The Myth of “Universally Flattering”

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I was looking at tops for the Theatrical Romantic Casual blog post (which is taking me longer than I expected–TR is definitely out of my comfort zone!) when I came across this top from Forever 21.


Forever 21 Ornate Matelassé Peplum Top

The site has this to say about it: “With a universally flattering peplum silhouette, an ornate floral and paisley matelassé pattern, and a double V-neckline, it’s a subtly sultry statement-maker.”

If you’re reading this blog, you probably already know that this is far from the truth. Peplums are something that you’re rarely going to see cross type boundaries. If you’re a yin type that can wear a peplum, it has to be the very specific kind that suits your type, and it has to be just the right length, or it just looks wrong. And an FG like myself shouldn’t even think of touching a peplum.

The Diane von Furstenberg wrap dress is an iconic piece of clothing that is probably one of the first things that comes to people’s minds when they hear “universally flattering.” Oprah herself even said it.

Diane von Furstenberg New Julian Two Silk Wrap Dress

Personally, I think this may be even worse for me than the peplum. I can’t imagine a garment less suited for my body. The cut and the material require smooth, long curves to lay correctly. Thin fabric looks cheap on me, and anything that lacks shape, yet skims the body, creates what I call the “lumpy bowl of gravy” effect on me.

The problem with this is that if you grow up hearing that something like a wrap dress is supposed to flatter every single woman, and then you try one on and it looks awful, you feel like something is wrong with you. So you begin to think that your body is wrong, and you just need to lose weight or tone up. But the truth is, even if I were as slim as I could be while still remaining healthy, something meant for a body with an S-curve is just never going to look right on my body.


Frankly, I don’t believe that a “universally flattering” clothing item exists. I have entirely different clothing needs from women with other line types. I need structure and asymmetry. Another woman may need clothes that are fluid and ornate. The idea that the same item of clothing could flatter both of us is laughable.

So why does this myth exist, and why do fashion publications continue to write about these mythical garments year after year? Obviously, it moves clothes. Ideas like an A-line dress being “safe” are going to get us to buy things. Figuring out what works for you as an individual can be overwhelming. But I guarantee that figuring out what works for you will go a long way in helping you no longer feel like there’s something wrong with you because you don’t look good in the same things your sister or your mom or your best friend does. Once you know the clothes that are made for your particular line type, you understand how these kinds of declarations are completely meaningless.

Know your type in several systems but having trouble putting it all together? My workbook can help.

3 Comments on The Myth of “Universally Flattering”

  1. Laurel
    January 29, 2016 at 3:31 pm

    I could not agree more. There are always lip colors that flatter everyone, usually a soft season color. Rules like everyone should wear black mascara. Items of clothing that everyone needs to own, like a little black dress. And universally flattering things like wrap dresses. Maybe if we all looked exactly alike! That is why color and style analysis are so important because we all are a unique combination of attributes and we need to flatter our unique beautiful selves. I agree totally that it is all about moving merchandise off the shelves.

    • stylesyntax
      February 6, 2016 at 11:54 am

      Exactly. It’s easier to promote one or two items than 12 or 24.

  2. Silverroxen
    March 16, 2019 at 9:39 am

    This reminded me of how people often tell me that due to my body type I can wear anything. This happened whenever I asked for style advice, once I told people that I’m a hourglass shape and petite. If I could wear anything then I wouldn’t be asking for help lol.

     I’m so glad I came across Kibbe’s system because I felt like there was more than “wear wrap dresses and pencil skirts”. The petite tips didn’t help either because petite isn’t always thin, besides it means smaller and shorter.

    As a Soft Gamine my small frame and “baby face” are taken into account along with my curves.

    You can add Caspsule Wardrobes to this. A few years ago due to minimalism they were all the rage. I remember being frustrated because chambray shirts didn’t work on me. Last year, I noticed that my friend in college looks great in chambray shirts. I had just started following Kibbe, so I figured that she’s a Natural type, she’s a Soft Natural in fact.


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