“If you have nothing good to say, say nothing at all.” I can almost hear my mother’s voice saying those words, which have always rang true except when it comes to constructive criticism toward a friend. In friendships, situations arise that call for us to be painfully honest, especially when it comes to matters of fashion and beauty. When your friend steps out looking less than her best, whether she’s wearing a dress that’s so tight it brings attention to unsightly rolls or rocking lipstick a shade too bright for her complexion, is it time to speak up?

The answer is tricky. While you want to be truthful with your friend, what if she’s insulted by your candor? What if, for example, she’s especially insecure about her weight and you hurt her feelings by calling attention to it? What if she perceives your comment as an attack and snaps back by criticizing your look? What if she just loves white lipstick and wants to rock it no matter what you think? If your honesty could hurt or antagonize your friend, you have to evaluate if it’s really worth it to share or if it’s smarter to just keep your mouth shut.

Furthermore, there’s a thin line between offering constructive criticism and policing your friend’s unique sense of fashion. Style is subjective and if your friend has a different sartorial point of view than you, who are you to judge her fashion personality? Her individual flair might lend itself to mis-matched patterns, ruffled dresses and running sneakers, furs and skin-tight spandex and the like. It would be wrong to criticize those looks simply because you would never wear them.

In truth, I would rather a friend be respectfully honest with me than sit silently by while I make a fashion faux pas. In fact, there have been several occasions when I was at a public place with my friends and discovered, once I got to a mirror, that my false eyelashes had slipped or a strand of hair was out of place. I immediately felt betrayed that no one told me. Isn’t that what friends are for? At the same time, criticism, when not constructive, could truly damage a friendship.

What say you, Clutchettes? How do you tell a friend she looks bad?

-Jessica C. Andrews

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