fashion rules 101

Any civilized society is going to have rules – unspoken or not – about how people are expected to interact with each other. Fashion rules only pretend to have that type of gravitas.

Like the one about not wearing white to a wedding? That’s not about the color white…it’s about not upstaging the bride, which we can all agree would be incredibly rude…that rule is another way of saying “don’t be a jerk.”

bridal fabric swatch

Fashion rules are not guidelines for civilized behavior…they’re just lies. They cramp your personal style and practically guarantee you’ll look just like everybody else.

Getting dressed shouldn’t make you feel inadequate and insecure because you might be ‘doing it wrong’…it should make you feel confident and happy!

So let’s talk about four of the biggest lies fashion editors tell you, and how you’re going to break them!


patent leather Oxford from Lanvin suede sandal from Alexander Wang


lie #1: you can’t wear that because it’s inappropriate

One rule I remember my mother telling me when I was younger, is that suede shoes are only for the winter, and patent leather are only for the summer. I can’t think of a single practical reason for this rule.

Please note above, the incredibly stylish Lanvin patent leather oxford on the left, and the adorable Alexander Wang suede sandal on the right. The style of the shoe is what makes it appropriate (or not) for the season, not the material!

The famous one about not wearing white after Labor Day is another one of these. Unless you have a very good reason to fear blending into a snowy landscape, I can’t think of why you should be forbidden to wear white in the winter.

Can you wear sequins during the day? Can you wear flats to a formal event? Should you wear your good pearls to a picnic? Will doing so make you feel happy and confident? Or anxious and insecure? There’s your answer.


a redhead wearing red redheaded stock photo lady is not here for your arbitrary rules.


lie #2: you can’t wear that because you’re you

The worst are the ones that go: “If you are (fill in the blank) then you can’t wear (fill in the blank)” I’m sure you’ve heard the one about redheads and wearing pink or red.

There’s similar ones about older ladies wearing mini skirts, short girls wearing long skirts, and tall women in heels.

Let these pictures of actress Gwendoline Christie (who is 6’3″) looking amazing in sky-high heels be your guiding light on this one.

These types of rules imply that you’ll look exactly the same wearing a certain thing as everyone else in the world who has that one thing in common with you (height, age, skin tone, hair color, et cetera). Does that even remotely make sense?


Natalie Wood wearing stripes


lie #3: you can’t wear that because it makes you look fat

One that drives me crazy is the insistence that horizontal stripes will make you look fat. The striped top is only a classic fashion staple that has been sported by dozens of screen and fashion icons. Look at adorable, petite Natalie Wood here. Can you honestly tell me her top is making her look wide?

This lie, along with the one about large scale prints and white pants is so very misguided. The right cut, style, and fit is what makes clothing flattering for your size and shape, not the print or color.

No matter your measurements, you’re going to look best in clothes that fit properly and that are in a style that works with your personality, and colors and patterns that make you feel happy and confident.

Also? Stripes go with everything, and only referees wear vertically striped shirts…just sayin’!


alhambra ring from Van Cleef and Arpels tondo fire pendant from Bulgari


lie #4: you can’t wear that because it doesn’t match

Maybe your grandmother had something to say about mixing metals being a no-no. She might have also told you that your handbag has to match your shoes, or that your earrings should match your bracelet.

Modern jewelry designers have given up on this (above, Van Cleef and Arpels on the left, Bulgari on the right), and you should too. Metallics are neutrals, and should be treated as such.

You know me…I don’t believe matching should be your goal. Coordinating is much more interesting!

Matching automatically limits you. It pretty much guarantees you’ll fall into a rut, wearing your once-beloved thing in the same way, over and over and over again. How can that make you feel happy and confident?

Discover what you like. Consider what looks great on you, not what works for someone who shares only one feature with you (height, weight, skin color, hair color, age, etc…). I guarantee you’ll look and feel better than you would following arbitrary rules!

I get it: rules can be comforting. They can set guidelines and serve as insurance against sartorial mistakes. Nobody wants to leave the house looking silly, right? But here’s the thing: you have to make your own rules.


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