#ImFlattered Talks Back To Fashion Bashing

SmartGlamour, an NYC based size-inclusive clothing company, has created a campaign called #ImFlattered.  In the campaign women appear wearing clothing that they’ve been told is not “flattering” for them, holding signs with the words of the misguided people who confused these women’s bodies and clothing choices with their business (you can click on the pictures to enlarge them.)

Check out their page for more pictures, videos, and to shop their clothes from xs to 6x and up! I’ve been a card-carrying member of the f*ck flattering club for quite some time now, I thought that in honor of the #ImFlattered project, I would repost my thoughts about this:

A while ago on this blog I wrote about the issue of people who suggest that fat people are responsible for accommodating their size bigotry by wearing what they think we should wear.  You can read the whole post here.  It got a lot of positive reactions and some really strong reactions, both on the blog and around the internet where it got picked up, from people who said things like:

  • What’s wrong with wearing flattering clothes?
  • Why is it wrong to want to look my best?
  • I’m short and I prefer to wear heels because they make my legs look longer.
  • Some clothes look better on some bodies than others, that’s a fact.
  • I like to wear make-up so that my skin looks better and I feel more confident
  • I prefer to hide my rolls.
  • I like to wear shapewear to smooth out my stomach bumps

I said it in the original piece and I’ll say it again – people are allowed to wear what they want for whatever reason they want, including an attempt to get as much societal approval as possible, or to try to get as close as possible to the current stereotype of beauty.

I was not trying to tell people how to live or what to wear.  What I was suggesting was that it might be worth thinking about the social constructs that dictate what is “flattering.” Why do we, as a society, think that certain looks are better on certain bodies? Why is being seen as taller also seen as better (up to a certain point where women are seen as “too tall” and given suggestions on how to not appear less tall.)  Why are long legs “better” than short legs? What’s wrong with rolls and cellulite?  How do racism, sexism, ableism, ageism sizeism and homophobia play into our ideas of “flattering.”  Why do we, as a society, value clear skin – even if the make-up we wear to give the appearance of clear skin causes breakouts and ultimately skin damage.  Why does “looking our best” mean working toward being as close as possible to a single stereotype of beauty. How does access to clothing that we like/that fits play into this?

In short, why do we believe that looking our best means spending our time, money, and energy making our bodies look different through what amounts to a series of optical illusions?  Why can’t we learn to perceive beauty in every body instead of trying to make every body fit a single perception of beauty.

Again, I’m not saying it’s wrong to do these things – I’m suggesting we consider the roots of why we do them, and decide if we feel like that’s ok, which is a decision each of us gets to make.  Then what’s important is to be able to make our choices while not trying to push our ideas onto other people, or judge them through our lens.

As I said in my piece “F*ck Flattering” – you get to dress how you want for whatever reason you choose.  You can pick clothes because you like them, because you think they will gain social approval for you, because they highlight your shape, because they disguise your shape, because your significant other likes them, because your mom hates them, because you think they are flattering, because you think they are unflattering, or for any other reason.  It’s your body and they are your clothes and you are the boss of your underpants and also the boss of your regular pants.

Something that we are not often told is that we do have the option to throw off our jacket and give flattering the finger with our arm fat waving unrestricted in our tank tops, our breasts comfortable in a bra that neither lifts nor separates (or no bra at all), our skirt showing every roll of our stomachs, and our leggings showing every dimple of cellulite on our thighs.  We should all have access to clothes that we like. We get to choose how we dress our bodies and why, we can choose to wear things that are flattering by some definition of flattering or not.  But no matter what we choose, I think it’s important to remember that we do not owe anybody flattering by any definition, and nobody owes it to us.

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14 thoughts on “#ImFlattered Talks Back To Fashion Bashing

  1. Amen.
    I hate the word “flattering”. In german there is the word “kaschieren” which I find even worse. It means “conceal”. I’m not concealing anything, I’m clothing myself.

  2. I think it’s the final frontier for women. I have a hard time undoing all the programming, all the things people tell me are ‘flattering’ for my size. Women need to question why and I think that’s the point you brought up in your post. As long as women know why, it’s not our place to say ‘but’. Otherwise we are no better than the people pushing ‘flattering’ on us.

