Five Different Stylists Dressed Me In “Flattering” Outfits
And Here’s What Happened
I’ve been told my whole life not to wear certain things because they aren’t “flattering.” But do people agree on what “flattering” actually means?
posted on Aug. 27, 2015, at 6:51 a.m.
Charlotte Gomez for BuzzFeed
Hi, I’m Kristin. Like many of you, I have been told throughout my life that I can’t wear certain things because they are “not flattering on me.”
Yeah, I’m confused, too. We’re so worried about wearing unflattering clothing, but does everyone really agree on what “flattering” even means?
To find out, I decided to visit personal shoppers at five different stores and have them all assemble a few outfits for me, with one caveat — all of the outfits MUST be, in their opinion, “flattering.”
If only certain things were flattering on me, then all the personal shoppers would dress me in all the same styles, right?
1. I’d ask the personal shoppers to find outfits that they considered flattering. However, I did NOT indicate what precisely on my body I wanted flattered — I left that completely open to interpretation.
2. I’d ask (whenever possible) why something was chosen for me.
3. As with this post, I’d buy anything I really loved, so as to not willfully waste anyone’s time.
4. Wherever possible, I included links to the items online (for some items I struggled to find exact matches).
Here are the “flattering” outfits the personal shopper from Bloomingdale’s picked out:
1. Turtleneck Tunic Sweater + Black T-shirt + Black Leggings
Huh boy. I feel like the mohair circus just rolled into town. The personal shopper tells me that this poncho “hides a multitude of sins,” which I don’t think is wrong, necessarily, but casually implies that everything from my neck to my knees needs to be cordoned off with yellow police tape. It’s one of those mom comments that sticks with you.
But when I’m told this looks flattering, it lights up something in my brain that causes me to doubt any and all opinions of my own. “This does hide my stomach,” I I found myself rationalizing, ignoring the fact that there was enough room for my entire body to crawl inside this poncho and roll away if I wanted to.
2. Gray Drape-Front Cardigan/Red Poncho + Black T-Shirt + Culottes
Look, I’m 5’3”. Cropped pants on me are just pants. But culottes are everywhere right now. So I guess it was only a matter of time before they got to me, like I’m a character whose legs got attacked and killed on the season finale of The Walking Dead Culottes.
The tops of both of these outfits are layering options that would look great on my mother, because she is 29 years older than me and lives in a climate where the mall Santa at Christmas doesn’t wear sunglasses and surfer clothes.
3. Sleeveless Print Dress + Black Shrug
Look, we called the Time Warner guy, but he’s not going to be able get cable reception back to my torso and thighs until Thursday at the earliest.
4. Green Sweater/Gray Hooded Sweater + Plus Midi Pencil Skirt
The purpose of this skirt was to “make me look slimmer and taller” — and it did, in my opinion. (Though if that was the goal all along, then why pick out the cropped pants for me?) The problem was that I only looked “slimmer and taller” if I was also wearing a very bulky sweater. Which would be great if it wasn’t going to be 10000 degrees in L.A. for the next two months. Stop trying to make August sweaters a thing, clothing stores. IT’S NOT GOING TO BE A THING.
5. Black A-Line Skater Dress + Black Leggings
I thought this was cute, although admittedly a little boring — I did appreciate that I was offered an alternative to the sweater brigade.
Here are the “flattering” outfits the Macy’s personal shopper picked out:
Yeah, did not see this one coming. Prints and drop waists have always been deemed off-limits to me, unless the goal is to look like someone’s oversized lava lamp.
7. Cold-Shoulder Embellished Shift Dress + Black Strappy Wedges
I’m not sure I understand the point of the “cold shoulder” sleeve in general. Am I supposed to tempt you with my bare upper arm area, or just make it really difficult for myself to decide whether or not I need a light jacket?
8. Printed Maxi Dress + Black Strappy Wedges
Here I am, doing my impression of the ugly comforter on top of the Days Inn bed that you immediately throw on the floor whenever you stay there.
9. Color-Blocked A-Line Dress + Black Strappy Wedges
The objective with this dress, according to my personal shopper, was to “nip in my waist.” So now I look like a creepy haunted doll with a nipped-in waist.
10. Cold Shoulder Top + Straight-Leg Pants
Hello, I’m the mom on Halloween who hits on all the single dads who are out with their kids trick-or-treating.
11. Sleeveless Fringe Top + Skinny Stretch Pants
These were the best pants I tried on anywhere, by a mile, and still too baggy around the knees. I also enjoyed that the fringe efficiently pointed people directly to my crotch; that was a very convenient feature.
