On seeking others’ opinions in the matter of clothing choices

               “Do I look fat in this?” “This makes me look ridiculous, right?” “What do you think about my new such-and-such?” Probably most women and girls have asked or thought along these lines at some point. It is normal to want to look our best, and it is natural to want to seek the opinion of others on this subject. A woman may ask for an opinion for a variety of reasons, including the following:

She trusts and highly values the insights of a wise person with a well-trained eye whose opinion she can count on in matters of fashion and style

She lacks confidence in her choices and seeks validation through the approval of another

She genuinely has no idea how to dress in order to flatter and enhance her figure, natural coloring, and best assets

She has a low self-image and wishes for others to compliment her appearance, even if she already thinks she looks pleasing

She cares too deeply about fitting into the expectations of others instead of being confident in her own skin

               The first reason is a valid one; if I had access to a trained, trusted, professional wardrobe consultant, or a really smart-dressing, classy, confident woman with impeccable taste, I would not hesitate to draw upon her wisdom and tips for my own dressing skills, while learning how to internalize the principles she follows for my own education and improvement! However, asking the loaded question, “How do I look?”—or, worse yet, “Does this make me look fat?”—for the other reasons listed above is not in a poised, well-bred woman’s best interest.

               A woman in a relationship should never ask her husband or significant other if something makes her look any negative quality. It puts him in a lose-lose situation. He knows she wants him to be honest, but he most likely does not have the same (strict) body standards for her that she does for herself. If he says “No,” he may be accused of being dishonest or just “telling her what she wants to hear,” but if he says “Yes”…he is the bad guy! A refined, well-mannered woman should always consider the position she puts another in when asking any question. On the other hand, many women know their husbands to respond to the “How do I look?” question with barely a passing glance and a muttered “Fine,” so it is obvious that in this situation one would need to become one’s own best advocate for clothing choices and appearance management. By the way, I do not know how the minds of men generally work, but I can imagine that at least some of them might get annoyed by an uncertain wife’s always pestering them for an opinion on her dress! The art of dressing and appearance for a woman is, in my opinion, something that should remain a mystery that only she is knowledgeable of, and that a wise woman will mostly exclude from her everyday conversation with her husband or significant other.

               Young single women, especially, may often turn to their mothers for her opinion on style and dress. Young girls generally receive their first tastes of fashion and style sense from their mothers, and for many years her opinion will be most important, as she guides and shapes her daughter’s dressing habits. However, in one’s teenage years it is best to begin learning the principles of dressing well for oneself, as well as developing one’s own tastes and preferences, which may be in a completely different style (or decade) as one’s mother’s manner of dress! I remember shopping with my mother at about age 15 for a light jacket; I was petite then, with clear, delicate features; I had my heart set on the pink jacket, size small, which fit none too tightly. But my mother, coming from a different background in acceptable clothing choices, and having much different coloring than I, insisted I buy the powder blue jacket in size medium. Not only did it fit quite poorly, coming down almost to my knees, but the color washed out my features! It was so embarrassing to wear that it was still almost new when I finally donated it a few years later.

               Many women turn to their friends for advice when shopping and trying on clothes; however, keep in mind that other people have their own preferences and standards which they will use to evaluate a woman, even though what they approve of may not really suit her. Also, many friends may feel as though they are in the same situation as the husband, wanting to make a woman feel happy and confident even if they feel a bit off about her choices—the American tendency to over-praise everyone for everything certainly applies here—and asking a girl friend an open-ended “How do I look?” will most certainly bring a positive, however untruthful, answer. Asking whether or not one looks a negative quality, such as fat, will most likely bring a “No”, in an age where everyone is encouraged to accept their bodies without any attempt to change them, even if somebody wants to.

               In conclusion, well-fitting clothes are well-fitting clothes; if something makes a person look fat, it is not her body weight that is the problem; it is the cut and style of the clothing. There are proper styles of clothing available to enhance every figure! That is why every woman should develop the ability to evaluate her appearance thoroughly in front of a full-length mirror; she should note and consistently make use of the styles that suit her body (no matter her weight). As I am still learning this myself, I plan to cover more of it in future posts. On rare occasions in which a woman really feels that she needs a second opinion, such as when she is still in the early stages of learning what suits her, she may ask her viewer specific questions about the outfit, such as “Does it cling across the back side?” or “Does the print complement or overwhelm my face?” The more specific a woman’s question is, the less uncomfortable the one answering will feel because she is presenting questions with a clear “yes” or “no” answer, instead of forcing someone to make a judgment call based on subjective opinion (such as with the “Does this make me look fat?” question). Another downside to asking that particular question is that often people, more likely girlfriends, either do not want to offend their friend or have different opinions on how tight they prefer to wear things, so they may respond that one looks fine. Then, after purchasing the piece and moving around in it for a few days, or really having a chance to examine herself in her mirror, a woman may realize it is completely wrong for her. This proves that it is always better to know what works for oneself and trust one’s own judgment rather than relying on the opinion of others, for the reasons of being a confident woman, being mindful of the position one puts others in, and being lead by one’s own sound opinion rather than the possibly unreliable one of friends. Above all, confidence is key; even if the most classily dressed person in the world was a woman’s wardrobe adviser, should that woman lack confidence, it would show right through the fine tailored lines of her perfectly styled wardrobe.

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2 thoughts on “On seeking others’ opinions in the matter of clothing choices

  1. Wonderful essay. It’s taken some time, but I finally have realized the questions about fat are best saved for a qualified doctor. They can tell you if you truly do need to lose weight. The rest is simply about dressing well.

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