    I think that’s as clear as mud.

  3. Huzzah! Great post! Myself, I detest bras and wear one only for formal occasions, when I want to “fit in,” as it were, or not call attention to myself. Happily I work at a place where no one obliges me to wear one. I have been told wearing a bra would “slim me down,” which I guess means make me look thinner, but otherwise haven’t taken any flack for it.

    I know some people are more comfortable with a bra–for some people it helps take weight off their upper back. More power to them!

    I’m with you. Let’s wear what feels good, for whatever personal reason, and fuck flattering.

    1. I don’t wear one either, but sometimes my boobs are squished while bending over a bookcart, as the handle is the height of my breasts. I’m smaller than petite, so I don’t get any clearance.

  4. Personally I never really thought about the word flattering as a bad connotation. I even used it myself. But I see the issue that it raises.

  5. I struggle with this every day. I have a closet full of clothes that I’m afraid to wear. I buy them with every intention of wearing them but then I become self-conscious. I’m worried about the “rules”. Not just about whether as a short person I should wear this or as a fat person I should wear that–but just fashion rules in general. Logically, I know those rules mean nothing but it has been drilled into us so hard and so long that I ultimately pick something safe or “acceptable”. I have all these ideas I want to throw together but because I’m not sure I’m “allowed” by society, I chicken out. Is it ok to wear those boots with those pants? Will I get dirty looks if I wear that sleeveless dress? Does that skirt cling too tightly to my butt? I can be standing in front of the mirror perfectly pleased with the outfit I put together and will end up changing into jeans & tee because I’m worried I’m breaking rules.

    I’m trying really hard to move past this and just wear what I like and not care what others think. It is not easy.

      1. But what if the plaid and the paisley share many or all of the same colours? Because I, for one, would rock that in a heartbeat!

        1. Eh, it’s one of those rules I heard long ago, when I was a clueless teen, and it’s pretty much the only one I remember about fashion.

          One good thing about having no head for the fashion rules is that I have no rules stuck in my head about what is flattering, and what I, a fat woman, am not allowed to wear.

  6. I’m absolutely stunned that people actually think it’s okay to say things like this to others. I was raised to not ask people about their genitals, not touch pregnant women’s bellies and not insult people. Who are these barbarians?

  7. I struggle with this. Not on my own account – I long ago decided that black trousers and knit tops were my ‘style’ and I’ve stuck with it – but I have a daughter, tall, broad-built, beautiful and definitely on the heavy side, and I have to make myself NOT react when she wears something I think is desperately unflattering. It’s a lifetime of conditioning, of being told that certain skirt lengths are NOT to be worn on fat legs, that a broad belt, short tight skirt, and baggy shirt ‘make you look short and fat’ and that’s a terrible thing. My tongue is almost perforated from NOT commenting on my darling girl’s dress sense. I’m ridiculously pleased with myself when I manage to keep my mouth shut, because it’s giving her the respect as an individual to wear whatever she wishes, without being criticised because it’s ‘unflattering’.
    (The mother in me does still wish she had just slightly more conventional dress sense, but she can STFU)

  8. I think it is no accident that all the people in the above photos are women. The concept of “flattering” is mostly foisted on women these days. Are men told they must have haircuts that “flatter” their faces or hide their flaws? (As a round-faced girl, I was not supposed to have short hair.) Are certain men told that they can’t or shouldn’t wear suits? I realize that men have body image issues too, but I don’t see the word “flattering” in ads for men’s fashion.

    As a kid in the ’80s, I desperately wanted to wear pastel oxford shirts, but could not find them in my size. I was too fat to wear them. I never thought to question why fat boys and men were allowed to wear those shirts. I wear them now, having learned to buy a shirt that fits my chest and have it altered to fit the rest of me. Is it “flattering”? Who knows? I feel good in it. I decided that long-sleeve button-up shirts are for any shape of person who wants them.

  9. I personally believe that women and men should wear whatever they want to wear independent of what society says they should wear. If you follow your intrinsic tastes you are most likely to attract the people you most want to attract.

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