Here are the “flattering” outfits the Nordstrom personal shopper picked out:
12. Green Anorak + Button-Down Shirt + Skinny Jeans/Boot-Cut Jeans
Skinny jeans were on the left, boot-cut jeans were on the right. When I asked about how these jeans were flattering, I was told that they were both “very slimming for my midsection.” To be honest, what was most “slimming” about these outfits was that my midsection was covered. If I’m being REALLY honest, while the skinny jean looks like it fits a little better, they basically look exactly the same.
And anyway, both of these jeans were a nightmare to wear while sitting, so they both went in the no pile.
13. Slub Sweater Top + Culottes + Tank Top + Flats
I tried this on as a dare to myself, because the personal shopper was very enthusiastic about everything, and I wanted to see if she’d tell me the truth about this outfit. Like, come on. I look like everyone’s least favorite English teacher. There is no way that someone can tell me that this is a flattering outfit with a straight face.
And as I predicted, the personal shopper took one look at this outfit, made a concerned face…
…and then told me that I was wearing the sweater backwards.
When I turned the sweater around, her face softened, she declared this to be very cute. Which…I don’t know. Now I just feel like a package the stork might deliver.
14. Blue Handkerchief Dress + Nude Pumps
This was meant to skim my body shape without clinging too much to it. But look, when a dress shows you how much it loves getting wrinkled, believe it the first time.
Here are the “flattering” outfits the ModCloth.com personal shopper picked out:
This one worked a little differently: Because ModCloth is an online retailer, I provided them with a full-body picture, my measurements, and a general description of my body. In turn, they were able to provide me with some recommendations, and I bought all this stuff up front in order to try it on.
The outfit on the left is the only time anyone tried to put me in a tie-front top — which was kind of shocking. I would have kept it, but it was a little too long on me.
The yellow shirt sort of makes me feel like a jelly bean with legs. It probably doesn’t help that I FEEL like a jelly bean with legs, and it’s coming through in my face.
The idea for both of these outfits, according to the stylist who picked these things, was to cinch in my waist. The outfit on the left is probably my all-around favorite of every outfit I tried on — I plan on keeping it. The dress on the right was also good, and not in a fit I would have picked myself — I thought for sure that it made my stomach look too lumpy from the side, although the person who took this picture did not agree with me. I have no idea what is real, guys.
Here are the “flattering” outfits the Saks Fifth Avenue personal shopper picked out:
17. A-Line Jacket + Horizontal Striped Knit Top + Slim-Cut Black Pants
Yeah, I’m just as shocked as you that I was put in horizontal stripes. I was told that the horizontal stripes worked even WITHOUT the slimming lines of the jacket. To be honest, I can’t decide if I look like an adorable French girl detective or a Sexy Hamburglar.
18. Leather Vest/Black Vest + White Silk Top + Slim-Cut Black Pants
Confession: I did not try these vests on in good faith, because they were not cheap — the vest on the left costs more than the total rent on my apartment. BUT UGH THAT VEST WAS AMAZING. You get the idea: I believe the vests are supposed to my make my torso look like it isn’t 6 inches tall and 20 feet wide.
19. High-Low Hem Jersey Dress/Belted Shift Dress
I normally HATE shapeless dresses like the one on the left — best-case scenario, they just hang limply on me, like they don’t want to be hanging out with me any more than I do with them. But I actually liked the dress on the left better than the belted, more waist-cinching option on the right. I loved the pockets, the high-low hem, and honestly, just the way it felt — I bought it.
All in all, this was a bit of an eye-opening experience.
1. “Flattering” is at best a personal opinion, and at worst a sales tool aimed at getting you to buy things based on your insecurities — often a combination of both. This is why women shopping for wedding dresses with seven of their family members makes great TV.
2. Flattering means something different to different people. I was put in literally every fall trend under the sun at least once — it honestly depended on the person’s taste and what they did or did not feel like I should be hiding or maximizing.
3. Because no one agrees about what “flattering” is…that means YOU’RE FREE. Professional and/or event-specific dress codes aside, you should never have to feel like a trend is “off limits” just because some hater told you so — especially because when styles change in three to five years, that hater may very well change their mind!
For more BuzzFeed Kristin, like her Facebook page here!
The favorite all-around outfit was the ModCloth red top and black skirt. An earlier version of this post accidentally indicated it was a different outfit. Aug. 27, 2015, at 12:27 p.m.