How To: Tell Your BFF It Just Ain't Workin' for Her

A woman's guide to dropping the fashion bomb on a friend, and coming out alive.

By , Columnist

Imagine you had the extreme honor (or horror) of being Lady Gaga’s best friend. As if it isn’t hard enough to tell a friend what you really think of their wardrobe bomb, imagine the frustration of constantly being forced to say: "Honey, I’m just not sure that bubble/latex condom hat/bird’s nest/meat dress/egg capsule/mysterious horn-like growth is really your thing. I mean, don’t get me wrong! Meat is totally chic, but perhaps something less…carnivorous would flatter your figure more?"

Gaga’s BFF likely gave up on steering her friend toward a more human-like wardrobe ages ago. But this plight is one that resonates with womankind everywhere: What the hell are you supposed to say when your friend’s most beloved looks just aren’t working like she thinks they are? You’re embarrassed for her (alright, and a little for yourself) and you know that, if it were you, you’d want a friend to be brave enough to intervene.

Never fear. In hopes of supporting bewildered friends everywhere, I present a how-to guide to breaking the news. So if your friend is more Ice Loves Coco than Coco Chanel, please read on.

coco ice t.jpeg

The Hair:

There are a few hairstyles and colors that flatter only a tiny proportion of people. Take, for instance, the blunt-cut bang: razor sharp across, very geometric, and constantly in and out of style. For approximately 1% of the population blunt-cut bangs are totally chic and Parisian. For the remaining 99% of the population they can look harsh, distract from the face, and appear more cartoonish than stylish. Many people mistakenly assume that just because something is “stylish” or looks good on a model or celebrity, it’s perfectly acceptable for them to repeat. Most high-fashion styles are just that - meant for a runway or the super famous, not to flatter the average person.

Perhaps your friend hasBrittani ANTM.JPG a fine haircut, but has attempted to dye her hair a fiery red a la Christina Hendricks in Mad Men. Only, the boxed red came out much more purple than red. Instead of a sexy vamp, she’s an eggplant.

In all situations, go for the subtle approach. Instead of saying, “Hey, did you know that everyone in our circle now exclusively refers to you as ‘Bangs’?” suggest “I think the angles of your face would be flattered more by a softer, side-swept bang.” Or, “Did you know that red fades faster than any other box dye color? My colorist is fabulous with reds, and it would last much longer for you. Here’s her card!”

The Face:

Makeup is a tool of wonderment. It allows us the smooth skin, long lashes, rosy cheeks, and alluring eyes that nature neglected to provide. But makeup can also be dangerous. What about your friend with the over-plucked and penciled-in eyebrows? Or the friend that insists her “signature” fire engine red or neon violet lips are empowering and sexy…not clownish and scary. Instead of highlighting her features in a positive way, no one can peel their eyes from the garish pucker in the center of her face.

Depending on how urgent the circumstance is, you may be able to do more than just subtly hint that a lighter shade of pink may be more flattering, or that you know someone great with eyebrow threading. Hand your friend a muted shade of lipstick or gloss that complements her skin tone and say, “I picked this up for myself, but on second thought I think it would look better on someone with your skin tone.” Who knows, you may get her hooked on a new “signature” look.

The Clothes:jumpsuit.jpeg

Everyone has that one friend who thinks their fashion sense is spot-on, while the rest of us are much more hesitant to jump on the bandwagon. If she consistently wears clothes that don’t flatter her body-type, are inappropriate for her, or are just plain heinous, it’s time for a shopping intervention. Offer to go shopping with her on the weekend and point out items you think would look great on her, while politely steering her away from travesties of fashion: “You know, that canary yellow maxi dress is very trendy, but I really think this A-line would look even better. Try it on!”

The Golden Rule:

And what if, you ask, subtlety is not enough? Or what, God forbid, should I do if she asks me directly how she looks? Follow the Golden Rule: Friends don’t let friends get made fun of, offend the masses, or otherwise horribly embarrass themselves. If it’s really that bad and you know she’d be horrified to learn how she was being perceived…be honest. If you guys are good friends, she’ll be grateful that you spared her any more cringe-worthy experiences.

On the other hand, let’s get real. You’re not obligated to be anyone’s Fashion Avenger. So if this person isn’t that close of a friend - say a colleague, a neighbor, or an acquaintance - keep your mouth shut. Best friends usually love each other despite the difficult conversations. Your colleague isn’t obligated to love you, doesn’t have the benefit of years spent knowing and trusting you, and will likely be incredibly offended that you had the audacity to say something. If it’s a choice between her dignity and yours, save yourself first!

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Rachel East is a freelance writer specializing in relationships and relationship advice. In addition to her regular column on TMR, Rachel contributes relationship content to the Levo League, formerly known as Pretty Young Professional, a website for young, professional and ambitious women. Her writing…

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