Does “flattering” mean tall, slim and hourglass? If you’re in the fashion industry then, yes, it does. This is why clothing ranges are showcased on tall, slim models or celebrities who have a defined waistline. An item is flattering when it moves you closer to this popular norm, what the industry calls the “ideal standard”.

The fact is that few people in the world are built like models. So what do fashion gurus and style experts say? They tell us to wear clothing and footwear that makes us look taller, slimmer and more hourglass-y despite our height and size.  Even when we’re nowhere near a size 4 and six foot tall, the aim is to get as close to the ideal standard as possible – because that’s “flattering”.

The question is: should you buy into this? My definitive answer: yes and no.

No, because you decide what flattering means to you. It is fun and rewarding to develop your own sense of style. Part of that is your own sense of what is and what isn’t flattering. Sally puts it well in her great post on figure flattery priorities. There is no one meaning for the word. Flattering to some is unflattering to others. And that’s fabulous news. Life would be very boring if we all liked the same thing.

Yes, because I don’t think we should completely abandon a shared notion of what is and what isn’t flattering. I don’t believe that everybody should have completely independent aspirations. The commonality we share is also important. After all, without it there would be no trends, and no fashion. Our style should set us apart, but fashion is what brings us together. And that is equally important. It adds a lot of fun to this shared experience that is fashion.

I see this commonality in my experience with friends and clients. Most women think it’s flattering to create an outfit with a longer leg line and a defined waist because it makes them feel feminine and eliminates the dumpy-stumpy factor. Fewer like to surrender their waistline or look short legged. This does support the more popular notion of what is flattering, but it doesn’t mean that you have to follow it religiously. You can pick the aspects of the popular norm that resonate with you and work with your body.

That brings me to what “flattering” means to you. Does it mean creating an hourglass silhouette. Wearing eye-catching clothing. Creating a longer leg line. Showing skin. Wearing colours that bring out the colour of your eyes, hair and complexion. Creating a defined waistline. Elongating your neck. Covering up lumps and bumps. Enhancing your bust line. Wearing well fitting clothing. Creating a balance between the top and bottom parts your the body.

Me? I enjoy seeing many of the above definitions of figure flattery reflected in an outfit, but not necessarily all at once. I am in the camp that likes to see a proportionally longer leg line on women in general. Hence my phobia about perfect pant lengths and leg shortening clothing styles. But that doesn’t mean that you have to be tall and wear heels (I’m Team Flats, remember). There are MANY ways to create a longer leg line and I spend lots of time talking about that on YLF. But I am also a big fan of surrendered waistlines which throws out the hourglass part of the general figure flattery approach – at least some of the time.

Your turn: what does “flattering” mean to you?