you prefer over a love of certain aesthetics?

As you might expect, I’m not going to issue some stuffy edict or proclaim that there’s one right answer to this question. Advice is all opinion anyway, and while I’m honored to know that some of you trust mine, I hope that your own desires and instincts trump … well, everything. But I’m also not gonna say, “Screw figure-flattery, wear whatever you want whenever you want!” Because as I’ve said before, some may hear that rallying cry and feel empowered to shirk the rules and truly wear absolutely anything that makes them feel fabulous, but others may feel like it’s the equivalent of being told, “Stop asking frivolous questions.” Or worse, “It doesn’t matter and you shouldn’t care.” If you can implement the “F*ck Flattering” philosophy in your life, rock ON. If you can’t, you rock on just as hard. Feeling good about how you look often begins with conforming to traditional standards of style before branching off into individuality, and there’s nothing wrong with using your clothes to highlight what you love about your figure.

SO! There are a few routes you can take when your figure-flattery and clothing design preferences clash.

Seek similar versions

This won’t be possible for every single garment, but it’ll work for a few. If you love the look of bodycon bandage dresses but feel they fail to make you look your best, seek out dresses that have some of the same design elements but work better for your figure. Dresses with fabric tiers, sheath shapes, and criss-crossed bust detailing all share features with actual bandage dresses, but may have other aspects that complement your body better than the real thing ever could. Look at the object of your lust and identify what is is about this thing that makes you drool. Asymmetry? Flow? Color? If you found those traits in a different garment, could it stand in for the original?

Brainstorm some hacks

Again, only possible with certain items, but worth exploring. If you love the look of sharkbite-hem tops, but they interact with your features in a way that displeases you, throw some other clothes or accessories into the mix. Does adding a structured jacket help? Can you belt? What if you switch up your undergarments? Do taller or flatter shoes change the overall look? Items that don’t “work” worn on their own can often be made to work when placed in the context of an accessorized outfit.

Balance your priorities

I’ve come to believe that it’s helpful to own two or three items that you know to be wildly unflattering by current standards, but that you love SO VERY MUCH you can wear them happily with nary a worry. Those pieces can serve as a reminder that it’s not your job to be visually pleasing to everyone who sees you, and that you don’t have to dress for figure-flattery every moment of every day. If you find an impeccably designed item that makes you look wonky by the current beauty standard, you can absolutely buy and wear it if it brings you joy. You might wear it twice a month, and spend the other days sticking to items that are more traditionally flattering.

That said, if flattering your figure in traditional ways is important to you, filling you wardrobe with pieces that fail to flatter your figure is a bad plan. Two, three, a small handful, yes. Everything, no. If flattering your figure in traditional ways is NOT important to you, you probably don’t need me to tell you that you can buy and wear whatever you like.

And of course, everyone everywhere can buy and wear whatever they’d like. But if presenting a certain silhouette is important to you and clothes that fail to create that silhouette stress you out, use your best judgment, pick a few can’t-live-without-it items, and decide from day to day if you want to focus on flattery or unflattering fun.

Are there any styles or silhouettes that you adore, but that fail to meet your personal figure-flattery priorities? What are they? Do you wear them anyway? Sparingly or regularly? Other advice for what to do when your figure-flattery and clothing design preferences clash?

Image courtesy Nordstrom

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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This Week I Love …


… Grechen’s series titled The Minimal Closet.

We’re living in a polarized world, friends. Congress is the most visible example, but it seems like people are glomming on to extremes everywhere and in relation to issues both big and small. It’s been utterly fascinating to see polarization creep into the fashion blogging world: In terms of readership and definitely in the Instagram world, excess is celebrated. People love to see the pretty, the glamorous, the Louboutins on a white table next to some peonies and macarons. But in terms of discussion, minimalism is the buzzy topic. From Un-fancy to Into Mind, we’re all fascinated by downsizing and capsules.

But my absolute favorite minimalism-related read is The Minimal Closet series over on Grechen’s Closet. While other sources are urging you to discard absolutely everything that doesn’t “spark joy” or pare down until you have exactly 15 gorgeous items that will hang, perfectly spaced, on a single closet bar, Grechen is exploring the contradictions and challenges involved in moving toward minimalism. Buy what you love? But what if you only buy things you love and still end up with too much stuff? Is it really possible to populate your wardrobe with “perfect” items? She is a stylish woman who loves fashion and shopping and makes her living writing about those topics. She is also someone who came to the realization that she just owned way too much stuff and needed to make a change. She is not moving toward minimalism because it’s trendy, she’s doing it because she craves simplicity. But she’s refreshingly honest about her journey, and talks openly about how hard she has to work to make this change possible.

And perhaps more importantly, she doesn’t put parameters around minimalism – hers or anyone else’s. She doesn’t proclaim that she now has three pairs of jeans and will not buy jeans again until those three pairs are threadbare to the point of indecency. She still shops, and talks about shopping as being both risky and a natural part of her process. She has tinkered with capsules, but doesn’t limit herself to a set number of items. She says, and truly believes, that there’s no one right way to do minimalism.

Which is so refreshing for someone like me who ALSO loves fashion and shopping and makes her living writing about those topics. And who ALSO felt like she was drowning in choices but feared the systems and maxims handed down by self-proclaimed minimalists. Grechen has great insights, helpful tips, and a completely judgment-free tone. If you’re interested in an earthy, honest take on moving away from the collector mentality and toward simplicity, take a peek at The Minimal Closet.

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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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.


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

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

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