Calling Bullshit On All The Fashion Rules We've Believed In Our Lives
The Debrief: Because that summer you spent in a wrap cardigan is time you’ll never get back
Everyone knows the only real rule of dressing is ‘THERE ARE NO RULES!’
But when you frequently find yourself in changing rooms wearing a chartreuse silk sack dress and snakeskin flatforms, it’s understandable that we crave some guidance. A blueprint. Some helpful hints. We’re only human.
It’s just a shame that all these are total crap.
Blue and green should never be seen
Firstly, whoever first coined this rule is going against NATURE. It’s the anti-Wordsworth of outfit assembly. Have they never stood in a green meadow and looked up at the blue sky? Have they never been to the seaside, is that it, and so they decided to punish the rest of us? Blue and green is one of the oldest fashion combinations there is, along with ‘brown and brown’ and ‘lava-red with dinosaur khaki’.
Secondly, this is almost certainly one of those rules that arose purely because it rhymes – just like 'tequila before wine makes you feel fine,' or 'never trust a dog who looks like a log.' And thirdly, it was clearly instated because somebody did it badly once. My guess it was somebody’s aunt at a wedding, who piled on so much green eyeshadow with her cornflower crimpelene that she made the bride seasick.
This will not be you, don’t worry. This will never be you.
Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take at least one thing off
Coco Chanel gave us this gem, and we’ll admit it makes a certain amount of style sense. If you have a tendency to treat accessorising like a game of Buckaroo, taking a moment to pause in front of the mirror and say, 'hey, do I really need this feathered silk turban AND the ornamental chainmail gauntlets?' could be an excellent thing, not to mention good news for your later-in-life back problems.
But where’s the FUN, Coco? An extra bit of jewellery or a strategic scarf can be the difference between an outifit and a ‘look’. Sure, sometimes you want to look chic, understated and incredibly French, but sometimes you also want to look as though you’ve walked through the wardrobe of an eccentric Duchess, covered in glue.
Plus practically-speaking, taking one thing off every morning might just mean you spend all day with cold hands thinking, 'argh, if only I’d kept my gloves on.' Chanel probably had a servant carrying a small portable heater with her at all times.
You can’t wear black with navy. Or black with brown.
I can’t claim to have traced this one back to its historical roots, but if I did I’d bet my Nan that it originated in a warmer climate than this one. Because the main problem with this rule, and there are several, is: tights. When you spend three quarters of the year made partly out of black opaque nylon, you just can’t be too choosy about colourways.
And navy and black can look totally chic, especially with shiny gold buttons. Brown and black has to work, because half of the animal kingdom have been working it for years – beavers, grizzly bears, otters, all otherwise oblivious to their genetic style failings. Besides, attractive brown clothes come along so rarely that the last thing you need is someone telling you your shoes don’t go. Be off with you, batshit rule.
Horizontal stripes are the devil
Breton tops might have become the modern wardrobe equivalent of a Ford Mondeo (inoffensive, ubiquitous, safe), but at least their nautical charm has put this age-old myth firmly where it belongs – in the sea.
Everyone looks better in a cinch belt
The year is 2006. Gok Wan is the king of clothes. There is no problem that can’t be solved with a cinch belt. Small waist? Cinch belt. Big waist? Cinch belt. No waist? Cinch belt. Nuclear waste? Cinch belt.
Gok’s philosophy was all about making women feel more confident about their naked bodies through the medium of blowdries, satin dressing gowns and sturdy gussetry. It was admirable enough in theory, but overlooked the fact that women don’t necessarily always feel sexiest while being hoiked in at the middle like an unruly cottage loaf.
For those who followed Gok’s wisdom, there followed a couple of years of shallow breathing, occasional abdominal scarring and the weird phenomenon where you’ve been wearing a particularly cinchy cinch belt all day then take the thing off at bedtime and immediately feel hungry. Helpfully, he soon started making cookery programmes too.
Everything Trinny and Susannah ever said
If you ever want to see how far we’ve come in the past couple of decades and feel cheerful, go back and reread What Not To Wear – the bible of early noughties wardrobe ‘wisdom’ that everybody’s mum requested for Christmas 2002 (rejected titles ‘The Unbearable Lightness of Bias Cut Dresses’, ‘War and Pleats’ and ‘Palazzo Pants for Dummies’).
There’s barely a 25+ woman around who doesn’t have their joyless diktat burned forever onto our memory. Pear shapes can’t wear cropped trousers! Big boobs may ONLY wear deep-Vs! Flat chests must be submerged at all times beneath a chunky knit cowl neck! Everyone should own twelve plain ¾ sleeve t-shirts! If you’re cursed with big boobs, a big bum AND thick calves then your only options are burgundy muumuu or life in a remote island convent! And so on.
They spawned an army of weirdly frumpy 14 year olds, all sweating out our summers in wrap cardigans and tweed skirts. My friend Amy has only this year found true happiness and freedom by rejecting their rule about short legs always wearing trousers, shoes and socks in the same colour. 'I spent 14 years being too scared not to have a clean, unbroken line from my waist to my feet,' she says, 'then in the summer I snapped and bought a pair of trousers that show my ankles! I look SO MUCH BETTER.'
But despite the Trinny and Susannahisms that still haunt us 13 years later, weirdly we seem to have blocked out all the horrible body-shaming that went with it. Sentences that were actually published for women to buy and enjoy include: 'people will wonder how that gargantuan mass of flesh managed to squeeze through the armhole' (on why big arms shouldn’t wear shift dresses), 'do you really want the world to see your most hideous physical defect?' (pretty sure the world can handle it) or 'there is no more grotesque look than a calf getting caught up in the cling of jeans' (Donald Trump wasn’t at full power in 2002, to be fair).
If they tried to do the same thing today it would be buried in thinkpieces and petitions quicker than you can say ‘body positivity’. So that’s something to be thankful for.
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