Katie Sturino on Why "Flattering" Is a Useless Word

Let's remove it from our vocabulary.

Katie Sturino

@katiesturino

Katie Sturino is an entrepreneur, social media influencer, body acceptance advocate, and fierce animal activist. Through her personal platform, she lends her voice and personal style to raise awareness for size inclusivity. Her regular content series, #SuperSizeTheLook and #MakeMySize have gone viral, reaching millions of people and attracting global media attention. Katie is also the founder of Megababe, an innovative beauty brand offering non-toxic, solution-oriented products that allow people to feel more comfortable and confident in their own skin. Here, read her thoughts on the useless word "flattering" in an expanded excerpt from her book Body Talk: How to Embrace Your Body and Start Living Your Best Life.

How many times in your life have you heard the word "flattering?" For me, it feels like this number is for sure in the millions... or maybe even more. And it's also clear to me people actively choose not to wear certain pieces of clothing because they associate unflattering with their bodies—and how they may think they look in that miniskirt, crop top, or dress.

One of the best things to ever happen to my style was deciding the word "flattering" was useless. Flattering according to whom? And to what rule book? I love being naked. I think I’d really thrive in a nudist colony. Just ask my neighbors.* But at the same time, I love fashion. I love keeping up with the trends, experimenting with new styles, and showing my personality through my sartorial choices. And something I firmly believe in is no matter your size, you should be able to have fun with fashion.

It took some time, but once I stopped believing my body had to be a certain size, shape, and weight to "pull something off," I started having fun getting dressed. And if you’ve ever seen what I wear on Instagram, you’ll see I am no wallflower. You definitely can’t miss me in a crowd. I'm embracing current trends like bright colors, fun eyeliner, bucket hats, bike shorts, and Crocs with no restraint—because I have chosen to say goodbye to "flattering" forever. And I want you to do the same.

Many full moons ago, I bought a mint-green shearling coat. It was comically puffy. You know the type. I looked like a stuffed animal in it, and I loved it. Who wouldn’t want to feel warm, cozy, and chic during a New York City winter? I thought it was cool. I still think about it. I ended up returning it because so many people said to me, "You’re already big. You don’t need more volume." It made me sad to say goodbye to it. This was a coat I had wanted forever, but I caved because of what people were saying to me about how they thought it looked.

When it comes to style, that’s my new mantra: If I like it, I wear it. It’s that simple.

But one person—who I should have listened to—said: "This coat isn’t meant to be 'flattering.' This coat is meant to make a statement. It’s meant to make you happy. If you like the coat, keep the coat." And that person was right. When I saw that coat hanging in my closet, it did bring me joy. And this is the part where I really learned my lesson. When it comes to style, that’s my new mantra: If I like it, I wear it. It’s that simple. My wish for you is to find your own version of that mantra. (Feel free to use mine since it’s easy to remember.) Write a note, save it—whatever you need to do to remind yourself that you can wear what you like.

Ask yourself, "What inspires me? What do I want to say today? How do I want to feel?" Wear what makes you feel good. If it feels scary to suddenly start wearing the wild things you’ve dreamed about after a lifetime of covering up insecurities (I so get that), allow yourself the space to ease into this. It may take time. It doesn’t have to happen overnight. Be patient with yourself.

If you’ve been told for many years that something doesn’t “look good” or isn’t “flattering” on you, pick one thing and try it. Wear it around the home when you’re alone. Take some selfies. Put it on again tomorrow, and this time, leave the house. Walk down the block in it. Run one errand in it. Get to know it! Wine and dine it. Baby steps. Really, really well-dressed (and fun!) baby steps.

Just remember: You don’t have to wait until you reach a goal weight. You don’t have to wait for some extreme makeover. You don’t have to wait for a special event, a birthday, or a vacation. This is your moment. GO FOR IT. (Tomorrow’s your moment, too, but unless you were about to take a power nap, what are you waiting for?) There is truly no better moment than now.

*But if anyone wants to start an all-bodies-welcome nudist colony on the beach somewhere, let me know. I’ll bring a thigh chafe stick and sunscreen.

Reprinted from Body Talk. Copyright © 2021 by Katie Sturino. Illustrations copyright © 2021 by Monica Garwood. Published by Clarkson Potter, an imprint of Random House.

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