Manolo for the Big Girl Fashion, Lifestyle, and Humor for the Plus Sized Woman.

April 16, 2008

The Big Question: “It’s For Her Own Good” edition

Filed under: The Big Question — Miss Plumcake @ 3:00 pm

Oh Lord. We all have that friend, the one who just doesn’t have very good taste. Her favorite skirt that is just way too short or she doesn’t  seem to get that a curly she-mullet isn’t quite the follicular rage it once was.  Maybe her perfume  –Eau de Headshop– breaks you out in hives.  But how do you say anything?

Francesca and Plumcake want to know “how do you (or DO you) broach delicate sartorial subjects with a friend?”

I can tell you personally I was once gently pulled aside and told that whatever perfume I was wearing made me “smell like barn.”  It was my new decant of Chanel’s Cuir de Russie and although I loved the scent for its complexity, I had to admit that she probablyhad a point.


  1. I would have to say, I am probably the most blunt person that i know, and I still really can’t broach those subjects. If it’s something new, like a recently bought bad perfume, and you’re close to the person it’s not so difficult….but when it’s something old…something that’s been going on forever (like a certain friend’s ongoing obsession with the britney spears british newsie hats of twoish years ago)…I find that the only remedy is to tag along on shopping expeditions and get REALLY OBSCENELY excited when the person tries on something that is actually cute and flattering (ex. “…that IS AMAZING!!!! you totally need to buy that…it just doesn’t even matter what it costs. it’s pure purfection! it would be a travesty for mankind, MANKIND I tell you, if that did not become your new go-to dress! god i just can’t get over how hot that is on you!) and just look tastefully bored for all the stuff that’s as uggums as those damn newsie caps.

    Comment by Brittany — April 16, 2008 @ 4:04 pm

  2. I say nothing unless said friend asks my opinion. Then I am completely truthful, with as much tact as is possible to get the point across. As someone who struggles with body/self-image, I would never volunteer a comment that would make someone feel badly about themselves. Obvi., things like spinach in the teeth, skirt tucked into panties, doesn’t fall in this category. What friend WOULDN’T tell that?

    Comment by jen — April 16, 2008 @ 4:25 pm

  3. You don’t.

    Comment by roya — April 16, 2008 @ 4:27 pm

  4. I don’t. The only exception is my one Croc-loving friend. Before I was aware that she is a Croc-lover, I pointed to a display of Crocs in the mall one day and said, “Those things are an abomination!” She informed me that she has her own Crocs and loves them. She has never worn them in my presence, but every time we are shopping and we pass a Crocs display, I point at it and say, “Abomination!!”

    Comment by Cat — April 16, 2008 @ 4:53 pm

  5. It depends on the situation. I’m a big fan of going shopping with someone and saying, “this would look great on you” Why don’t you try this on. . . Etc. Those can be great ways to influence someone’s style. “We should get our hair cut together. ” ” I think the hair cut X celebrity has would look great on you!”

    However, if someone is wearing something right now, today, at work, it’s always best not to say anything. She can’t do anything about it once she’s left the house. But while shopping it’s great to steer towards or away from an item or look. I also think finding something they do look great in and complementing it is a great method.

    Finally if someone has a similar issue to me, I might say- ” I can never wear a skirt like that because it draws too much attention to my hips”, or “I used to wear a lot of perfume, but then I learned it bothered people”. Those are a little more direct!

    Comment by CJ — April 16, 2008 @ 5:12 pm

  6. I had a friend years ago who had a habit of bouncing up to people who were feeling just fine and telling them sweetly, “You know, that blouse/skirt/suit just doesn’t do anything for you.” It is not nice to undermine people’s confidence that way — especially on days when they had been feeling particularly spiffy and well put together.

    So I’m with roya: You don’t, at least not unasked, and very carefully even if asked.

    As jen says, if it’s something that’s obviously accidental like, say, lipstick on the teeth, then, yes, one might point it out. But if it’s a choice — like the wrong shade of lipstick — I keep my mouth shut and hope my friend will be nice enough to remain silent when I make a less-than-wonderful lipstick decision.

    Comment by Bridey — April 16, 2008 @ 5:25 pm

  7. If it’s one of my very good friends, I tell them flat-out.
    If a close but not super-close friend, I compliment something I do like (like a pair of earrings, even if it’s from another day), which often leads to a fashion-ish discussion whereby I can use examples from my own life (or someone across the room) to illustrate the point that OMGZ YOU HAVE SANDRA LEE BOOBS IN THAT TOP.

