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Styling an M.M.LaFleur Sweater Set and Figure Flattery

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Alison Gary of Wardrobe Oxygen outside Pennyroyal Station restaurant in Mount Rainier, Maryland. She is wearing a cream popcorn knit M.M.LaFleur sweater set of calf-length skirt and matching long-sleeved crewneck. She has a cream leather belt bag as a crossbody and is wearing white Adidas sneakers.

When researching the best fall fashion trends for grown women I saw sweater sets and knitwear in general were having a thing. I was psyched because in May I got this sweater and this skirt from M.M.LaFleur. On the first low-humidity and mild day where I had plans, I decided to style it. Below I share the ideas I have for how to style this M.M.LaFleur sweater set, and the mindset I had in choosing what I chose. Can you relate?

Disclosure: I received this sweater set as a gift from M.M.LaFleur in thanks for visiting their showroom and sharing my experience on social. I was able to pick which pieces I wanted, and after trying this set, I knew this is what I wanted even though the idea of wearing a sweater in the DC area from Memorial Day until the end of September is self-induced torture. It was just too beautiful to resist!

mm la fleur sweater set
A screenshot from my Instagram Reel showing pieces I tried on at the M.M.LaFleur showroom in DC.

My Mindset while Styling This M.M.LaFleur Sweater Set

When I originally tried on this M.M.LaFleur sweater set at their K Street showroom back in May (as seen in this Instagram Reel), I was wearing my gold Margaux Uptown Sandals and I liked the effect. While the ankle straps cut my leg line and emphasize my wide ankles, they provide security and help make these shoes surprisingly comfortable for being high heels. And with my height and shape, heels help to balance my figure. I saw myself wearing this combination with gold hoops and this purse which I have in ivory for going to the theater or another fun/date night.

I also envisioned this sweater and skirt set with heeled knee-high boots. I have one pair of black heeled knee-high boots with an almond toe; the slim toebox elongates the body while looking sophisticated and I already shared my thoughts on heels when being a short, curvy body. While flat boots would be more practical and comfortable, the heel will provide better proportions. My black boots are literally disintegrating but I can't find any other boots with as nice of a style that come wide enough for my XX-wide calves and thick shins.

A whole column of nubby cream knit isn't going to do anything for my figure, so I would have to accessorize. Maybe my Maxwell Scott saddlebag I've had for years which can be a shoulderbag or a crossbody and hits at a flattering point on my hip and maybe a scarf at my throat or probably a gold link necklace to finish the look (the necklace is better for my short neck and full chin than a scarf, especially with this neckline).

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FYI, I am wearing both pieces in size XL. They both come in sizes XS-XXL.

But for an afternoon lunch date, sneakers seemed like the right choice. I recently got these from Adidas. My Superstars were looking a bit raggedy even with my usual sneaker cleaning hacks and I was thinking of getting another of the same but then saw these in that widget that shows you what is popular or recommended to those looking at this product. They're not what I'd usually get, being higher up on the ankle, which reduces the slim part between my feet and calves. But my daughter suggested I try them and I'm glad she did.

The belt bag is from Brandon Blackwood and I got it last year. It was the same color as the sweater set so I immediately tried it. I wondered if my ivory braided leather crossbody from Chico's (sold out, from this early summer) would be better since the longer slim strap wouldn't add bulk to my chest. But I really like this belt bag and don't wear it as often as I think I would if I didn't have a couple of followers on Instagram DM me over the past year and tell me that the bag wasn't as flattering as other bags in my wardrobe.

mm la fleur sweater xl

Since I chose this bag with silver hardware, it inspired me to wear silver jewelry. These hoops are from Denisa Piatti; I share how I acquired these custom hoops from Denisa Piatti in this post. The cuff I bought back in 1997; I bent it to fit over my WHOOP tracking bracelet.

