Why You Should Say Screw It To “You Can’t Pull That Off”


Writing about fashion, body image, self esteem, and the intersection of the three as I do for a living, I come across of a lot of language in the world of fashion/beauty that I’m uncomfortable with. My biggest objection these days (besides the concept of plus sized versus “straight sized”) is idea that certain people can’t “pull off” certain looks. Looking back, I’ve realized that I’ve constantly been told either explicitly or implicitly in commercials, ads, and branding that there are a whole plethora of looks that I simply cannot “pull off,” due to my imperfect and human features.

When I was in college, my younger sister came to visit me in Boston. We decided to go shopping because ladies be shopping, and went into the MAC store in search of a bright red lipstick. Now, to preface this, here’s the thing about me and my sister. We have big lips. I’m not trying to be braggy (although I am trying to get better about saying positive things about myself), but it’s just an undeniable fact that big, full lips run in our family, and we’ve each got a pair on our faces.

So we’re in the MAC store at 11AM, listening to insane club music, when we asked the sales associate to help us find a red lipstick that would work with our (identical) coloring. Her response? ”With lips as big as yours, you really shouldn’t be wearing bright lipstick.”

We were pretty taken aback, so much so that we actually let her show us some nude gloss before walking out and spending our money on red lipstick across the street. Normally, people tell us we have big mouths and we should shut up. We were unused to someone seemingly complimenting us (I love our big freaking lips) and then insulting us in the same breath. And it was amazing how quickly we both went from feeling confident about our mouths to suddenly self conscious. Were they too big? Do we look like clowns?

This got me thinking about all of the other clothes that salespeople, acquaintances, magazines, and commercials have told me I can’t pull off. Almost every time I’ve been told I can’t pull something off, it has to do with my pear-shape. I’ve got an ass on me, what can I say? Every single magazine article that I’ve ever read in my entire life, ever tells me that pear shaped women should be wearing mid rise flared jeans or a dramatic shoulder as to “balance” my large hips, as if my pear shape makes me uneven. And as if it needs to be fixed. My hips (and generous tits) apparently rule out skinny jeans, horizontal stripes, high waisted jeans, and almost everything related to my tomboy style. Well screw your rules, I’m doing it anyway.

I spoke to a few of my coworkers about what they’ve been told they can’t pull off, but proudly wear anyways (and look incredible in).

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    • Elizabeth

      I told a very fashionable acquaintance that I wanted to cut off all my (then mid-back-length) hair, and she said it would never look good in anything shorter than a bob. So I shaved it all off. (Okay, not right away; I cut it to an inch-long pixie first. But still! I think I rocked it.)

      Seriously, fuck people who tell you you can’t pull things off. I wear pretty much whatever I like and often have non-conventional hair or makeup and it’s amazing how often I get told “I love that on you, but I could never pull it off!” Like, really, I’m not a magical unicorn. The secret to “pulling things off” has nothing to do with how you look and everything to do with doing what you want and not being self-conscious about it.

      • ZanBrody

        “…really, I’m not a magical unicorn.” <— I am so saying this the next time someone tells me they couldn't pull something off. I find that always happens when I don't even think something was that bold, like a semi-bright lipstick. Then I wonder how weird I must really be…

    • http://Mommyish.com/ Eve Vawter

      You guys are all gorgeous and I love you and your big mouth and you are so beautiful Julia so STFU

      • Julia Sonenshein

        My big mouth loves you back big time.

    • Rebekah Coote

      Gah, that girl in MAC was horrible! I worked in Beauty Counters for years, and I was all about telling my customers how awesome they were, not the other way around. And red lips look awesome on everyone!

    • CMJ

      That MAC girl would hate me then…cause I wear bright lipstick on a sunday morning and my lips are big as well.

      Also, y’all look fabulous.


    • http://twitter.com/mariaguido Maria Guido


    • Cassieleigh

      Oh I love this! Thanks so much for writing this. I myself used to think I couldn’t wear a hat. Yes, pathetic, I know. But I used to have TERRIBLE hair and my ears stick out a little and I just didn’t really know what to do with hats. But once I finally found that hats are awesome and it’s all about HOW you wear them, I wear them whenever I can.

      And can I just say, these ladies in the photos are all gorgeous. I’m not surprised, just a little in awe. ;)

    • http://poorgoop.com/ Samantha

      The high waists/big butts don’t match bullshit is so obviously false I can’t even deal with it. I love my high waist pants. And you all look lovely in yours.

      Last week, I bought some bronze Doc Martens because I wanted to look like Heimdall (I really loved Thor 2), and everyone told me they would look heinous and make my legs look gross. Everyone was wrong. I think it’s about the attitude you have when wearing your clothes. If you look like you love something, most people will jump on board unless they are horrible.

