Dressing for effect + body type = flattery?

Angie’s insightful comment on my post about a coat I made got me thinking.

…the current silhouette is hard to wear on most body types: very bulky fur bodice, no collar, short sleeves, absent structure, black = unflattering. I know you're not after a flattering silhouette…

Taking off my aspiring designers hat for a moment and considering my own personal style, my first thought about this was: true enough. For me, style is far more about creating a visual impression than it is about showing off physical attributes to best advantage. Most of the time the idea is to look dramatic, interesting and a little bit different, and to be honest, looking attractive as a woman is not always very high on my list of priorities.

On reflection though, I realised that this is not the case at all. Whatever the style, be it bold or understated, nobody wants to get it wrong and I need to know what works and doesn’t work for me as much as the next woman. This brings me to what I discovered a little while ago about Kibbe types.

Now, I have a real love-hate relationship with this system. Most of what I've read about it is nonsense, and don’t even get me started on the styling efforts I see around the Internet. But when I first encountered it (via this very forum) a penny dropped for me, I could see exactly where it came from aesthetically and I realised that a lot of what I like to wear is very much in line with that way thinking.

Put simply, the raw material of my physical appearance (dramatic/natural) gives me access to bold, rectangular shapes and oversized, unstructured silhouettes. They happen to look good on me, often a lot better than, say, skinny jeans with classic tailoring, or those fit and flare dresses that are very popular right now, which don’t look good on me at all. In that respect, I could speculate that my aesthetic preferences have been shaped by something I like to wear simply because it suits me.

So my question is, do we think of these shapes as unflattering because they really are unflattering (i.e. not many people can pull them off) or because they don't define the human (female) body in the same way as, say, a tailored jacket or a form-fitting dress? To what extent are our ideas about flattery shaped by contemporary standards of beauty and conventions around getting dressed?

All of this is not to argue with Angie that the coat doesn’t need tweaking (it does) but more to consider what we think of as flattering.  Are there things that look great on you that no-one else can wear? Or is there something universally considered flattering that doesn’t suit you at all? Do you ever put an effect you want to create above flattering, or are you always going for JFE?

Ladies, what does flattering mean to you?

This post is also published in the youlookfab forum. You can read and reply to it in either place. All replies will appear in both places.

40 Comments

  • Astrid replied 3 years ago

    I don't think anything is unflattering on its own and I don't think you always need to create the illusion of an hourglass figure. I think what is flattering always depends on the woman wearing it and a woman who is not going for the look that's supposed to be the most flattering can still look beautiful, interesting, striking or whatever. But, and I'm just talking for myself now, I need to feel like I picked clothes that suit me. I don't want to worry about getting the side eye from people all day long and I prefer not to stand out in a crowd. I want to forget about my clothes after dressing and to just go about my day afterwards and that's only possible if I feel like I'm looking at least halfway decent in the eyes of my environment. That's why I wouldn't wear something unflattering, even if I loved the piece on its own or on other people. Of course people might still think I went wrong somewhere, but as long as I'm pleased about my outfit I don't care. It's basically about my peace of mind.

  • Xtabay replied 3 years ago

    What Astrid said!  I was fascinated to discover the Kibbe system (thanks to this forum).  It revealed that I was a dramatic classic, somewhat to my surprise.  That particular style works amazingly well for me, and caused me to revamp some of my wardrobe accordingly.  Perhaps I'm insecure about my looks, but I always go for "flattering" -- I'm not especially interested in being a walking advertisement for a designer or a certain trend.  But I do understand how one can embrace a particular aesthetic and want to incorporate it into how they show themselves to the world.  If you have the confidence to do that, go for it!  It keeps life interesting, and I'm always in awe of people who can pull it off.

  • always trying replied 3 years ago

    Fit is the most important thing to being flattering. A friend who works in women's retail once said she wants to tell wome that just because it stretches over your body, doesn't mean it fits.

  • Astrid replied 3 years ago

    Btw, I haven't actually investigated further when it comes to Kibbe. I think you were right about me probably being a SG or SN, but I still find it all very complicated and I'm not sure I would be getting something useful out of it.

  • Laura (rhubarbgirl) replied 3 years ago

    I haven't done any reading about Kibbe, just what I've seen on the forum. IMO, when we talk about flattery we mostly mean figure-flattering, within the confines of what that means for our current society.* So that means slender through the body and limbs, with noticeable breasts and large but not too large butt. Anything that elides the contours of the body is going to be a harder sell than stuff that shows it, especially if it's in a bulky fabric that further 'hides' shape.

