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Why It’s Time to Retire ‘Worst-Dressed’ Lists for Good in 2023

When I was a kid, no older than seven, I remember sneaking a peek at my mother’s magazines she kept in the bathroom. I would marvel at all of the polished photos and glittering ballgowns worn by some of the actresses I started to adore. While I loved pouring over the colorful array of fabulous fashion, there were, of course, the downsides of those beloved magazines. They taught me to hate the cellulite on my body, and to judge others for proudly showing theirs. It brainwashed me into thinking acne and stretch marks weren’t the norms. It reinforced the idea that individual style was something to laugh at.

Yup, I’m talking about those “Worst-Dressed” lists.

I remember looking at those pages and thinking to myself, even then, “Why is this a thing?” Fast forward to now, and I still think that to myself when I see lists like that circulating through my social media timeline.

When you see a “worst-dressed” list floating around, chances are you find people who tried to do something daring with their look, an outfit that doesn’t mesh with the “ideal” ensembles and body types people associate with them.

The thing with fashion, just like the thing with the “ideal” body types and makeup: it always changes. Thin brows were out ten years ago, and now everyone is shaving off their brows. The same mindset can be applied to fashion. Fashion is a form of art, and art is meant to make you feel something. Artists don’t make art so everyone will think it’s good and love it, they do it to tell a story. The beautiful thing about fashion is that it’s a medium to express what the wearer is feeling, to show who they are to the world through a common form of self-expression.

Now, art is also no stranger to criticism. Criticism is an innate part of all fashion. However, typically, when you see a “worst-dressed” list, they attack the person wearing it, rather than the garment itself.

To put it simply, “worst-dressed” lists are a socially acceptable form of bullying that hasn’t been dubbed outdated yet.

The first worst-dressed list was created in 1960 by, you guessed it, a man. His name was Richard Blackwell, also known as Mr. Blackwell. He was a designer, fashion critic, and former child actor known for creating the annual “Ten Worst Dressed Women List,” which tore down outfits with harsh jokes. He’d make quips about which outfits he dubbed “the worst” of that year, including Martha Stewart, who he said “dresses like the centerfold for Farmers’ Almanac.”

To circle back to the attacking of the person rather than the garment, here are a few more direct quotes from Blackwell, per NY Post:

Calling Mariah Carey “shrink-wrapped cheesecake.”

For Queen Consort Camilla, he said, “In feathered hats that were once the rage, she resembles a petrified parakeet from the Jurassic age.”

And for Cameron Diaz, he quipped, “Looks like she was dressed by a colorblind circus clown, and when it comes to fashion, it’s chaos when Cameron’s back in town.”

We’ve come so far from those days, with stars and non-stars alike embracing exciting, new trends that live outside the box. In 2023, social media has been putting a spotlight on alternative styles like Barbiecore, whimsigoth, cottagecore, knight-core, and so on, highlighting the idea that a “fashion fail” is archaic. So, why can’t certain publishers keep up with the times?

Now, many can make the argument that a look didn’t fit someone’s silhouette, or isn’t “flattering” to them. Along with the surge of experimenting with different core looks, there’s been an influx of content on TikTok and Instagram of people “giving advice” to dressing to your body type by only wearing certain looks, finding your color palette, etc.

But something I’ve asked myself when seeing this is: “flattering to whom?” And the only thing that is considered flattering, in the most basic sense, is to enhance someone’s appearance. You can wear the perfect-fit jeans and loose tops, but if you don’t feel good in it, it shows.

Fashion is all about self-expression, not limitation. Fashion, along with feeling good in one’s skin, is for everyone. So it’s about time to eradicate the elitist lists that bring nothing to the conversation.

Before you go, click here to see our favorite LBD moments from our favorite stars:
Mila Kunis, Elizabeth Hurley

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