The new taboo: how ‘flattering’ became fashion’s ultimate F-word

In 2017, the perfect pair of jeans was “on-trend”. In 2018, it was “fierce”; last year it was “extra”. Right now, it is “dripping”. In fashion, every season comes with a new shorthand. But one compliment – “flattering” – has outlived them all, selling more jeans, more party dresses and more swimsuits than any other word. “Flattering” is fashion clickbait, an add-to-basket dog whistle.

But for generation Z – roughly speaking, those born between 1995 and 2010 – “flattering” is becoming a new F-word. To compliment a woman on her “flattering” dress is passive-aggressive body-policing, sneaked into our consciousness in a Trojan horse of sisterly helpfulness. It is a euphemism for fat-shaming, a sniper attack slyly targeting our hidden vulnerabilities. “Flattering”, in other words, is cancelled.

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