In 2018, Bustle will remove the word "flattering" from all of our fashion, beauty, lifestyle, and entertainment content. This means you won't catch our editors or staff writers describing a dress, a lip color, or a particular cut of swimsuit as "flattering," nor will we use the adjective in reference to any celebrity's fashion or beauty choices — on-screen or off. Consider it our new F-word. Bustle Editor-In-Chief Kate Ward wrote a letter explaining why we've made the editorial decision to do this. However, everyone has a different relationship with the word, so we also want to provide you with personal perspectives on what flattering means to different people: The word, the construct, and the consequences. This is Betty Who's take.
When pop artist Betty Who walks into a room, it's hard not to notice her. It's not because she's over six feet tall, or because she has a self-assured sense of style. It's her energy, which is all at once wildly confident and warmly approachable. And, if you consider her fast-growing career, the Australian-born singer has got every reason to bring those vibes. She's got two full-length albums under her belt, tours regularly, and warmly caters to a vast, loyal fan base of queer folks, teenage girls, moony boys, and pop music lovers across all demographics.
With all of that success, it's almost easy to forget that at the center of it all is a woman who's struggled with her identity, sense of self, and body image. In 2018 and beyond, Betty Who will get on stages across the country, dressed however the f*ck she wants to — but that hasn't always been the case.
Betty Who spoke candidly with Bustle about her life-long struggle with and hard-earned acceptance of her own body, finding outfits that reinvent the idea of flattering into the idea of feeling awesome, and wearing the clothes she wants to wear, as opposed to the clothes she used to think she had to.
"I spent years shrouding myself in layers of fabric that wouldn't show the edges of my body, so that nobody knew what it really looked like. The second I took all of those layers away and started dressing more — well, it's not provocatively, because I'm not a provocative person, I don't think — but if I want to be sexy, I'll be sexy. If I want to wear a big oversized suit, I will. The second that I allowed myself the space to go both ways, I think is also when everybody else started going, 'Wow, you're so beautiful, you look so great," she says.
Betty Who's overall impulse, though, isn't to totally remove the word flattering from her vocabulary — instead, she personally chooses to redefine it.
"I think dressing for your body is sort of the same as saying flattering," she says. "It's like finding something that works for you. It’s like you're at a store, you put on a shirt, or a dress, and you go, 'I look f*cking awesome, this dress is so flattering on me,' and it's because it fits perfectly to my body and it just works. It's really challenging for me to say I think it's a negative word, because I really don't. I think it's just been used with a negative connotation."
She also believes that a huge part of her journey to dressing for herself has to do with her career — being on stage night after night isn't just about looking good — it's about feeling good, too.
"I have learned that if I'm on stage and I'm uncomfortable in what I'm wearing, I'm not going to give the performance, or be OK the entire night. My job is to come and be the best that I can be. Clothing so often has gotten in the way of that for me. The times where I looked the best, the times where people go, 'That outfit was amazing,' or, 'This night you looked incredible,' it's because I felt like a million bucks. It has nothing to do with the dress. It's about feeling like you, it's not that you deserve to wear the clothes, it's the clothes are lucky enough to be on you," she says.
For the singer, redefining "flattering" is a personal choice — in her mind, the word represents dressing for herself. And, if she had the chance, she'd give anyone — particularly young women struggling with body image issues — the same advice that she gives herself.
"I would probably say forget flattering and wear what makes you feel beautiful. Actually, forget what you think makes you look beautiful: What makes you feel awesome? There have been times in my life where the closest people to me have gone, 'I don't know, I don't like, it's not 'flattering.'" But I put it on and I go, 'I feel awesome and I'm going to wear it.' I think every young person — every human being on the planet — should be allowed the space to do that. I think that's probably what I'd say [to a friend out shopping]. 'Why don't you try it on? And if you feel amazing, let's f*cking get it.'"