"Can any fashion item be worn with the right styling, or are there things people just shouldn't wear?"
That was a question a friend of mine broached while eyeing a blouse that regrettably resembled a hospital gown. I'm ashamed to admit the question gave me pause. I've been critiquing fashion for years now, yet I don't have a neatly packaged answer for what makes fashion...ugly? I half-blurted, half-mumbled some poorly articulated answer:
"It's not about the piece itself. It's all about fit, quality, and...um, yeah, fit and quality."
Shameful. Despite being a writer, I'm actually really, really horrible at articulating myself in real life. But pushing aside my fumbling answer, I do think I was on the right track. I started pondering the idea again when my friend messaged me lamenting the return of high-waisted pants. I, on the other hand, welcomed the trend, and it made me wonder why there was a difference in how we both perceived the attractiveness of those waist-defining (and crotch-lengthening) bottoms. How do we get away with critiquing fashion and giving it our "yes" or "no" seal of approval? Can we really call something unflattering when it's all in the eye of the beholder?
To begin, there are certain things I look for when I discern whether fashion is ugly or not:
If something doesn't fit, there's a much higher chance you don't look good in it. It doesn't mean the item has to be skintight (and following the oversized trend doesn't mean you can go baggy as baggy goes), but that the seams and cutting hit where they're supposed to hit.
I've seen so many outfits that look good from afar, yet once I venture closer, the pilling fabric, unraveling stitching, and lack of structure make the outfits exceedingly average. That strange, curved shoulder jacket may be the most unflattering thing you've seen, but at least it's well-made - and that is something worth admiring. Being a broke university student, I know how difficult finding quality pieces at reasonable prices can be, so my trick is to go for pieces that look expensive but don't necessarily leave a massive dent in your bank account (stores like H&M or Joe Fresh, and any killer clearance sales are my saviours).
Design and quality work hand in hand. A basic white tee might not have much in terms of design, but the quality of its construction is what makes it special. Nonetheless, a garment that has some element of original thought put into it deserves appreciation. For example, I own a Prada sweater that looks like any simple V-neck grey sweater, but on closer inspection, one notices there is slight ruching along the shoulders done with exposed black stitching. It adds just that extra bit of depth to the top, and it's something unique, even if it's something only I know about.
But overall, what makes fashion look good is something that goes beyond the specifics into a more holistic perspective that, ultimately, makes it all subjective. Because no matter what one person may call ugly, I know I'll find keen street stylers who pull it off like they're wearing Dior Couture. And so that brings me to a fourth point:
The final, most important ingredient. This is the one element that trumps all. If you feel great in that hospital gown blouse, and you walk out there holding your head high, then no question, that blouse looks good. Anyone can wear anything. The right styling and awareness of one's body shape definitely helps, but it's confidence and daring that wows me, not "good" style.
At the end of the day, every fashion item/trend/look has the potential to be flattering, as long as the wearer first and foremost believes in it. Everything works. Nothing's ugly. Unfortunately, a lot of the "ugly" slander gets thrown at high fashion, runway looks. Understand that what goes down the runway is not necessarily meant to be worn as is on the streets. Runway looks are exaggerated, meant to give us a good show, and designed to speak to our wildest creative fantasies. The runway acts as a conduit for trends, ideas, and sociopolitical messages. Tell me, can you really call that ugly?
Image Source: Photo1, 2