    One particular friend I have is horribly, horribly fashion challenged… and has recently expressed interest in buying some new clothes. Since she doesn’t have a car and I do, I conveniently offered to drive her around and “help her find all the good sales”. ;-) (But I’ll admit it, when she called a wrap dress a “kimono-ish dress” and didn’t know a halter top was “the kind that tied behind the neck”, I flat-out told her she needed HELP.)

    Comment by VerseFameBeauty — April 16, 2008 @ 5:31 pm

  8. I keep my mouth shut too, unless asked point-blank. Not that I haven’t been tempted. For example, a friend of mine has this pantsuit. It’s brown tweed and looks like it belongs on a Victorian gentleman traveling to the colonies on safari. She loves it and wears it to every formal and semi-formal occasion that comes along. I’m not a fan. But since I know she loves it I would never say anything — it would just make her feel bad, and probably make me feel bad as well.

    Comment by Melissa B. — April 16, 2008 @ 5:52 pm

  9. I have a couple of friends that don’t have the best fashion sense (mostly clothes that are too small, and lack of a good bra). I try to go shopping with them when they go, in order to give advice and shoot down some…poor choices, shall we say. Luckily they like my style enough that they’re willing to listen to advice. AND I was lucky enough to get an opening when the one friend complained that shirts never fit across her chest, so that I could suggest a new bra. It didn’t work, unfortunately, she still wears the most ill-fitting, stretched-out bras. Oh well.

    I find what works really well is finding something that looks good and going overboard with telling her how fabulous it is. I was with someone who was trying on pants, and since the new pants actually fit and were long enough on her, we went on and on about how perfect they are, and now she wears them all the time.

    Comment by Toyouke — April 16, 2008 @ 6:40 pm

  10. generally, I don’t say anything.

    I have one girlfriend who is extremely sartorially challenged. Clashing patterns, clashing fabrics, clashing styles.

    Noticing that she liked to wear black, I decided that the best thing to do would be to encourage her to wear more of it. Yes, her wardrobe does have that existential angsty feel to it, being almost completely black, but believe me, that is far less of a fashion crime than what she used to wear.

    She and I have very different tastes, so I’ve never been successful in any other attempt to steer her away from things she likes…she always thinks it’s because I personally dislike a style, not because I think the style looks bad on her.

    Fortunately, as the MOH who sewed her wedding dress I was able to ensure that was at least elegant…

    Comment by CanadianChick — April 16, 2008 @ 6:50 pm

  11. I’m with the others. Wait until the person is wearing something that DOES work, even if it’s just during a try-on, and then gush about how incredible they look.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — April 16, 2008 @ 7:34 pm

  12. I agree with most people, you don’t, unless specifically asked. Maybe the person likes their personal style, and if they do, what concern of it is yours?

    Comment by Becky — April 16, 2008 @ 7:37 pm

  13. I also go with saying nothing unless asked. The thing is, why would *my* taste be the *right* taste? After all, I hate things a lot of people like: wearing absolutely random colors together, those currently ubiquitous neck scarves, leggings, “skinny” jeans. And I like things other people don’t.

    Comment by Miss Laura Mars — April 16, 2008 @ 7:43 pm

  14. I only have one friend to whom I’d say anything. She and I rely on each other’s comments any time either of us needs a second opinion. If something looks bad on me, I expect her to tell me so, and vice versa. With anyone else, though, I more or less say live and let live!

    Comment by Nariya — April 16, 2008 @ 8:09 pm

  15. seriously – if you don’t want other people commenting on what you eat “for your own good,” why would you want them commenting on what you wear? just let it go unless they ask you.

    Comment by amy — April 16, 2008 @ 9:16 pm

  16. Unless I’m choking on their perfume (in which case I frame it – as is often the fact – that I’m a bit sensitive to the smell and not trying to ask them to change either their scent or how much of it they wear), I don’t say anything if I’m not asked. And then I do my best to guage whether they’re looking for an honest opinion or just happy noises.

    I wouldn’t want even a good friend to come up to me and just flat out tell me I look bad. Why would I want to do that to a friend?

    Comment by Twistie — April 16, 2008 @ 10:39 pm

  17. I definitely gush when a fashion-challenged friend hits with a really good style. He or she will never be hurt by the news that it’s a smokin’ look — and it can slowly add up. I have actually been serially gushed at when I changed up my incredibly lazy style in law school, and I got the message.
    “Aw, thanks!”
    “Oh — um, thanks!”

    Comment by SP — April 16, 2008 @ 10:55 pm

  18. I recently took a lovely patterned jacket to my favorite seamstress and it took her 2 seconds to say “Oh no, honey no. Oh sugar, no. That patterned is FAT! Get it out of here”. I laughed all they way back to the mall.

    As for friends, I dont see them as fashionably challenged. They all have their own “style” that is part of who they are. Why would I think that I know what is better for them? Leave that to their tailor!

