Let’s talk about five outdated fashion rules

Humans have cared about what they wear since the dawn of time and the transition of the humble fig leaf from shade giver to privacy giver. As clothing progressed from leaves to togas to spacesuits (I may have missed one of two things between, but who could possibly name them all), fashion trends grew with each stitch sewed.

From the time we first got dressed, there have always been rules accompanying what we wore.

For instance, in Ancient Rome, slaves, foreigners, and exiles were forbidden from wearing those aforementioned togas. Let’s take a giant leap forward to the Victorian Era when fashion dictated wearing black after a loved one’s death! One year for a child or parent, six to nine months for a grandparent, and six months for a sibling. And if you didn’t adhere to the rules, society talked about that salacious moment more than Gossip Girl ever did about the Upper East Side!

(Btw, did you know the white wedding dress trend also came from the Victorian Era? Queen Victoria herself was the trendsetter for a tradition Western cultures still adhere to!)

Outdated Fashion Rules VS The Democratization of Fashion

Once rooted in societal norms and class distinctions, fashion rules have become less relevant in today’s world, where individuality and personal style reign supreme. Miranda Priestly pointedly told Andy that style trends have a very trickle-down effect. For centuries, we can see how the wealthy have set sartorial trends from Marie Antoinette to Princess Diana! This is still visible with the Sheins and Zara’s of the world copycatting runway trends and celebrities.

The democratization of fashion through social media has empowered us all to become trendsetters in our own right, challenging the status quo and rewriting the rules to suit our unique tastes.

Even as we embrace the rise of personal style, many are still influenced by the rules our mothers and grandmothers passed down. Let’s look at the top five outdated fashion rules that no longer apply and should definitely be broken!

Dress: Eliza FaulknerShoes: Old Asos (Similar), Purse: Old Zara (Similar), , Headband: Sister Jane (Similar), Shirt: Shu Shu Tong (Similar)

1. Rule: “No White After Labor Day

  • Why It Started: The elite established this rule in the 1900s to show off their wealth. Wearing white in the summer on your yacht was acceptable- wearing it after Labor Day was just bragging.
  • Why It’s Outdated: Fashion has become seasonless, with designers and influencers styling monochrome white year-round.
  • How to Break It: Embrace white in wool, cashmere, and faux fur for warmth that is chic. Go beyond basic white with tones like oatmeal, butter (remember Harling Ross’ stick of butter during her Man Repeller tenure?!), and cream.

2. Rule: “Don’t Mix Prints

  • Why It Started: Once upon a time, mixing different prints and patterns was considered a fashion faux pas because it led to a chaotic look. This rule also leads back to the elite who could afford a whole set of clothes that matched a less-affluent person who would acquire pieces one at a time or mend and patch clothes with whatever fabric was available.
  • Why It’s Outdated: Today’s fashion celebrates creativity and personal expression. Mixing prints adds depth and interest to an outfit.
  • How to Break It: Start with one print as the focal point and choose another that complements it in color or pattern size. Use stripes or polka dots (or even camo or animal print) as neutral bases for easier mixing. Style tip: Keeping one color the same throughout all prints is a great way to ensure they work together.

By the way, this is probably my least favorite outdated fashion trend! Give me a good print mix with a dash of dopamine dressing any day!

3: Rule: “Match Your Shoes, Bag, and Belt

  • Description: This rule advocates for a uniform look by matching your accessories in color and material. It was started for the same richy-rich reason as above!
  • Why It’s Outdated: Pairing pieces you love together creates a look you feel happy in, which is worth more than any matching set.
  • How to Break It: Mix textures and colors for a more dynamic look. For example, pair a bold-colored bag with neutral shoes or a textured belt to add interest.

4. Rule: “Avoid Wearing Black with Navy or Brown

  • Description: The old guideline suggests that black clashes with close, but not matching, colors like navy and brown.
  • Why It’s Outdated: This rule limits the potential for rich, sophisticated color combinations in an outfit.
  • How to Break It: Focus on the fabric and fit to make these combinations work intentionally. Pairing black with navy or brown can add depth to an outfit, especially when using different textures.

5. Rule: “Sequins Are Only for Evening Wear

  • Description: Traditionally, sequins and sparkly attire have been reserved for formal, nighttime events.
  • Why It’s Outdated: Fashion now embraces sparkle for daytime, making every moment an opportunity to shine.
  • How to Break It: Pair sequined pieces with casual wear, like a sequin top with jeans or a sparkly skirt with a simple t-shirt, to bring glamour into the daylight. I vote to take it further by not saving special dresses or pieces for occasions! Rather, wear them whenever it makes you happy! They shouldn’t languish in the back of the closet just because they are “fancy.”

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it now: Fashion is not just about getting dressed; it’s a form of expression, a reflection of our society, and a personal narrative we each carry.

From the strict dress codes of Ancient Rome to the mourning traditions of the Victorian Era and now the dynamic, ever-changing landscape of modern style,  the desire to express ourselves through our attire remains constant, but fashion rules have evolved. As we embrace this new era of fashion freedom, let’s remember that the most important rule in dressing is to wear what makes us feel confident, comfortable, and true to ourselves. Whether mixing prints, wearing white after Labor Day, or incorporating sequins into our daytime wardrobe, the possibilities are endless when we let go of outdated conventions.

I’d love to hear from you! Which outdated fashion rule are you most excited to break? Or perhaps you have a story about when you defied fashion norms and discovered a new aspect of your style. Leave a comment below and share your experiences with breaking free from the fashion rules of the past!

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