      • Joanna Rafael

        Now I want bronze docs to stomp around in!

    • JPen

      Beautiful article, beautiful ladies. Thank you for writing that, it was just what I needed to read today as I felt slightly self-conscious about wearing really red lipstick to work. Now..not so much. You rock.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        I bet you look fucking awesome.

    • thatgirlkaren

      I’m in awe of every single picture. You ladies are beautiful! And thanks for the article because it was just what I needed to read today. i’m pretty sure i’ll wear red lipstick to work tomorrow. :)

      • Julia Sonenshein

        <3 <3 <3

    • Charmless

      I was told that, with my pale complexion, I’d never be able to pull off blonde hair. Little did this person know that I’m naturally blonde and have been coloring my hair dark since I was 14 (suck it, Katy Perry. I did it first). It’s funny listening to someone stumble after a gaff like that, “Uh… well, I bet dark hair looks BETTER on you. People don’t always look good with their natural haircolors….”

      I went platinum and he at his words.

    • Joanna Rafael

      This post is giving me the strength to wear my Godzilla costume to work.

      • Julia Sonenshein

        Without question, you can pull that off.

    • Vanessa Vieira

      i might actually wear lipstick. tomorrow. we shall see.

      • Samantha_Escobar

        DO IT.

    • LaLa

      That’s so funny because I was always told the opposite, that my lips are too thin to pull off bright or bold lipstick. I’ve also been told that I’m too curvy for maxi dresses/skirts and too short for long hair. Well guess what? I have waist length hair, and I’m literally wearing a maxi dress and red lipstick as I’m typing this. All those stupid “rules” can suck it. Wear what makes you feel good.

    • Christine

      I love this post so much!

    • elle

      for the longest time I thought my legs were too chubby to wear shorts but like 2 years ago I just thought screw it and started wearing them and now if it’s above 50 degrees and sunny I’m wearing shorts. I have also been told my lips are too thin for bright lipstick but I wear it anyway.

    • ZanBrody

      I can’t think of anything anyone has ever said besides making horrified commentary on the paleness of my skin. I actually really like being porcelain skinned, so it’s never bothered me, but it is crazy how some people WILL NOT drop it and express pity towards me.

      You have the perfect lips for lipstick…what a weirdo that woman was!!

    • Samantha_Escobar

      Everyone that has ever met you knows you wear that red like nobody’s fucking business.

    • Muggle

      I’m short and thin, but I’m a bit curvy as well. I literally CAN’T take any advice on how to dress for my body type. I’m not really straight-shaped, not quite an hourglass shape, sort of a pear shape, but most of all short. Advice for all four of those is contradictory and impossible to follow. This is how I wound up in a wedding dress that has a deep V-neck when I have a small chest to match my small size. Who the fuck is 5’3, 105 lbs, with a 31-inch chest? Not me.

      I’ve also gotten no end of concern-trolling over my pale skin. I’m super fair-skinned, I really don’t mind. Being pale has never bothered me… except when I still lived in a town that was 80% white, had 2 KKK chapters (yes really) and everyone would hold up my “pasty ginger albino” arms to their “healthy” ones and not 2 minutes later spout racist bullshit.

    • Liz

      For years, people told me not even to look at horizontal stripes because I’m a fatty mcfatfat and the look would compound the problem. People were fucking wrong because horizontal stripes break you up in such a way that it makes you look thinner and also I look fabulous, so fuck the people who caused me to wait until I was twenty to buy that horizontally striped t-shirt that has since exploded into about half my upper body wardrobe because I look so damn great in those stripes.

    • Kt

      I am a big, voluptuous girl. I went into a Victoria’s Secret a few years back and fell in love with an orange-and-red chiffon babydoll. When I asked if they had any larges, the salesgirl looked at me condescendingly for a beat and then said,”I’m sure you want that in black.” Guess who bought the orange-and-red top from a different salesperson and got complimented on it everywhere she went.

      • LLS

        I, too, would be kindly described as a big, voluptuous girl. I, too have had condescending moments at VS from less than diplomatic saleswomen. Good on you for making the purchase and having a rather Pretty Woman in the Boutique “Big Mistake” moment! One question though: when you said you get complemented on the babydoll lingerie… where is everywhere?

    • jocelyn

      What, someone really told a woman that she can’t wear something because it makes her look TOO INTELLIGENT? RAGE.

    • Jayjay

      I think everyone has to make their own judgement about what they can “pull off”, if you like how it looks wear it. If you’re not sure check with someone who you think has good taste and who will be honest with you. Ultimately fashion is about expressing yourself in a way that makes you feel fabulous.

      Also you ladies are all stunning!