    (*One of my sewing forums had a funny convo recently. Someone had posted a link to a brand of jeans that has darts in the butt area, for people who have a larger rear. I am guessing, based on their website, that they were marketing primarily to the African-American and Latina community where it's a mark of pride to have a big butt. Several people didn't even engage with the technical question of the darting, and called the jeans trashy and bad-looking. There are conventions about how our bodies are supposed to look and not look, and when people and their clothes go outside that, there are real consequences.)

  • Angie replied 3 years ago

    Great thoughts here, Liz. FWIW, here's my 2 cents. 

    • I think that both ends are extreme - hence the concept of "JFE" (just flattering enough), which I have been trying to shout from the roof tops as THE modern way to dress. Fashion - and YLF - is way beyond the very stringent body type guidelines of how to create conventionally proportions - a very hourglass silhouette - and I LOVE that. Makes dressing MUCH more interesting, it makes our wardrobe pieces more versatile, and we feel liberated too. This way of dressing is what I focus on with my clientele. 
    • In my experience, there has to be just enough structure in an outfit or garment for it to sell to just about anyone. "Enough" is on a sliding scale though - which brings me to you in my next point. 
    • Your IT frame, non-curvy bottom half, and height allow you to wear very bold, unstructured, rectangular pieces  well - like the coat you are making right now. It makes complete sense that you wear the items that you do with panache. So to my eye - totally JFE on you. (Super models who wear these designs on the catwalk have similar proportions to you, btw). So your sense of "just enough structure" is on one end of that sliding scale. Put that coat on a shorter, cuvier woman with a defined waist and I'm willing to bet that she won't feel as fab. 
    • At the end of the day, we all have our figure flattering priorities - like I'm sure you do too, Liz. (Mine is looking sufficiently long in the leg without heels). Figure flattery is in the eye of the beholder. 

    In my experience of dressing men and women for a living, none of them want to look a lot bigger than they are. A little bigger works when the volume is camouflaging of "extra bits" and is super comfy. 

    To answer your question  - personally, I choose to both expose and hide my "assets" as you put it by dressing in outfits that are JFE a lot of the time. I have big eyes with very long lashes - which I hide with specs every day. I have a small and defined waist - which I hide with fluid tops. But I have short hair to expose my neck, which I feel is the best part about my body. I also wear outfits with a good amount of structure because my frame is slight. I am not short, but clothing does swallow me up quite easy because I can't fill out the pieces with shoulders, bust, hips or calves. And when clothing swallows me up, I feel I've lost control. And being the control freak that I am - I must feel in control. Hence that type of figure flattery and fit is important to me - much more important than looking different, dramatic or fashion forward. 

  • rachylou replied 3 years ago

    What flattering means is such an interesting question. I, for one, don't like looking sick - which I feel has more to do with colour than the shape of a garment. I also think there are certain points of fit that are important. I like a close fitted shoulder, pants that don't fall off, and ankle pants that show a little more than the ankle bone. But overall I like being called stylish and really do not like being called hot. I also don't like looking at people who dress hot. I think I may be too much of a romantic for that - and too conservative to think that's some sort of achievement. However, floozy is ok. Love Dolly Parton, lol, and the way she says it takes a lot of money to look cheap, lol.

  • replied 3 years ago

    I'm with Rachylou on this one. I avoid looking sick at all costs. As for figure flattery, if I had to dress like an hourglass every day (and I am a neat hourglass--not a Dolly Parton hourglass), I'd be completely miserable. My clothing fits me well and is comfortable - JFE, as Angie says.

  • Sara L. replied 3 years ago

    This is a fascinating conversation.  I'm with Astrid that I don't want to stand out too much.  Also, figure flattery is partly a feel for me.  There are outfits that look fine but make me feel short and stumpy.  I like to feel long and lean, whether I actually look that way or not.  I think I'm always going to go for JFE.  Maybe that makes me vain but I don't like to wear outfits that are truly unflattering.

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    What an interesting question and great discussion. 

    I was going to say that I don't really care all that much about traditional figure flattery, but then from Angie's comments I realized that I'd be lying. 

    The truth is, I would like to be able to dress as you do -- dramatically, in relatively unstructured pieces, etc. I love avant-garde style. 

