What Is "Flattering"? Another Tiny Rant

JessPgh is a Pittsburgh-based professor and fashion blogger at Consume or Consumed who recently wrote a brilliant and, to me, mind-altering response to a commenter who told her an outfit she was wearing was unflattering: I reject the discourse of "flattering."

This sentence has been rattling around my mind ever since I read it.

Why does "flattering" matter so much, and what does it even mean? Jess breaks it down like this: "We all know the "rules" say that for women, dressing to flatter consists of making the body appear as small and/or thin as possible."

This is why folks tell apple-shaped ladies like me to position belts around our rib cages to create the illusion of a waistline even though that is kind of horrifically uncomfortable.

And why pear shaped ladies are supposed to wear wide-legged pants to balance their wide hips, as though wide hips are something which must be balanced at any cost.

And why short ladies are meant to wear heels to create a longer leg line, because you know, short leg lines are responsible for some of the greatest atrocities of our time, amirite?

All of this helpful advice is aimed at one thing: making us look thinner than we are. Smaller. As though we are actually less.

Jess expresses this beautifully: "Trying to ensure women take up as little space in the world as possible is only one of many ways to minimize our social value and cultural input."

Which, honestly, makes me want to construct and wear the biggest goddamn tent dress in history. With crinolines. Because, you know, I am almost 6 feet tall and I laugh loud and adore bright colors and have giant thoughts and not only am I never going to be tiny ... I don't even want to be. I want a BIG life full of HUGE social value and MASSIVE cultural input. So why should I worry -- even for a second -- whether some outfit makes me look small? Why should any of us?

I want clothes that make me feel strong and cute and whatever else I want to feel. Sometimes that means I put on some Spanx so I feel smoother in my clingy dress. Other times, it means I wear a big fluffy sweater that makes me feel cozy. Or I put on some crazy sexy heels. Or I rock some skinny jeans even though they're not supposed to "work for me" or something.

My point is that the range of possibilities is enormous, and they are literally all good. Style and aesthetics are super subjective, and trying to measure up to this imaginary objective yardstick of "flatteringness" is just silly. I, too, reject it.

My hope is that we can decide what we want to wear based on just that -- what we want to wear. What we think is fun, pretty, comfortable, hilarious, dramatic, appropriate for the day we have planned, clean enough to be seen in, whatever. I want each of us to make these decisions based on whatever we want to base them on, not on "the rules" that our (still quite sexist) society proscribes as "flattering" for "our body type."

(So many quotes! So much "bullshit"!)

I guess I just really want us to have a blast when we get dressed. Because, really, besides keeping our bodies moderately covered and protected from the elements, isn't that what clothes are for?