Does Fashion need to be Flattering?

Fashion is always changing and evolving. We are constantly offered new styles and designs in the shapes and colours of the season. What we choose to wear is an individual decision based on our personal needs and wants. But does fashion always need to be flattering?

Here, we breakdown the obsession with flattering fashion and observe the shift away from dressing for your shape. We acknowledge the different needs of individuals when it comes to choosing clothes, and the body image issues that can come with “flattering” fashion.   

The Problem with “Flattering”

Many fashion commentators and influencers are moving away from the concept of flattering dressing, as it can become limiting if body shapes don’t fit the current ideal. The term “flattering” is often interpreted as “slimming”, which can be construed as body and fat shaming.

If, like me, you binged on fashion makeover shows in the early 2000s, you’ll know all about body shapes and what styles to choose to flatter your figure. While the stylists on these shows had good intentions, their advice limited their client’s choice of fashion, and often highlighted “problem areas”.

The spectrum of what consumers are looking for when it comes to fashion is endless in both directions. Some people obsess over their optimal “colours” and the silhouettes that will best suit their shape, never veering away from their limited list of things that are “perfect” for them. And that’s totally fine.

On the other end are folks having fun with fashion regardless of colours, shapes, and textures. Showing off their “assets” while concealing their “problem areas” is so far from their priority list as it restricts their creativity. 

brunette model poses at the beach wearing black triangle bikini top and skater skirt

Wear what you love and you will always feel confident

Fashion History

Fashion is often dictated by the current ideal body shape – or is it the other way around? You only need look at the silhouettes of the past 50 years to notice the jarring difference between what’s considered the “body beautiful” of the time.

The dramatic switch from low rise to ultra-high waisted pants shows you just how quickly trends change, in both fashion and ideal body shapes. It’s no wonder (predominantly) women have had negative relationships with their bodies for decades.

Fashion that is considered “flattering” at the time is what gives you the body shape of the moment. And just when you think your body shape finally aligns with what’s in fashion, your hormones go and change on you, creating a new body you were not prepared for. 

Brunette model poses on the boat wearing navy and white polkadots retro skirted one piece swimsuit

"Flattering" fashion often regards the hourglass shape as the ideal

Social Media Commentary

While the obsession with “flattering” clothing is becoming outdated with the younger generation, many older consumers have a difficult time shaking that programming. Middle aged women, like myself, still get caught in the “does it suit my shape” trope rejecting fashion that doesn’t flatter our skin tone or body shape.

This attitude can seep into our judgement of others.

Our Curvy Swimwear social media accounts are often subject to this scrutiny. The images we post of our models wearing swimwear can be met with criticism about whether the styles “flatter” our talent. These opinions often come from older women who have been fed the idea that fashion needs to be flattering to be accepted. 

This type of social commentary is most often construed as passive aggressive body shaming, which, in reality, it is.

Red haired model wears retro floral pastel two way bikini top and tie front pant

No size or shape is safe from the scrutiny of the "Flattering Police"

Flattering Swimwear

So where do we stand on “flattering” fashion here at Curvy Swimwear?

While we say, “wear what you love”, and mean it, when it comes to swimwear, the concept of “flattering” is more of a priority than it is for other fashion categories. And this is driven by our customers.

Wearing swimwear in public can be a nerve-wracking experience for many people. Swimsuits are basically a step up from underwear, just in water-resistant fabric. Styles are mostly figure hugging leaving very little to the imagination. This can be extremely confronting for the majority of pool and beach goers, with their bodies on full display.

The variety of body shapes and sizes is endless, with each individual sporting their own insecurities and comfort zones. We’ve found that while there are those among us who will buy and wear any swimwear that catches their eye, for most people this fashion item needs to be, dare I say, flattering.

We will often highlight the features that make a swimsuit style "flattering" because that is what our customer is looking for. Whether they want to lift and support a fuller bust, hide a tummy, or cinch in their waist, we are guided by our clients to provide this information as constructively as we can without body shaming. 

Our sample sizes are 12, 16, and 18, and we endeavour to represent a range of different body types in our imagery. We will show our styles on each model regardless of whether it will be considered "flattering". We want to change our customers' perception of how they see fashion by encouraging them to try new colours and styles that they might resist as "unflattering". 


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