    The reality is that on my small (ish) frame, such pieces "swallow" me up. I disappear. They don't hang well. I don't show well, and the clothes don't show well. 

    In other words, I'm not "flattered." 

    So instead I choose more conventional silhouettes. Not bombshell -- which also wouldn't flatter me, come to think of it. But structured tailoring that shows my shape without emphasizing my "femininity." 

    Hmmm. Going back to Kibbe, I am probably a flamboyant gamine. So...that love of the drama is there in the "flamboyance." Translating that to a smaller gamine frame is my personal challenge, and it probably explains why I'm simultaneously attracted and repelled by the idea of uniform dressing. What I need, I think, is a dramatic yet not overwhelming uniform that is also practical for my day to day activities. As well as "special occasion wear" that might run the gamut, allowing me to experiment with trends. 

    Also, I agree with Angie that you look amazing in your pieces but they might be harder for shorter and/or softer/ rounder types to wear. And classic types wouldn't touch them. But they aren't the market anyway. The market for this type of clothing is never going to be the "average" woman (whoever that is!) The market is going to be those who want something unique and who look good in it. 

    Another note: flattery can be about colour as much as line. Some of us might be willing to forego some flattery on one dimension if we could secure the other. Some of us would tend to experiment more if we felt we were going to be flattered at least in one way. Especially with items worn near the face. 

    I know, for example, that I often sigh in frustration when the unusual locally designed piece that I would like to try is only available in black. Would I try it in a more flattering neutral? Of course I can't say for sure, but I know I would be much, much more likely to -- and having such pieces available to me in neutrals that work for me (e.g. ink or navy, grey, burgundy) would help me to evolve my style. 

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    ETA just noticed that Rachylou mentioned colour, too. ;) 

    Also, I love what she said about wanting to be thought of as stylish but not "hot." Ditto here. JFE is stylish. 

  • CocoLion replied 3 years ago

    I like JFE looks and I like your edgy coat.  I also liked Firecraker's suggestion to use a lighter, cheaper faux fur called minky.  Since the coat doesn't button and has shorter sleeves it's more of a transitional jacket coat anyways.

    My biggest concerns are my lack of height, short neck and curvy figure.  Even though I am on the slim side of curvy, I would have trouble pulling off your coat because I am just under 5'4".  Also the short neck means I prefer open scoop necklines.  I LOVE your shorter sleeves on this coat!

    I realize I have just commented on your coat not so much the topic of your thread.  So to bring it back to the thread, I think figure flattery is very important.   Even if it's now just a tiny bit of flattery that's required, that tiny bit still makes the outfit work or not.

  • Ginger replied 3 years ago

    An interesting topic, and wide open for all kinds of discussion. I'm suddenly assailed by a huge amount of frustration. As Angie said, conventional figure flattery is a very hourglass silhouette.

    The thing is, I HAVE that silhouette, in a slightly lush pear version - quite small waist, not small (and not huge) bust, and I look bombshell in items that fit. But that is the irony. Prevailing fashion does NOT fit me. Not since Twiggy have modern clothes been designed on a sloper that allows for full hips.  I'm not talking about subtleties of shape and proportion - this is pure measurement. At one point in college I had a two-piece bathing suit with size 6 top and size 14 bottom. So it's a really unfair irony that clothes are designed for awesome ITs, and have been for almost 50 years, and yet the hourglass is still somehow expected without the proper items available.

    /rant

    So I'm not really sure how to answer approprio's question. I don't have to make peace with conventional figure flattery; it works for me. But all my life I've rejected 2/3s of what's in stores because of how it won't fit (much less flatter) my hips without sizing up to a ridiculous extent. I've managed that, and I think I manage well. Eventually I get around to making certain building blocks (like skirts that fit) because they are never available in the store. And I pick and choose other items. I thought I'd made my peace with that; but boy, I got frustrated when thinking this through!

    My "style journey" really started about ten years ago. I pretty much rejected modern fashion and went 30s and 40s vintage. I could buy things off ebay, based on measurements, and they actually worked. I could use vintage sewing patterns that needed no alterations. It was amazing. Along the way, I made peace with being the "different" one, "that vintage girl," who dressed in a non-fashionable way. I'm used to being looked at, at being slightly unusual. And I learned how to fit my body, and what cuts work, and which don't, and why.

