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).
“When I was in college, some girls on the internet said I should never wear high waisted anything because it makes me look like I’m wearing a Jerri Blank fat suit. I’ve also basically been told that only girls with small breasts look good in clothes, busty women should only wear wrap dresses.” (The above, beautiful photos is one of the ones that was shamed on the Internet.)
“People have heavily implied that I am in danger of looking a little funky if I wear high waist pants because I’ll look like tits on legs. Well, I have good tits and my legs are aight so…I’m not too pressed.”
It’s not so much I’ve been told I personally cannot, so much as I’ve just refrained from even trying “risky” pieces because I always witness people with my body type get made fun of for those pieces of clothing. I only had one bathing suit between ages 13 and 19, and it was a maternity swimsuit. But then I eventually got a little more comfortable with my body when I lived in a house in Southern California with no air conditioning, so I started wearing shorts finally (after they had an equally long absence in my wardrobe as two-piece swimsuits) and wound up loving them.
“I was told I couldn’t pull off glasses once because they “made me look too intelligent” like it was a bad thing. What the actual fuck is that supposed to mean? So then I spent years feeling self-conscious about wearing glasses because I was self-conscious about looking too smart, which was dumb. Also, being slightly on the taller side, people are always telling me not to wear heels to make themselves feel better. I like being tall around people. I get to see everything!”
So let’s say screw it to “you can’t pull that off,” because I firmly believe that everyone can pull off any look that they want to. And just for good measure, here’s a silly picture of me and my big mouth wearing my favorite lipstick.