    Comment by Peaches — April 16, 2008 @ 11:40 pm

  19. I have a friend who believes she is the last word in all matters of taste, and she irritates me when she does this, so I do not say anything unless I am asked. Then I say gently, “Since you asked, I think you might be bothered by the color/cut/whatever, and I’m not sure it works for you either. An alternative that might work for you is…

    Comment by Chaser — April 17, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  20. Oh, and not *all* barns smell bad. Some smell like nice hay and alfalfa and whatnot. Was it a good barn or a bad barn?

    Comment by Chaser — April 17, 2008 @ 12:24 am

  21. I have that friend you speak of, but I never say anything.

    Only once in my life, when I was 17 or so, I was in a pub with my friends, really, really drunk. I met a good friend of mine in the toilets in front of the mirror. I walked up to her, and said in a drunken slur “You. Are SUCH a pretty girl. If only you wouldn’t wear such ill-fitting bras.” It must have been horrible. I think she got defensive and angry and insisted that her bras fit perfectly, but me? Unstoppable: “No. Look how the cups cut your boobs in half. They’re not supposed to do that. Such a shame. You could look so great” and staggered into my cubicle.

    I’m still, 9 years later, SO ASHAMED of the incident. It was never mentioned again, and it took only days before her bras were perfectly fitted.

    Comment by Em — April 17, 2008 @ 1:19 am

  22. Hey (Hey) Cat (Cat)!

    Get offa my Crocs!

    (Everybody sing!)

    You don’t, unless
    – toilet paper on shoe
    – pantyhose tucked into waistband
    – lipstick on collar or elsewhere other than lips
    – they ask

    Comment by littlem — April 17, 2008 @ 2:15 am

  23. I think there are some rare cases in which it is appropriate to tell someone who TRUSTS you that their choice of clothing is a total doozy. Now, when going to the grocery store, who cares?! But, for example, in high school, a friend of mine & I went dress shopping together. She chose a cut that accented all the WRONG places on her body. She expressed great interest in the dress, but I knew it would be a complete disaster and people would be unkind. So I politely told her to try on some others before making a decision and then made lots of ‘oooh’ and ‘ahhh’ sounds once she found one that fit her better. But unless the situation is 1.) important and 2.) a complete disaster, I think we should let our friends choose what they want.

    Comment by jess — April 17, 2008 @ 3:25 am

  24. SP: I hear ya! I always had really long hair, kept meaning to cut it, never did (I’m in law school too) and finally did it last week. Serially gushed at, and it too was kind of an “Oh….I should have dealt with this earlier…” momement for me as well.

    Comment by Genevieve — April 17, 2008 @ 8:00 am

  25. I’m with you all on style choices, but FIT is important. Personally, I’ve purchased clothing because the article was pretty, and because I overlooked that it didn’t actually fit me. I was greatful when a friend of mine pulled me aside before we went out to tell me that it was not the most flattering shirt.

    Which is another point – timing is important. If you’re in a place where the person can make another choice, say shopping or BEFORE going out, then I think you can certainly give feedback. But if you’re already out, it’s too late.

    Comment by Leah — April 17, 2008 @ 9:58 am

  26. The hardest thing for me is when someone asks for your advice and then takes it all wrong. I advised a dear friend to buy some “basic black pumps” for interviews, thinking, you know, “black, leather or suede, a small feminine heel, round or almond toes”. She came back with horrible faux leather block heeled squared toed “oh honey no” shoes, which were extra sad as she is both young and vivacious. But we’re continents apart so I couldn’t really intervene. Alas, I still feel responsible. She still got the job though!

    Comment by Tk — April 17, 2008 @ 10:37 am

  27. Oh yes, the job interview outfit. That’s always hard to do. We had an applicant come in for a job interview and she was wearing a tshirt, gym pants, sneakers and a jean jacket.

    Part of me wishes that a friend or family member had taken her aside and said, “You might want to dress up a bit more, seeing as this IS for a job interview.” But another part of me thinks, well…it was probably better for us to be aware early on of her lack of judgement. (And no, her clothes weren’t the only reason she didn’t get the job — she was also an hour late for the interview, and chewed GUM during it!)

    Getting back to the clothing thing, though, my husband will gently point out if something I’m wearing isn’t the most flattering on me. He won’t do it while we’re out, thank goodness, but if I’m getting dressed, he’s occasionally said something. He’s good about it, though — all the blame goes on the item of clothing, for having a “funny cut”, or “a weird colour” or whatever. So it never makes me feel bad.

    Comment by La Petite Acadienne — April 17, 2008 @ 11:50 am

  28. whereby I can use examples from my own life (or someone across the room) to illustrate the point that OMGZ YOU HAVE SANDRA LEE BOOBS IN THAT TOP.