    As fashion has changed - particularly the big shift back to skirts and dresses - I've gotten back into it. I wear very little vintage or repro these days. And yet my aesthetic is always termed "retro."  I think it's in the eye of the beholder. You have to go back 60+ years to find a silhouette that's hourglass/pear-friendly; so one who wears the hourglass/pear dress is immediately "I Love Lucy."

  • kerlyn replied 3 years ago

    Such an interesting topic!  I used to stick to a pretty consistent formula of bootcut jeans and trousers with a fitted top, because I felt that was most flattering to my shape.  I'm fairly athletic, slim on top, muscular legs.  But over the last couple of years, that formula hasn't felt modern and stylish to me.  I've shifted over to more of a long-over-lean formula, longer, drapey tops over skinny bottoms.  I'm not sure it's the most flattering for my shape because the drapey tops bring a lot of volume to the smallest part of my body.  But I think feeling current and somewhat stylish has become more important to me.

    You mentioned fit and flare dresses, and in theory, they should be perfect for my figure.  And yet, I don't like them!  I'm hugely attracted to short swing dresses and shifts that surrender the waist.  My favorite recent dress purchase is a fairly short swing dress that shows quite a bit of leg (so far only worn with knee-length leggings!)  I definitely think I'm striving for JFE now with more of my outfits.

    I'm not sure I'll ever get to a point where I don't care at all about figure-flattery.  I admire dramatic, very edgy, or avant-garde on others, but I think I would most likely always come back to JFE for myself.  

    I like what Suz said, too.  If one element of a garment is flattering, then maybe some of the others don't have to be. ( Maybe the neckline isn't the most flattering, but the color is lovely and the overall shape interesting.)  

  • skylurker replied 3 years ago

    Dictionary says "flattering" means making someone look more attractive than usual.
    I don't think it's restricted to sexual attraction, you can also try to look more worthwhile (more competent-professional, richer or higher status) to gain respect from others.
    That's what flattering means to me, trying to look more worthy, not more sexually attractive (a hopeless cause anyway :)

    There is a negative connotation to the word, isn't it ? "flattery" is insincere and overblown (in my language). Seems to be some cheating involved. It's a very complicated con act, because what you are, what you're pressured to be and what you want to be get all entangled.

    I don't know about Kibbe, but I see body-type guidelines simply as conventional fit guidelines.

  • plonkee replied 3 years ago

    I don't wear clothes that I feel are unflattering, and I think that's commonplace. I'm apple shaped and very short. I don't want to wear things that make me look even fatter, or like I'm wearing a giant's clothes. I have features that other people might want to hide but I quite like (such as my wide calves and slim ankles combination). I think if you want to sell clothes you do need to make sure that enough people will find them flattering enough.

  • catgirl replied 3 years ago

     So, conventionally "flattering" items (say, sheath dresses, fitted pencil skirts, tailored button-downs, body-con tees) do not flatter ME, and are in fact a horrible struggle. Probably why I don't like them for myself and am no longer drawn to them.  Meanwhile being an IT, I can rock a shapeless sack or a baggy sweater, even though I'm short and petite.  Do they flatter the way a fitted item might in some alternate universe? Highly doubtful.  But do they suit me?  I like to think so.

  • Sal replied 3 years ago

    Very interesting topic with so many variations based on personality, figure type, confidence, colouring, workplace, nationality.

    I have come to appreciate different ways of dressing for different objectives, and what I see as a wonderful look on Sofia Vergara may be an insincere look on Emma Stone - they are both gorgeous women but dress totally differently and have quite a different persona.  

    To me for a look to be genuinely wonderful it takes into account the body type, colouring and personality of the wearer...so I guess this is where Kibbe does come into the picture.  

    I am self conscious about my short waist and will not wear anything that makes me look more shortwaisted.  So figure flattery rules fashion here.   But I am happy to wear bulky coats and knitwear that look cosy and dramatic all at once - despite them not being the most flattering shape on me.  And there are colours I will not wear near my face - camel, optic white, acidic yellows.  I love optic white but I will not wear it any more.

    I think different cultures view flattery differently.  A few years ago I went to a baby shower for a Zimbabwean friend.  I wore coated jeans, a mustard top and wine coloured shoes - it was a smart and not dull combination but in comparison to the others I was quite drab.  The other women were in bright dresses, with braided hair, all very figure enhancing to show off bottoms and hips.  They looked stunning!!

