A few years ago, I wrote an article about why “unflattering” mom jeans were good for womankind. At the time the high-waisted jean had reached mega-trend proportions, and—while I loved the way I felt in the look—I was personally frustrated that my hips and thighs looked bigger in them. But I decided that it was OK—jeans shouldn’t be about looking as skinny as possible. I went on to wear mom jeans many, many times over the years.
Now there’s a new pant style in town that’s testing my resolution to embrace my hips and thighs even more. It’s the wide-leg crop pant, which shortens your leg length and makes your hips look two times wider than they are. But once again, I really like them. Despite the voice in my head that said, “These will make you look bigger,” I bought two pairs and immediately began wearing them with, um, everything.
Despite my rebellion, the question remains: Why do we still insist that the goal when dressing is to look thin?
When I slipped on my wide-leg crop pants last month, I asked myself, “Am I really going to go outside in these hip-widening pants?” Before I could examine myself for too long, I ran out the door in a hurry to get to work. I didn’t let my self-doubt get the better of me, and strangely enough, I felt awesome in those pants. I felt so liberated walking to work and just not caring about whether my ensemble accentuated my pear-shape form. My coworkers complimented my outfit. That night I saw my mom, who said simply, “This look is . . . different.” When I asked what she meant, she explained, “It’s just not you.” I thought about it a minute and came to a surprising realization.
I felt more myself in those “unflattering” pants than I had in months.
When I wrote last year about how my wardrobe went from grunge to feminine, I said that “I grew into myself and more specifically who I am as a woman. Without realizing it, I started buying and wearing more dresses and skirts.” I found joy in those hyper-feminine, hourglass-figure-focused outfits, but over time, that form-focused look became too much about my body. Instead of loving the actual clothing and what an outfit expressed about myself, I began dressing with the sole purpose of making sure my proportions fit the stereotypical ideal, that I looked as svelte as possible. I lost sight of my original purpose: to put together an outfit I truly loved and expressed who I am as a whole person.
Don’t get me wrong, flattering your shape is a great thing. But sometimes being so focused on your shape can be a slippery slope into body obsession. I got caught in the trap of associating the word “flattering” with looking thin. If you’re only focusing on dressing for the physical, you forget to dress for the internal, and then you lose all the joy.
It’s not like I gave up on style and stopped trying to pull myself together every day; I’ve simply readjusted my priorities when it comes to dressing. I’ve allowed myself to not care so much about fitting the prototype and to just enjoy the clothing, enjoy myself. I feel the most flattered when I’m wearing something I love, regardless of whether it’s balancing my proportions. At the end of the day, being flattered is so much more than looking like an hourglass. We choose “flattering” outfits because we want to feel confident. But just as there isn’t only one ideal body shape, there isn’t only one way to feel good about yourself. Wearing something simply because you love it can inspire confidence inside and out.
This article originally appeared in Verily Magazine.