don’t flatter me

by yayayanonono

I am not writing about Michelle Obama, because everybody is writing about Michelle Obama. But I was reading some comments on (I should know better than to read comments on fashion blogs) and something really stood out to me. There were quite a few comments about whether her inaugural dress was flattering. This is an issue that comes up a lot on the blogs and unflattering is usually taken as looking big, while flattering makes one look small.

This idea that looking smaller means looking better is strange to me. It is not what flattering means at all. Flattering is to display to advantage. And, in clothing terms, it does not necessarily mean the garment flatters the wearer- perhaps the wearer is showing the garment off to advantage.

Sometimes I choose to wear things that might not be considered flattering in the looking smaller sense. Dries Van Noten skirt with box pleats from the waist and a mid calf length? I know in a What not to Wear sense that it is “wrong” for my body shape but I am interested in the proportions and the fabric and the fifties reference. It is why I choose to wear it.

It’s not like I don’t fall into the flattery trap- my husband will attest to the fact that I ask him daily if I look like Bea Arthur in whatever I am wearing. But on the whole I wear clothes that I like to show off, I don’t wear clothing as a cloaking device.

Below, a picture of the late Isabella Blow. I aspire to that kind of bravery, of the primary motivation for wearing something not being to look attractive. Or, perhaps more accurately, having a totally different idea about what attractive is.