  • UmmLila replied 3 years ago

    I think everyone can find a look that complements (notice how I did not say "flatters") their individual appearance, whether they choose to wear it or not. However, I don't think there is any one garment (even in different sizes) that offers a conventionally flattering look for every different shape of person.

    So perhaps the question for Liz is: Who is your hypothetical customer, and how many like her do you hope to reach with your designs?

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    So interesting! And deeply personal. Hmm...

    Ginger: that's a very interesting point about vintage clothing. I've sewn a few vintage dresses in my time and I think you're right that pre 1960's and Twiggy, clothing was more sympathetic to a womanly figure. I don’t think even body type matters - I’ve found some of those dresses to be far more conventionally flattering than contemporary designs (yes, even with my fashion-friendly IT frame!) In fact, if figure flattery were my only concern, I would probably wear nothing but tailored 1940’s dresses every day for the rest of my life.

    But I won’t, because skylurker, you’re right, that’s all just smoke and mirrors anyway. Our clothes say so much more about us than what shape we are. I like your idea that the concept is context dependent, depending on the message we’re trying to communicate. A faux fur coat is a fun example of that - what does it mean and to whom? :D

    Angie, the concept of JFE is key here. Enough structure, enough fit, enough flattery. Who can reject the flaws when faced with the transformative power of a great outfit? It does surprise me slightly that nobody ever wants to look much bigger than they are, because if that were 100% true not one fur coat would ever have been sold to to anyone anywhere. But I take the point.

    (and thanks for such a detailed response! hope you’re arms are feeling better)

    I know I’m lucky when it comes to clothes, being a tallish slimmish IT with long legs, and it’s true that I dress the way I do is because I can. I do have certain criteria, although perhaps not so well defined. I wish I could say it was as simple as not wanting to look too bulky or top heavy, but then I’ll play up my broad shoulders or large bust from time to time if I feel like it. I agree with SaraL: sometimes things just feel all wrong, but I couldn’t tell you exactly why that happens.

    I don’t think it’s all about body shape though. One of the most adventurous fashionistas I know is an apple shape of about 5’4”, who plays brilliantly with her own proportions and has the most wonderful collection of avant-garde sportswear and chunky shoes. She’s clearly not concerned with figure flattery in the conventional sense but she always looks fantastic - sharp and urban, a force to be reckoned with. I had a coat of hers in mind when I was putting the fur together - a huge quilted wrap which all but engulfs her. It looks amazing. Sally echoes this with her cosy dramatic coats, which probably have a similar effect.

    To circle round to what UmmLila and plonkee say about the hypothetical customer - well, that’s the $1000000 question, isn’t it?  Suz, you're right, she's not a classic dresser, not by any means. But neither is she a long legged IT. I'm not convinced she needs to be. 

    And as an aside, CocoLion, I’ve already decided that the fur needs to be less bulky. We live and learn, we make prototypes and hopefully improve on them next time. 

    What a fascinating discussion this has turned out to be. :)

  • Suz replied 3 years ago

    I don't think she needs to be a long-legged IT or Kibbe dramatic (or similar) either. Maybe for some of the pieces. But probably not all. For example, if I walked into your atelier, I would try on that bomber jacket. It might or might not work, but I would absolutely try it. Several of the other items you've showed us as well. 

    What might help is including some kind of core of simple items that could be worn with many of the more statement pieces. It might allow people to test the waters a bit and see how even with their body type or style persona they could "carry off" one or more of the more dramatic pieces. 

    I think the customer is pretty much any age after 20 and up to 75 or 80 -- but most will be in their 30s and 40s. She is urban. She has some money, but isn't necessarily rich. She's interested in fashion and/or art. She works in a creative field. She is not shy and does not want to fade into the background, as a few members mentioned they prefer to do. She is happy to stand out or to be different. She cares about supporting local designers and is interested in the fabric saving methodology you have chosen. 

    She probably doesn't have a lush pear or hourglass shape -- simply for the reason Ginger states. She might be an IT, a rectangle, a taller apple, even a shorter one with an adventuresome personality, like your friend. She could also be a relatively but not too slim hourglass. In Kibbe types she might be a dramatic or one of the gamines, esp. flamboyant. Maybe one of the naturals but only for specific items. 