I've always liked big chunky jewelry, on me and on others. I think it looks more proportional on my short curvy frame, though I usually get comments that smaller pieces would be more flattering to my petite stature. However, I also get comments that sometimes my jewelry is too delicate for my curvy frame (especially when it comes to rings and my chubby fingers). It's hard to know what to do with comments like these; you can ignore them but they still gnaw at the back of your mind, especially when they trigger self-image issues you've been battling all your life.

When I tried on this M.M.LaFleur sweater set in the K Street Showroom, I also hiked up the skirt to my rib cage. Being 5'3″ with wide calves, I knew a skirt at this lower-calf length would just make me look shorter and my calves wider. But I felt the skirt at a shorter length with the sneakers looked too much K Street Employee and brought it back down to my natural waist.

That Internal Dialogue As We Get Dressed

Did any of these thoughts about styling and figure flattery sound familiar to you? Do you ever have such conversations with yourself while getting dressed or going shopping?

Alison is leaning against the muraled wall at the front of Pennyroyal Station, a restaurant on busy Rhode Island Avenue in Mount Rainier, a city on the Washington DC border. She is wearing a cream sweater knit calf-length skirt and matching crewneck with white Adidas sneakers. She has a Brandon Blackwood cream tumbled leather belt bag worn as a crossbody; she is touching the bag and smiling at the camera.

As someone who has photographed herself and her outfit almost every day for the past 17 years and then shared it on the internet, I've gone from questioning every millimeter of my skin and every personality quirk to having a helluva lot of respect for my body and way more grace for my self. I share the mindset for each piece above not to garner pity or compliments, but because I think many of us do this on a daily basis.

No matter the confidence we have, the therapy we've attended, the self-work we've completed, many of us still are focusing on proportion and figure flattery as we get dressed each morning. It's whispering to us as we pull a garment from a clothing rack at a store, considering clicking “buy” from a website. That whisper often has us choose a flattering silhouette in a meh color over a silhouette we've been told isn't flattering but is in a color of print that brings us joy. It's hard to let go of what has been ingrained in us since we were very young.

I purposefully break style rules to break the diet culture that has been fed to me since I was a toddler. Each time it forces me to see myself differently, less like something for others to admire and more for me to admire. And sometimes I wear outfits that embrace all kinds of rules purely because the outfit combination made me feel good on that day for whatever reason.

MLF11448 LiamSweater Coconut ALT 1 2 0f3d33c0 09ed 4e1e 813e e4d91c1220e9 1206x1506 crop center
The model on the M.M.LaFleur website wearing the same Liam Sweater and Senga Skirt I am wearing in these photos, also with white sneakers.

I don't know if that feeling good has to do with figure flattery and I don't really care to figure it out right now. But exercises like this, and the comments I get on blog posts and social media, it makes me realize that the internal dialog I have after all these years of working on my self image and confidence is one almost every woman, especially women around my age and older, has on a daily basis. And that we women are helping to create the image issues in others (and ourselves).

Let's Talk About Flattering as a Compliment

Let's start with using the word flattering as a compliment. This is a word I have received often in my years of sharing outfits, whether folks found my look to be flattering or not. Flattering is a term I used to use quite a lot myself to compliment others and to describe fashion trends and silhouettes here on Wardrobe Oxygen.

definition of flattering
The definition of flattering via Mirriam-Webster

Mirriam-Webster defines flattering as, “helping to enhance attractiveness.” We could write a whole thesis on that (who defines what is attractive, that a general idea for attractiveness is tied to the patriarchy and is problematic beyond that in regard to health, youth, size, race, skincolor, hair type and style, ability, etc.). There are plenty of think-pieces out there about this already, and a lot of you have told me you think word-shaming terms like flattering is taking political correctness too far.

Instead, I'd like to focus on how flattering is a term to help enhance. We use the word flattering but we don't explain what is being enhanced. Many have grown up having well-meaning (and not-so-well-meaning) folks use flattering to describe looks that make us look slimmer and more fitting with a proportional ideal than usual. Without an explanation as to why you are using the term flattering, it's hard for many of us to not immediately think of our size and shape.