    *dies laughing*

    Comment by Chicklet — April 17, 2008 @ 12:13 pm

  29. I won’t unless they’re a close friend and they don’t usually wear something like that. If they ask me, if it’s just one of those ‘eh’ things that’s not cute but not terrible either, I’ll say it looks fine, but if it’s awful I’d probably be honest, in a nice way.

    Ugh, that reminds me. There’s this girl in one of my classes that’s on the bigger side that has a habit of dressing like she’s a size 2. No joke. Yesterday, it was especially bad. She was wearing khaki short shorts that were too small, one of those slim fit happy bunny t shirts that looked like a medium when she should be in an XXL, and these sandals that laced up all the way to her knees that made her look like she was about to scream “THIS IS SPARTAAA!”. It was bad. She sat down in her seat and said to the girl next to her, “Do you think this outfit is cute?”. The girl said “Eh… well, it’s ok… kind of…” and she flipped out on her. She started screaming about how cute it was and how it was better than anything anyone else was wearing and… yeah, it was scary. o_o

    Comment by Jessica — April 17, 2008 @ 5:07 pm

  30. I say to my sartorially challenged friend, “Hey, I need to go shopping and Torrid is having a sale on Saturday; would you like to come?” If a girl over a certain size cannot find something she likes and looks good on her there, she’s in real trouble. Plus I need someone on the lookout for my ginormous ass. Jean manufacturers have a terrible habit of placing pockets in the exact place that makes asses look their biggest. I cannot see my own butt.

    As for things like bras, perfume, make up and hair… That is what college is for. Girls do a lot of communal “What should I wear on my date?” stuff and change in front of each other which is the perfect time to say “Wow that bra is really tight! Can you breathe?” or have a Make-over Day where you all play with hair and make-up and teach techniques to each other. Generally there’s two girls that have an idea of what they are doing for each one that doesn’t. And “Have you tried this Jasmine/Neroli stuff?”

    Comment by sara a. — April 17, 2008 @ 10:05 pm

  31. Out of simple human decency, I will tell an office acquaintance that she has raccoon eyes or toner on her skirt. I’ve even been known to stop a stranger on the street and tell her that a button has slipped open on her blouse. I’m always grateful when someone stops me from looking like an idiot, and so far everyone I’ve stopped has seemed grateful too.

    More personal comments are very delicate, and like most people here, I tend to limit them to extravagantly complimenting the things someone does right. I did recently, and with great trepidation, perform a hair intervention for a very dear friend who will be getting married soon. It wasn’t pleasant to tell her that her style was outdated and unflattering, but she took it as well as could be expected. She did change her style after giving it some consideration, and she had an “ohhhhhhhhh” moment of realization after being flooded with compliments on her new look. She’s forgiven me now!

    Comment by Nantoling — April 18, 2008 @ 6:52 am

  32. I have a friend with terrible taste. I love her, but her clothing often scares me. That being said, the only time I’ve ever said anything was about her bras. I am a busty chick (with a capital BUST), we were changing in her room into cuter tops to go out in, and I just…well, I basically said, “E…this is weird, but I need to ask. What size bra are you wearing? Because I think it’s wrong.” So she told me, and I told her what I was wearing, and pointed out that, since I was busty, and SHE was very nearly as busty, and since her ribcage was SMALLER than mine, that surely a band six inches larger and cups six smaller was wrong? And then I made her promise to go out with me the next day and try some on. You know, just to see. And they took twenty pounds off her appearance, and she loved it, and her husband loved it, and everyone was happy.

    But bras are my thing, and everyone knows that, at this point, and we were already topless, and I figure once you’re at that point, you can make bra comments. Particularly since I couched it sort of as “I just think you’ll be hotter and more comfortable” not as “you look droopy and bad.”

    But I would never say it to people I didn’t know. Or didn’t know really well.

    Comment by Scarlett — April 18, 2008 @ 3:21 pm

  33. Only if you know the person very well. I once told my mother her perfume, “je Revien” by Worth , (sorry for the spelling) smelled like Comet cleanser… she never wore it again.

    Comment by Lilly Munster — April 18, 2008 @ 8:12 pm

  34. One of my close friends is especially challenged in particular. Usually I don’t say anything but sometimes I just have to, it’s for the good of mankind. She came in one day wearing shorts overalls, black leggings with lace cuffs and sneakers and I was like “Oh honey, I love you but no, just no” She’s also on the big side so her jeans tend to rip on the inner thigh and when this happens, she cuts the holes bigger and keeps wearing them over leggings that are longer than the jeans themselves.

    Comment by Pingouin — April 19, 2008 @ 4:52 pm

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