  • replied 3 years ago

    Very, very interesting discussion.  I have never made it all the way through a 50 page Kibbe questionnaire (it sure seems that long to me, anyways - lol) but that aside, flattery is important to me. I dress not to make an artistic statement , but to check off a few key boxes:  a. professional, intelligent and highly competent;   b.  fashionable and current  ; and, c. approachable, confident and attractive . I DO NOT wish to highlight my body in traditionally sexually attractive ways (at least not during the work day) and usually dress to hide things rather than highlight them.  Of course I'm going to choose the more flattering option than the lesser one - again, because making an alternative statement, or trying to disappear and blend in to the background is not my goal . If I were one to create my own look through the prism of artistic statement - then I'd wear your coat (for example) but I am not looking to present myself that way.  Flattery, as we have all said in these interesting replies, is such a moving target and such an intangible.  

    Lastly, I do think you are bang on with the theory of aesthetic preferences being influenced and even determined by what you already know to be flattering .  I absolutely operate that way. I don't think there's anything wrong with that unless one's goal is to constantly reinvent, investigate and create.  I'm not interested in always trying every new thing that  crosses my path - who has the time?  

  • Cococat replied 3 years ago

    I need to come back and read this because it's fascinating to me.

    I did the Kibbe questionnaire and downloaded the spreadsheet and it seems spot on for me as a dramatic classic.

    I have also been intrigued by Angie's term JFE and as I'm trying to reinvent my style, I keep coming back to it.

  • shevia replied 3 years ago

    Very interesting discussion and a lot of issues that the forum has raised personally for me over time. I tend not to especially dress in as flattering way as I might by some conventional standards. Meaning that I can choose to look thinner, bigger chested, younger, and so on than usual and usually don't. But it is very important for me to look interesting, to not highlight the parts I don't like and to generally suit my internal sense of how I like to look. I think I like to be admired or respected from afar but not actually seem approachable. Which, I have come to realize, is quite telling in itself.

  • Astrid replied 3 years ago

    Because a few people have also mentioned it I just wanted to clarify that "not standing out in the crowd" is not at all the same as "preferring to fade into the background", at least to me. The second implies a lack of confidence and I don't like that. And depending on where you live "not standing out in a crowd" can mean an outfit that's quite far from the norm elsewhere. My style is definitely not risqué and I don't unduly draw attention to my self, but I get way more attention for it back at home where style is generally way less fashion conscious and very casual. In Berlin basically anything goes. I definitely think that I'm dressing in a way that might set me apart with a closer look, but no one would single me out at first glance. And that's what I want.

  • unfrumped replied 3 years ago

    I think there's aldo a difference between figure flattery( or all aspects of flattery/ JFE) and outfits that are highly unusual in some way. It's all part of the package at some point, but different maybe in design and market terms.
    One aspect affects what figure types are targeted. This might be as basic as Petites, Talls, or well- proportioned extended larger sizes, Curvy. . Clothes that fit where they're supposed to fit.
    Then there are elements of color and texture and added details and all somehow linked to what is the environment or occasion.
    I can quote Bridgette Raes and say I can ask myself, "Where am I going in this?" Because even with JFE or fit, there are different environments.

    I once found a slim dressy fitted top with boatneck and FEATHERS on the
    cuffs at a consignment store, and amazingly found neutral palazzo pants elsewhere that worked with it, and I wore it to a formal/ semi formal event and felt fab. It was dramatic but proportioned for me. That would be out of place for my everyday style, so the amount of items I could use in that vein is very small.
    Of someone might wear very " usual" pieces but in striking color- perfectly fitting magenta sheath dress and mustard tights and purple shoes- which would be highly dramatic but not architectural at all.
    Another concept is how clothing works in actual use vs runway or still photo appearance. There are clothes that are dramatic and yet highly wearable or activity- friendly, and those that seem out of place or go awry easily IRL. Flap of flop or buckle or only look good standing.
    These are kind of random sounding ideas, but there's a point in there somewhere!

  • Style Fan replied 3 years ago

    This is a very interesting discussion.  I dress in a way that flatters my body shape (hourglass/pear).  I love avant guarde clothing but if you put something made for the IT on me I look like a block.  Or at least I feel like a block and that is not a fab feeling.  I do not dress like a bombshell so pencil skirts and tight tops are out.  Try navigating that one.  Flattering but not bombshell.  I also have a long neck but I don't show it off.  I tend to feel self conscious about it. 
    I like to look interesting, creative, artistic and not part of the crowd.  Clothing is a way for me to express my creativity.  I would buy from small independent designers if they would break out of their black cycle and see the wisdom of brown.
    I like what Suz said about having some basic pieces as well as statement pieces.  It helps the customer to see how to put things together. 

