Style Therapy

Rethinking “Flattering”: An Exploration of Fashion’s Most Loaded Term

September 11, 2023

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The Term That Shapes Our Choices and Limits Authentic Expression

The word “flattering” is pervasive in the fashion world. It comes up in our work all of the time, and we think it is time for us to explore exactly what this term means and the impact it has on our fashion choices (and so much more). We also advocate that it’s time to rethink “flattering” in favor of authentic style, rejecting outdated notions and supporting all women in their unique style journey. Let’s dive right in, shall we?

The Meaning and Implications

Flattering: adjective – (of a garment, hairstyle, etc.) making the wearer look attractive, typically by enhancing the “positive” features and concealing the perceived flaws according to prevailing cultural or individual standards. Historical trends, societal values, and media portrayals influence these norms.

What is deemed “flattering” also changes significantly across different cultures, eras, and communities, reflecting underlying beliefs about beauty and propriety. This creates a complex and sometimes restrictive framework within which individuals, particularly women, are often expected to dress and present themselves.

The challenges it presents are complex:

  1. Reinforcement of Narrow Beauty Standards: When we talk about what’s “flattering,” we often inadvertently support unattainable standards of beauty. This can lead to negative self-perceptions, with women feeling as though their natural bodies aren’t good enough.
  2. Subjectivity and Cultural Context: “Flattering” is highly subjective, dependent on individual tastes and societal influences. What one person or culture considers flattering might differ entirely from another’s perspective. The diverse interpretations of this term reveal its unstable foundation.
  3. The Undercurrent of Shaming: While seeming positive, the term “flattering” can indirectly shame or belittle those who don’t fit societal norms. We ultimately reinforce the idea that there’s something inherently wrong with women by suggesting that some bodies need to be “fixed” through specific clothing or styles.

To quote the great Anthony Marentino – [we] “HATES IT!”

The Personal and Societal Impact of “Flattering”

These implications stretch beyond personal self-esteem, reflecting a broader societal issue. Our worth as women is often tied to appearance, and using the term “flattering” exacerbates this problem. We recognize this connection and emphasize self-love, self-acceptance, and the freedom to express one’s true self through style through our work.

Additionally, constant evaluation and comparison can erode self-confidence and lead to a distorted self-image. In extreme cases, the pursuit of “flattering” styles can become an obsession, hindering women’s ability to appreciate and express their unique beauty and individuality. The emphasis on “flattering” may also perpetuate a culture where women’s value is tied to appearance, rather than personal qualities, achievements, or authenticity.

A New Approach to Fashion and Beauty

The push to shift our language and approach to fashion is growing – thank goddess! In response to toxic language and efforts to tear women down, these are a couple of pillars around which we have framed our life’s work:

  • Emphasizing Confidence and Self-Worth: Instead of “flattering,” the focus is on what makes each person feel comfortable in their own body. When women support women in this self-discovery journey, we feel more confident and empowered. This is something we will always support 100%.
  • Shifting Towards Authentic Expression: When we as women are dedicated to moving away from conventional standards, we feel more encouraged to wear what feels right, not what’s dictated by ye olde society. Every single service we offer, action we take, and conversation we have is all for the purpose of supporting women’s journey to a more authentic life through style.
  • Utilizing Personalized and Positive Language: Rather than use the term “flattering” to describe how a garment or outfit looks on a client, we opt for words that relate to whatever that client’s Style Archetypes are. That way we can be sure we are supporting whatever her authentic style happens to be, and connect her to it on a deeper level.

Conclusion: The Future of “Flattering”

The term “flattering” may seem benign, but its complexity is no easy feat to dismantle. Even with all of the recent rejection of limiting beliefs towards women and women’s “beauty standards,” change is hard. Even so, we believe in evolving towards an accepting society, questioning this term’s place in our fashion vocabulary. Perhaps it is a simple shift towards visual balance and harmony; both of which honor your given shape, silhouette, and bone structure. We dream of a world in which women have the freedom to do as they damn well please while releasing all of the built-up conditioning we have had to endure our entire lives. That being said, we have built our core offerings around supporting this dream.

From Color Analysis to Style Archetyping and Body Architecture, our mission is to be a guide for each and every person on their own journey to their most authentic selves. By going deep and shedding old ways of thinking about ourselves and our bodies, we can step into the magical beam of light we are meant to be.

What we can do now is to support women in making style choices based on personal desires and authenticity Let’s celebrate uniqueness, embrace individual style, and find joy in true expression, beyond the limiting scope of “flattering.” It’s a conversation worth having, a change worth making, and a journey we are committed to supporting.

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