The next time you want to compliment someone with the word flattering, consider using the word along with an explanation as to why you find that word the perfect compliment. Sharing the why helps illustrate your compliment and not have the receiver come to their own conclusions. That blue color is so flattering on you, it really makes your eyes pop. That dress is so flattering on you, it makes your butt look amazing. That print is so flattering on you, it really showcases your creative and colorful personality.

This exercise not only enhances your compliment, it helps you see when there may be a better word to use than flattering. And it may make you realize that sometimes when you're saying flattering, you really are meaning, “slimmer than usual” and may not want to be that person perpetuating diet culture and equating slim as most important.

Because the more thoughtful we are with the compliments we give others, the more thoughtful we are with the words we use for ourselves. Our weight does not determine our worth, our size does not determine our strength, and your life won't change by an outfit that makes you look a half inch slimmer or taller (but it may change if you wear what makes you happy).

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Karl's shirt and shorts combo are French Connection, but he got it a few years ago.

As for this location, my husband and I had lunch at Pennyroyal Station, a New American restaurant in Mount Rainier, Maryland. This place is so beautiful; a small but airy restaurant and bar, a beautiful patio shaded by sailcloths, and a front lawn where we dined. It was our first time and won't be our last; everything we ordered was delicious and we were happy to find a nice selection of vegan and vegetarian offerings!

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A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. You look so cute! This would be perfect for traveling. I love that it is a two-piece so I can hide my tummy

  2. Yes to all you wrote and shared. And double hell yeah to the outfit. You look fresh and happy. Love how you made it sporty 🙂

  3. That’s interesting that flattery has three definitions, and one of them contains the word ‘insincere.’ To me it’s a spin word and a little suspect.

    My hesitation about the belt bag and the sneakers with the sweater outfit is that I feel like it’s mixing modes. The bag and the sneakers are sporty, and while the sweater isn’t that dressy -it’s got a nubby texture- it’s not really sporty.

  4. NGL the outfit looks better on you in the last pic than on the model. The belt bag is a trend that just needs to go away. As far as MMLF goes, they’ve always been overpriced but the quality of fabrics and designs have really deteriorated recently. And I was there customer for years

  5. I just love your thoughtful approach to fashion. Thank you for being the voice I need cheering me on as I celebrate my current figure rather than castigating myself for what I could or should look like.

  6. Posts like this are what make you a great fashion advisor for me – I see how someone who looks like me can take risks, have fun, and be current. And you look smashing in your take on this outfit, a real inspiration.

  7. THIS is why I started following you! I have always struggle with my weight and self image. At 61 I am the heaviest I have ever been and I am finally busting out those bright colors (you helped me embrace fuschia!) that make me happy! I love to be put together and am finally trying different styles that I thought I shouldn’t wear because of my age and weight. Time to banish those voices in my head and just be happy this body is still alive!

    1. One thing that’s helped me over the years is repeating to myself “I do not owe the world beauty” (or an hourglass figure, or a flat belly, or long eyelashes, or whatever I am currently being mean to myself about). Being beautiful is not the rent I must pay to exist in this world. I deserve to wear shorts when it’s hot, I deserve to leave the house without makeup if I don’t feel like wearing it, I deserve to wear bright colors that draw attention if I choose.

      I’m so happy to hear that you’re embracing colors and styles that bring you joy. We all deserve to be this free! Celebrate the body that’s gotten you through 61 years, and I’m sure you look radiant when you wear fuchsia – when we wear something we love, it shows 🙂

  8. I love this outfit and I think it looks amazing on you! Like seriously, it was made for you! I like it with the sneakers but actually love it more with the gold sandals – but it might be because in that photo I think the whole vibe you are giving off is confidence and sexiness and owning your own grown-ass self.

  9. Absolutely agree about how those voices from the past haunt us. I’m older than you and have to force myself to realize it’s okay to not match things up. Left to those voices in my head I’d be wearing matching hat, gloves, shoes and bag. And my clothes would be a single dark color, A-line, just over the knee at the top curve of the calf. I’d never wear a sleeve shorter than elbow length, or a flat shoe. Amazing how deeply planted the rules of our younger selves can be.

