Every year about this time, I go back and re-read what I think is one of the best posts I’ve ever read on a blog: You Don’t Have To Be Pretty. (From Erin at A Dress A Day.) I especially love the line,
Prettiness is not a rent you pay for occupying a space marked “female”.
It’s a great reminder that we don’t owe “prettiness” to the world. Or sexiness, cheerfulness, thinness, attractiveness, vivaciousness…or any of those “-nesses” that so often get piled on women as cultural expectations. Of course those are all dandy things to express, if we feel like it. But we are not obligated.
I’ve been thinking about how I still sometimes hold myself back from trying or wearing certain things because they aren’t “flattering” (i.e. don’t make me look taller and thinner). Many years ago when we were on a vacation in Puerto Vallarta, le Monsieur was reading the book “Who Moved My Cheese,” and was very inspired by the concept, “what would you do if you weren’t afraid?” The next day he went parasailing (he’s terrified of heights). He said he’s glad he did it, but doesn’t feel the need to repeat the adventure. 😉 I relay that story, because lately the phrase that’s been repeating in my brain is “what would you wear if you weren’t afraid?”
Which brings me to the outfits in the image above. (Source) I spotted these the other day while scrolling through Pinterest, and they really struck a chord for me. I’ve always been drawn to Japanese style and aesthetics, exemplified by simple pieces in beautiful fabrics, unfussy-but-interesting shapes and textures. Ease and harmony.
Like the dramatically shaped jacket I posted a few days ago, they offered a signpost of sorts, or “style clarity point” helping to bring into focus my style direction.
I’ve had a hard time breaking away from the long-over-lean silhouette that has been a reliably flattering one for me. But it’s also felt too restrictive of late. Yes, that outfit on the right could be styled with slim pants, but it’s precisely the texture, fullness, and ease that attracted me, and IMO makes the look more interesting. Wearing short sleeves is something else I’ve avoided in recent years. But in doing so I’ve passed up a lot of interesting tops that I (otherwise) really liked.
I should stop here and say, there’s nothing wrong with choosing clothing that we find flattering or that gives us confidence. But where I take issue is first with the very narrow definition of “flattering” that many of us have internalized. And second, with the idea that we are somehow transgressing if we flout the rules of what’s “flattering” when choosing what to wear.
Personal Style Affirmations
What if we were to expand the definition of “flattering” to include “that which makes us feel joyful and authentic?”
Here’s what I tell myself: you don’t owe it to the world to look taller and thinner. You don’t owe it to the world to look younger or more conventionally attractive. You only owe it to yourself to be authentic, to wear what feels right. (Which may be different tomorrow than it was yesterday.)
Have you overcome any fears of wearing particular styles that otherwise appealed to you? Where do you usually find your style inspiration?