Five clothing compliments we’d rather not hear

Much has been written on the subject of how to gracefully receive compliments. The art of gracefully GIVING a compliment is just as important, though, and sometimes we think it’s an art that’s in danger of being lost. Here are five types of commonly-heard clothing-related “compliments” that aren’t really compliments at all…

woman giving a backhanded compliment

What they say: That’s such a brave choice!
What they mean: It’s brave because people are probably going to laugh in your face as soon as they lay eyes on it.

Unless you’re that special breed of fashionista who prides herself on being edgy and frets about whether she’s taking enough “risks” with her clothing choices, you probably don’t want to be praised for your “bravery” in getting dressed. For most of us, putting on clothes doesn’t require courage: and if it does, it’s probably a pretty good sign that we’re wearing something we’re not totally comfortable with… which is a pretty good sign we shouldn’t be wearing it.

What they say: That would look HIDEOUS on me, but you really pull it off!
What they mean: I wish you WOULD pull it off, because it looks hideous on you, too.

By making this kind of comment, you essentially just told the person their outfit is hideous. There’s really no way to backtrack from that: everything after the word “but” in this sentence will probably be disregarded, because all the person will hear is “hideous”.

What they say: I could NEVER wear that: it would make me look SO HUGE!
What they mean: I could never wear that… and you shouldn’t either, because everything I just said about me? Also applies to you.

Ah, the compliment that’s really a criticism of the person giving it: how complicated! This kind of thing, where the person says nothing at all about how YOU look in the outfit, but instead focuses on how TERRIBLE the compliment-giver would look, is a particularly awkward one to handle. You can’t simply thank them, because they didn’t actually say anything you can thank them for. You COULD try to reassure them that why, of COURSE they would look great in the outfit in question (Which is what they’re looking for), but the fact is, you’ll probably be so busy wondering if everything they just said about themselves could also be applied to YOU to bother.

What they say: Oh, this outfit would be so amazing if you just did X, Y and Z to it!
What they mean: This outfit would be amazing if it was totally different. Because it’s not amazing now.

Unless the person asked for your opinion, chances are they don’t want to hear it, no matter how helpful you think you’re being.

Of course, we should probably point out that all of these are the type of compliment which are probably well-meant, even although they can come across as just the tiniest bit back-handed.

So, tell us: heard any back-handed compliments lately we should add to the list?

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