    Recently I managed a significant weight loss and was happy for a number of reasons, not least because I love clothes and now I have many more choices. I bought a dress I thought was adorable and wore it several times. Then I saw a photo of me in it with two friends significantly larger than I am (maybe 100 lbs.) and I looked to be the same size as them. My enjoyment of the dress was spoiled for that stupid, stupid reason. It is so hard to shake our history and what we’ve internalized regardless of what we know in our rational brains.

    I’m still short and curvy, at the very top of straight petite sizes, and trying hard to enjoy where I am and drown those voices. I appreciate the people here who know what it’s like.

    1. I empathize! I have a Tanya Taylor dress I adore, but don’t wear because it’s not “flattering.” It’s still in my closet because I love the colors and style.

  10. First, I love the sweater set! I have always loved sweater dresses and sets and you’ve given me the courage to try them again even though I have a prominent tummy. I just got a set I like from Club Monaco during the Nordstrom sale and I also got a great one from a Dutch company called Studio MYR. I’ve realized that if I order my true size and the top is cut the right way, these sets can be “flattering.”

    Ah yes—I admit, I have always linked flattering with “makes you look thinner” and for about the 5 minutes I spent trying to get an Instagram presence going (anyone who thinks bloggers don’t work hard is crazy!), it was geared toward looking thinner with a tummy. I realized pretty quickly I was out of step with the message of body acceptance and rejection of the diet culture. So I will try to incorporate more positive messages into my compliments and into my own self-view.

  11. I love this outfit on you, Alison, and YES! to redefining “flattering” away from the usual, narrow (pun intended) meaning. I had it drilled into me from a young age that outfits should always be “slimming,” and still struggle with this old mindset some days. There are SO many ways for an outfit to “flatter” the wearer.

  12. So many of your comments hit home with me. This sweater set, which I would never have tried on, looks amazing on your short curvy figure. I follow you regularly and see many looks I would try, if I had a bigger budget. But you do give me the nerve to try on things that don’t look like me!
    It seems like as we age, ideas that were thrown at us when we were young are hard to banish to the dungeons of our mind. And they truly lock us in to a stereotype of what we think we should or should not wear.
    You certainly area rule breaker, and I appreciate that.

  13. I noticed your mention of your beloved but well worn boots…try cowboy boots! Ridiculously comfortable, they come in every heel height, toe shape, calf width and color. While not appropriate for every outfit, they treat your feet with dignity and comfort. This 65 year old ranch girl loves every pair she owns (which is a bit embarrassing) and has nary a bunion, plantar fasciitis, nor callous. And, because of their strong leather construction (stick with the authentic cowboy brands, not fashion brands), your cobbler can stretch the calves to the point of comfort for you. As a bonus, I’ve been seeing them return to the fashion pages for fall 😉 Happy walking!

    1. I looove cowboy boots but I have yet to find a pair that accommodates a 20″ calf. A cobbler can stretch up to 1 cm (a bit more if not lined but cowboy boots are lined). If you know of any companies that make truly wide width cowboy boots I’d be down. I can’t even wear the short ankle-height versions because they’re usually too narrow because my calf muscle starts so low (I walked on my toes as a kid so my leg and ankle muscles are built up in atypical places).

      1. Hmmm, I have 18+ inch calves and can comfortably fit in Ariat wide calves (without stretching) for everyday wear and Lucchese for splurge/fancy days, with stretching. I’ve had the Lucchese stretched with great success. I hope that this gives you a starting point! Thanks for the great writing and inspiration!

  14. Your content is so ON-POINT lately. Have read your blog for over ten years, and appreciate how your voice has continued to be strong and insightful. Thought-provoking, relevant and I especially look forward to Weekend Reads.

    1. Totally agree, you’re inspirational, not aspirational and I love that you’re using your voice to uplift. My favourite blog for sure.

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