When Dressing to Flatter Doesn’t Mean ‘Dressing to Look Thin’

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As much as I write about the Duchess of Cambridge, I also am a fan of Christina Hendricks. Yes, I’m a Mad Men devotee, but has there ever been an actress in recent times where her body was discussed so much?

While Ms. Hendricks isn’t always a sartorial success, she’s forcing the style blogs and critics to actually discuss how curvy women should dress. And for that, I love her. Before her, I can’t remember ever hearing about how a woman above a size 6 should dress.

Earlier this week, I was catching up on Tom and Lorenzo when they discussed Hendricks’ recent outfit at the opening of Company, a Broadway musical.

Image courtesy of Coco Perez

Aside from the shoes and clutch, I love this. Why? Because Hendricks is breaking the no. 1 rule of fashion: curvy women should never wear horizontal stripes. Yet she looks adorable. When I read what Tom and Lorenzo wrote about it, it forced me to think about how women with real figures dress:

When we say an outfit doesn’t flatter a lady, that’s often taken to mean that we want her to wear something that makes her look smaller. No one could say that a horizontally striped shirt worn by someone known for her bountiful ladyhips and voluptuous boobs is a good idea if the goal is to look smaller and thinner. And guess what? She doesn’t; not really. But she looks really cute and sexy, and the shirt hits her at just the point where it accentuates her hips and gives her a really womanly look. A LOT of stylists and style commenters would disagree and say the focus is being put on the wrong places, but there’s nothing wrong with having hips and they don’t need to be hidden. Dressing to flatter, to us, means finding clothes, cuts, and silhouettes that work the best with the types of bodies the fashion world doesn’t take enough time to consider (and which most people have); it doesn’t always mean making yourself look smaller.

Every day, the vast majority of women in the universe get up and automatically put on clothes that make us look thinner. Why? Because we’re told that’s how women should dress. It’s practically shouted from the rooftops. The commandments are ingrained in us: no horizontal stripes, wear dark colors, monochromatic looks lengthen and slim, wear pointy shoes to draw the eye down, invest in A-line skirts and straight-leg paints and v-neck shirts flatter every figure.

CH -dressing to flatter

As Tom and Lorenzo note, we don’t have to do it. While we should wear clothes that look good on us, there’s nothing wrong with actually “celebrating our figures.”

Normally, I hate that expression because it can be an excuse for overweight women to not live healthier lifestyles, but it’s true in the sense that Tom and Lorenzo reference.

Throughout history, women with womanly figures were considered beautiful. It’s only been since the 60s that fashion decided that women with the figures of 14-year-old boys are the height of beauty.

If Kate Middleton is refreshing because of her classic style, so is Christina Hendricks for reminding us that having hips and breasts are beautiful.

The next time that I pull out my black and white horizontal stripped sweater, I won’t just wear it because it reminds me of Audrey Hepburn. I’ll wear it and realize that even women with hourglass figures can rock the horizontal stripes.


Adrienne works in the conservative movement and blogs at Cosmopolitan Conservative and Adrienne Loves.


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