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 Jezra Matthews' take.
When plus size model and influencer Jezra Matthews created #purebodylove hashtag and shared it with her rapidly-growing stable of social media followers, she had one goal in mind: To show people that they are allowed to purely, passionately, and vocally love their bodies, no matter what size they are. Her message struck a chord: Matthews now has over 100 thousand followers on Instagram, has been featured in countless body positive and plus size campaigns, and has watched her hashtag grow from an idea to something her followers use to share unapologetic images of themselves, wearing whatever clothing makes them feel best.
Perhaps it comes a no surprise that for Matthews, the word "flattering" doesn't typically come to mind when she's getting dressed in the morning. On the one hand, Matthews doesn't think the word always comes from a place of harm — she believes that when most people say it, they mean it as a compliment instead of a passive aggressive cruelty. Still, it's not a goal she sets for herself when dressing her own body — at least not any more.
"At the beginning of high school when my body started to develop me," she said, "I started wearing outfits to 'flatter' my body. But it wasn't in a comfortable way — it was a way to hide my developing body. Now, I wear things that complement my body, which means wearing an outfit I like on MY body."
Dressing for the body you have right now, Matthews says, is one way to show it the love it deserves — and it's a message that she constantly adheres to in her both her personal and professional life. She's represented for plus size black women in numerous body positive and plus size campaigns, including a walk for Maison the Faux at New York Fashion Week in 2016 that made headlines, appeared in a body positive fitness campaign with Blink Fitness (wearing form-fitting athletic gear that's actually cute, no less) and was cast in Bustle's biggest plus size fashion editorial in 2017, to name a few. She believes that people should experiment with trends and clothing no matter what their size — the only requirement is that you actually want to wear it.
"I believe society forces plus size women to think we should have more 'rules' when it comes to dressing, which is sad and ridiculous," Matthews says. "I feel like people think plus size women aren't capable and confident enough to dress ourselves."
Matthews herself is a size 20, and her personal style ranges from form-fitting dresses to low-cut tops, wide leg pants, revealing bikinis, sweatpants, and more. A glance at her Instagram page depicts a woman whose clothing choices don't seem to follow any rules or norms — but are instead dictated by what she really, truly loves and what will make her feel the most confident. Sometimes, that even means things that are typically seen as "unflattering" — especially for plus size women.
"Oversized everything!" Matthews says. "Sweaters, dresses, jackets, pants!"
Matthews' message is one that feels particularly important as Bustle (and maybe even you) enter a new flattering-free: Don't choose clothing that promises to make you look a certain way. Instead, choose the clothing you want, because that choice in and of itself is bound to make you feel amazing.