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    Suz, you totally rock. I think I love you! You've just defined my hypothetical customer and she is - erm - me. :P

    But that's OK. I maybe niche but I'm not unique in my shopping habits and priorities, and that means I can target product using my own understanding of those requirements. Concepts like Kibbe and seasonal colour analysis add a bit of nuance to all that. I'm going to resist banging on about that at length just now though. 

    Lisa, I'm a little rusty at this so don't take my word for it, but to save you the time I'd say soft dramatic with a touch of flamboyant gamine. You're welcome :)

    shevia: excellent point! My friend at ByBrown often talks about a woman's clothes being her armour. The effect of a standout look can definitely be protection against unwanted attention.

    Astrid: I certainly didn't take that meaning. One of the things I like about your style is that it's refined and considered. It's a little different but not overtly so. It's not conspicuous but it definitely merits a second glance. It suits you. It goes anywhere. 

    unfrumped, that's very true about functionality. Womenswear in the last 100 years has shifted from decorative (primarily flattering) clothing to a more practical approach and the visual language has changed enormously. So that concept of JFE needs to take in "what we feel comfortable with", as bettycrocker said upthread.

    Still a great discussion ladies! I could talk about this all day.

    ETA: Style Fan: you're right about colours. As others have pointed out, black is "the thing" among the avant-garde crowd, but it's not wearable by everyone. I'm taking the "different neutrals" message here very seriously.

  • Astrid replied 3 years ago

    Thanks Approprio. :-) I wasn't taking it personally, but I thought I should clarify so that I'm not misunderstood. And I think offering colors other than black is definitely a good idea. I'm personally way more likely to compromise on cut than on color, especially on the top half. I guess it comes back to what others have already mentioned - no one wants to look sick and there are colors that have just that effect next to my face.

  • replied 3 years ago

    Thank you?  I guess?  lol.

  • Tania replied 3 years ago

    Coming late to this, but I think flattery can be interpreted conventionally (for example, hourglass figure) or unconventionally (personality traits like creativity, boldness).  Conventional figure flattery can vary by culture, of course.  However, even if a personality trait is a priority, I think most folks keep their body types/features in mind when determining if something is JFE.

  • Elizabeth P replied 3 years ago

    Why do I always start to read these awesome threads when I don't have time to finish them or comment properly?  Gah!

    May do that later... but if not, thanks for all the wisdom and thoughts here... made for great reading, and I will at minimum come back to read more than I did.

  • Style Fan replied 3 years ago

    You are right about black being favoured by the avant guarde crowd.  Also by the "cool" people, punks, etc.
    Funny story.  A co worker of mine showed up in a head to toe brown outfit.  She came to me and said she felt like a reindeer.  We agreed that a complete black outfit was "cool" but a complete brown outfit was for the fashion challenged.

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    Style Fan, totally off-topic but you reminded me of the famous industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss, who always wore a brown suit. This is inherently cool, because there really is nothing cooler than a really good signature look in my opinion. Great if you can pull it off. Unfortunately, I am far too easily bored to do it myself. 

  • Diana replied 3 years ago

    This is a really interesting conversation!  I think I really resonate with what Shevia said.  Like her, I think my #1 goal with style is to be interesting (both to myself and to others).  I don't want to look like everyone else, but on the other hand of course I still have certain figure flattery priorities and hangups that I take into account.  For example, I always try to minimize the appearance of my extremely short waist, and I don't wear things that make my butt appear even bigger than it already is!  On the other hand, I have a nicely defined waist but I don't really care to always define it and I'll wear waist surrendering things with aplomb. 

    I also have a strong contrarian streak.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been told that I should wear more bombshell things, or that I look great in hourglass silhouettes, etc.  All that praise/encouragement actually makes me even less likely to want to dress in those silhouettes.  (I already am inclined against them because I have a pretty knee-jerk response to being thought of as conventionally "sexy".)  I'm not saying that I dress to hide my hourglass shape necessarily, but I do not want to accentuate it. 

    The concept of JFE is such a freeing thing for me.  And for the record, I'd wear your coat with two changes, both having to do more with poison eye/personal issues rather than flattery.  (The bracelet sleeves, as you know, and the fur, because I have weird tactile issues with fur.) 

