The Myth of Flattering

gloomth gothic sailor lolita

If I encounter *one* more article listing rules for what women of x, y, z body type must wear in order to “flatter” themselves I will retch (extra retching if it’s an article directed at subculture fashion). If it were up to those article writers everyone over size 10 would live in shapeless tent dresses with one bow situated under the bust and never leave their homes. The whole idea of flattering is really dubious if you give it even half a second glance, and applying that same brush to alternative fashion styles is doubly revolting, I think, since subculture fashion is about rebellion and expression (not homogenizing people).

The myth of “flattering” is just part of the whole Acceptable/Unacceptable thing (again, this is my opinion). I’d be a lot less suspicious of it if it’s end goals were less about the made up notion of “thin/tall is best” and all the questions of privilege that accompany that.

In that mindset there is a privileged circle, and within that everyone is Acceptable and outside of it everyone else is Unacceptable and therefore needs to be changed or somehow fixed so they can become Acceptable (which they would *clearly* want as we should all be aspiring to that tiny circle of Acceptance, obviously *eye-roll*). This idea is dangerous (not to mention cruel and dehumanizing) as it means that anyone who- for the lottery of birth- cannot ever meet those standards will therefore always be Unacceptable and not access any of the privilege. People die every day trying to fit into those arbitrary standards.

shironuri gothic gloomth

So what those “wear x for x body type” articles are describing are just methods to seem more Acceptable, and therefore closer to the hallowed circle. When you choose not to participate in that, when you deliberately wear something “unflattering” (or not described on your body type’s list of approved items) you are reducing the power of that belief. You are rebelling against a system that wants to crush differences, wants to homogenize/control women, and categorize everything.

I want subculture fashion (and my own work in that) to be a safer space for all body types/ages/abilities because it’s time we stopped pretending any one type is “best”. Less focus on what is “flattering” and more on what’s exciting! That’s what really draws me back to lolita influences, as really that style isn’t about attracting a mate or being flattered by your clothes- it’s impractical, never invisible, and takes up lots of space- things we’re told to avoid. From goth’s pale makeup to punk’s tatters, to rave’s neon hues, subculture style has never really been about embodying the mainstream’s idea of “flattering”.

taeden hall gloomth

What makes humanity so incredible is that we are all so varied and unique, we all bring our own perspectives and outlooks to our art and image crafting, and that’s amazing, and worth celebrating. It’s time we stopped this comparative, mean trend and started encouraging and inspiring other people, celebrating real creativity instead of nitpicking and making up silly playground rules.

So wear what you like! Flattering, unflattering, loud, garish, muted, whatever- just enjoy it completely.


12 thoughts on “The Myth of Flattering

  1. This is so perfectly written Taeden! “Flattering” rules are just a method of controlling and squashing people; they’re completely shallowly inconsiderate to people who will never look or be shaped a certain way. One day, I hope we will all be too busy being happy to even spare a second thought to those silly things. Oh, right, that “one day” can be today! ;P

    1. Aw thanks M! 😀 It just seems so out-dated to me when I come across rule guidebooks or “how to dress your body type” things, always surprised people still feel the need to write that kind of drivel. 😛

  2. On the other hand, nothing disappoints me so much as finding something I really like that is cute, ordering it, and finding out it makes me look bigger than I am. I’m an apple shape, and I LOVE most of your clothing, but none of the items I have ordered have looked good on me. :/ Yeah, dress the way you want, but the facts don’t lie, different body shapes do look better with different clothing.

    1. Why is “bigger” a bad thing I guess is my question in the article. Everyone feels comfortable in certain styles/shapes of clothing, but it’s important to examine why we have those preferences and where they actually come from. 🙂

      There’s no “better” looking body, there just isn’t. Every body is just a body, regardless of others’ opinions or cultural conditioning. These beliefs harm more people than they help I think, but that’s just my personal opinion.

      I’m sorry you feel that way about what you’ve ordered from us! We’re always happy to exchange items in a certain timeframe, fyi if that helps, or make alterations and return them to you if it’s just a sizing issue.

      1. I think it’s more a shape issue, since I basically have 4 inches of waist to hip ratio, the smallest part of my waist is actually directly above my hips, and other odd stuff. Then my rib cage actually bows out instead of nipping in. It’s like a barrel until right above my hips.

      2. It can be tricky to dress a shape that most designers don’t take into consideration when creating clothing/patterns. We do offer custom sizing for that reason, even my own measurements can be tricky to fit when I buy off-the-rack stuff.

        The rant I wrote in this article is just about how damaging the idea that any shape/size/gender/etc is better than another. That trying to dress “flatteringly” is just about fitting into society’s expectations and can be stifling creatively. We’re all bodies, we’re all living things and therefore we’ll all be different shapes and that’s awesome. Sometimes we absorb beliefs from the media/society that are just ludicrous when examined, and I just wanted people to consider that when approaching their own choices of clothing. 🙂

  3. GREAT article, Taeden.
    I find this sentence particularly interesting:
    “That’s what really draws me back to lolita influences, as really that style isn’t about attracting a mate or being flattered by your clothes- it’s impractical, never invisible, and takes up lots of space- things we’re told to avoid.”
    I had never thought of lolita style that way! How cool.
    I think that if people want to look a certain way, then by all means they should research how to make their body look the way they want it to: that’s just costuming, creating an illusion, and after all that’s what clothing is *for* (beyond its basic functions such as supplying protection from the elements). But, as you say, it’s important to know *why* we want to look a certain way: is this our own desire, or something our culture has told us we must want? Cultural conditioning is so very, very subtle and subliminal that for the most part we aren’t even aware that we are being trained to think a certain way and want certain things.
    Let’s all – mainstream folk and subculture denizens alike – ditch the ‘you must look a certain way or you won’t be beautiful’ beliefs and focus on adorning ourselves as we wish to.

    1. Thank you! I’m so glad you liked this article and it made you think. 🙂

      I feel like the last couple years have just been about deprogramming myself from these cultural beliefs. Most of which seem absurd to me now. It does make it more difficult to write about fashion and how to wear our pieces if Im not writing “body type” guides, but I do think it’s worth the effort to find ways to not fall into those traps when writing.

      1. I too have been trying to deprogram myself from such beliefs! As an artist, I want everything to be beautiful, and as a goth, I have a view of beauty that is not mainstream; and yet sometimes I still struggle to remind myself that, when it comes to beauty in people, just as in nature, there is not only one kind of beauty. In fact, the number of beautiful people in the world is only limited by our ideas about beauty.
        It’s remarkable how easily society teaches us things that, on closer examination, just aren’t true.
        Thanks for writing this article. 🙂

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