    ETA: Also, I think we can't discount the grass-is-always-greener argument.  I HAVE the conventional hourglass figure and I can't tell you how often I've wished for the IT, avant garde figure.  But I think this is just a case of always wanting what you can't have, you know?  We just have to accept that not everything will work for everyone, because people come in all sorts of shapes and sizes.  I think at its heart JFE is about figuring out how to make the things we like work for the bodies we have. 

  • Sheila replied 3 years ago

    I also admit to having shoulder envy. Most models are these Kibbe FN types that can just hang clothes off their shoulders and they hang perfectly.

    I have no shoulders to speak of. Arms are too long on standard wear, the arm seams are halfway to my elbow, ugh. My mother used to say that my father's sisters grew up hungry and that is why everything had to be tailored for them- as they had low bone mass which showed up in the shoulders. Not true. I have been very well fed and I have those same shoulders- it is genetic.

    I personally feel that the coat in question would overwhelme me. It is lovely and something that two of my sisters could wear and look fantastic in. It really is a dramatic statement piece IMHO. The kind of item, I would look at, say no, look at again, say no, then try it on, yes yes yes...NO.

    I still struggle with Kibbe- I love the concept- but I just can't see myself correctly. One day, SN, then FG,then DC... drives me nuts.

  • replied 3 years ago

    I'm lucky to have a strong shoulder line, but it's not strong enough to put me in the Dramatic Kibbe category. It's strong enough for my clothes to hang well, though, and for that I'm grateful. My struggle, after 4 kids, is my abs. I've also gained a little weight lately and am trying my best to lose it. It all went to my stomach and hips. :(

  • approprio replied 3 years ago

    Diana: that "grass is greener" thing - ain't that the truth! Like you, my tastes run to the eclectic, and all too often I find myself wanting to wear All The Clothes All The Time, which is a plainly ridiculous notion. But in the end, what we decide to put on our backs is as much a result of how we want to present ourselves as individuals, and not simply about what suits us. 

    I really like what you say about playing down your womanly form and emphasising your contrarian streak, because I do that too. It recalled Angie's earlier comment about hiding her big eyes behind specs, which I hadn't really parsed at first but has since left me thinking. Why would you or I or Angie or anyone else make that choice to conceal something that might make us more beautiful in the eyes of the beholder? It's about turning down the sex appeal and dialing up on charisma.

    For me, dressing well is not simply about looking more beautiful or alluring (although it can be about those things if that's what you want), it's about making a conscious decision to present yourself to the world as you would like to be seen. People who don't take an interest in clothes seldom appreciate just how empowering it can be to take complete control of your appearance. This concept of JFE gives us the freedom to do that. 

    Anyway, thanks for the comment on the coat. I honestly wasn't fishing for any kind of compliment, and now I know we can agree to disagree on faux fur and bracelet sleeves :)

    Sheila: you've got me thinking about statement pieces now. I might come back to that later.

  • Aida replied 3 years ago

    This has been a fascinating read, thanks for starting this thread Appro. I identify most with Angie, Diana and Rachy wrote. I am most interested in style as a creative expression of myself, and in the idea of feeling authentic to myself in my clothes. Totally also could've written Diana's entire second paragraph:

    I also have a strong contrarian streak. I cannot tell you how many times I have been told that I should wear more bombshell things, or thatI look great in hourglass silhouettes, etc. All that praise/encouragement actually makes me even less likely to want to dress in those silhouettes. (I already am inclined against them because I have a pretty knee-jerk response to being thought of as conventionally"sexy".) I'm not saying that I dress to hide my hourglass shape necessarily, but I do not want to accentuate it.

    A big hearty AGREED to all of that! So yes, I certainly am willing to dress in a way that bucks what would be considered conventionally flattering to my shape, and more often than not do this (in particular I enjoy waist surrender).

    To a degree being IT with hourglass tendencies probably makes it possible
    to actually, you know, skew my presented visual shape to something
    different as long as I'm willing to be less than conventionally
    flattering. Which might be part of the appeal to me, who knows ;)

  • DonnaF replied 3 years ago

    FWIW, I don't dress for maximum flattery but I won't wear something if I don't feel it is JFE.  I am most self-conscious about my short, heavy legs so I shy away from stuff that makes them look even shorter and heavier.  I look for flattery in colors, so I would want to see your coat in gray/black/light vs. brown.  I am also short (5' 1") with narrowish shoulders and small features, and although I am by no means delicate or fragile, I have to remember that *strong* looks can still overwhelm me.

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