Fashion “Rules” To Break

If you’re a regular reader, you already know we love to bend the rules around here. The “Visibles” on Visible Monday wear miniskirts at any age. We have long hair after 40, crew-cuts whenever we want them, and don’t try to tell us what colors “go” together.

Here are a few fashion rules I was taught at mother’s knee. While mom was right about a lot of things (really, it is smart to wear clean underwear and carry cab fare), she was not infallible on style.

  • Your shoes should match your purse. Oh boy, this was Doctrine until I went away to college. Now it never even occurs to me. I love fun and personality-driven shoes, and fairly classic bags, and it doesn’t matter a bit if they “go”, let alone match. Belts were supposed to match back in the 60’s too!
  • Don’t wear horizontal stripes, you’ll look fat. Well, mom probably said “chubby” or “plump”, but the message was delivered.  Every woman can look fabulous in stripes, I think, as long as she’s flattering her shape and coloring. Rule rejected!
Mom says no, but I say YES to this Calvin Klein striped dress. Nordstroms.
  • Never mix black with navy or (shudder) brown. I lived in fashion fear of this faux pas well into my 30’s. It goes hand in hand with matching shoes and purse. Now I revel in black skirts with navy tees, black dresses with brown boots, and many other versions of this sacrilege. If YSL loves it, it’s got to be OK.
Yves Saint Laurent Rive Gauche dress, vintage 1970’s.
  • Match your lipstick to your nail polish. What was the deal with all the matching in the 1960’s? Was it part of a larger agenda to keep us women-folk in line? I wear three or four favorite lipstick colors, in rotation, and color my nails from palest pink to deepest navy, depending on the mood.

What did your mother (or mother-figure) tell you about what never to do, style-wise? Are you breaking those rules every chance you get, or did mom have it going on? ☺

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  1. When I am wearing silver (or black!) nail polish, I am definitely not going to match it to my lipstick. Although now that I think of it silver lips might be quite interesting. I haven't matched my purse and shoes since I was a little girl going to church on Easter Sunday. I'll mix any color with black – and, really, just about any color with any other color if I like the way it looks. But I still won't wear horizontal stripes below the waist. I just haven't found a way to make it work with my body type, and I don't feel the need to try. I can't remember my mother having any big fashion rules, except to always wear clean underwear. I still believe in that one.

  2. My Mum always said that I'd never be a beauty queen but if I made an effort to dress in an interesting way then no-one would ever notice.
    She never advised me against wearing anything. xxx

  3. I adore all your mother's rules. Since no one follows them anymore, it's so easy to look put-together these days. I also send hand written thank you notes – that was my mother's big rule.

  4. I say break all the rules! I really enjoyed your posting about anything goes…I'm 5'1" and have been told that I "shouldn't" be wearing long tunics – right!

  5. Love this post. The outfits I tend to find the most interesting are always those that break the 'fashion rules'.

  6. The rule no1 was to always wear clean clothes but she had little tolerance to anything anticonventional instyle like wear black but being young or wear multiple accessories.But as I mature myself I sense that I sort of evolve my moms style.

  7. Late to this post Patti, but so happy I got the chance to read it. It's brought to light the fact that my Mom has never so much as mentioned a fashion 'rule' to me. She is admittedly anti-fashion for herself; however, she has never made me feel that there were any rules I had to follow. Wow, I'm really grateful for that. Thanks Patti,

    Sue xo

  8. My mom for sure said never to wear horizontal stripes .. I only wear them on top. As a pear shaped gal, horizontal stripes would look hideous.

    I would wear that CK dress though .. the slight angles are very figure flattering.


  9. Style wasn't something handed down from my Mom. I am glad to say last year at the age of 72 she finally got it and looks fantastic. I still have to push myself not to match everything and mix black and brown. …………Oh, the life we lead!

  10. Hahaha! I was blushing when I read the first rule coz today I stick to the 60s rule to the t, belt and all and was planning to link the outfit on Monday LOL!! Well, I don't stick to the 'matchy-matchy' rule so much but once in a while when the need arises I do ;D But if there is one rule that I break all the time it would be paint your toe-nails if you wear open toe shoes.. I am too lazy in that department!



  11. When you go to "the City," you wear a dress. Period. With pantihose, if you're over 12 (assuming they have been invented). And probably some form of girdle to keep your rebellious teenage figure in check. I date myself with this admission, but that's the way it was. Later, I was a pretty good hippie, but never quite the barefoot kind. And no more girdles (now called shapewear, but the same thing, believe me).

  12. My mum is very laid back, so no fashion rules from her. I do find all the fashion 'rules' you mention funny and quite restrictive. Luckily I learned to pay no attention to them, but I think they can trip you up, if you were low in confidence and a bit of a rule-follower…

  13. Hmm… I'm not sure I remember any style rules as such from my mother. But I did rebel against and eventually conform to ideas about it being very important to be appropriately and smartly dressed for whatever occasion I was attending.

    Mum was pretty cool at encouraging me to experiment with crazy hairstyles, didn't mind me wearing revealing clothes as a teenager, loved helping me dress up for balls etc. She was keen on things like ironing and being reasonably formally dressed (I still remember one arguement when she made me wear a jacket to town as she thought I looked homeless and that people wouldn't treat me well because of it). She was also quite generous with the clothing allowance as a teenager and bought/sewed me nice clothes as a child. We liked shopping together as adults, especially the sales and outlet stores.

    I miss my Mum…

  14. THANK YOU! I'm going to print this off and stick it to the wall of our boutique! We get so many ladies of the older generation with their ridiculous rules that spell only one thing 'DRAB'!
    I must hear the stripe thing every other day, plus 'I'm too old for leggings/skinny jeans', too old for that neckline, too short for that, I can't wear black near my face(??!) and the matching thing…I've never got that – especially with shoes/bags – you don't carry your handbag around your ankles so why should it matter?! And don't even get me started on 'Colour me beautiful' when ladies come in with a little pouch of all the colours someone has told them they 'can carry' – missing out on so many things that they love but 'can't' buy because someone told them on a particular day it didn't suit them (have they never heard of seasons, holidays, tans, hair dye??!!)
    Our most stylish customer is in her 80's and has no rules whatsoever – other than giving something a try and wearing things the 'right' way – i.e. stylishly. She generally doesn't walk out with a mini-dress, but if one came along she loved I'm sure she'd find a way of pulling it off!
    Thanks again!
    Sarah x

  15. Fashion "Rules" – what is about this kind of expression…what rules? Rules and fashion trends are given by the fashion streets, it doesn't matter that Milano or New York catwolk dictate smth , important is to be accepted by the street fashion…

  16. I love that ad for the Queen of Diamonds. Scary good is right! Notice she has natural silver hair? When was the lat time we saw a modern advert for something in the beauty realm with a woman with natural hair? They may thought that shoe-matching was all the rage, but at least they were getting something right…

  17. I was told that the combination of red and blue or red and green is a no go and poor man's style. I think that goes back to medieval times when people get dressing codes by their sovereign. But I was told that in the 1960s 🙂

    Some days ago I read that wearing purse and shoes matching makes a woman 10 years older. Good news for me, but an other rule to be kept?

  18. My mom and I have entirely different styles. Like polar opposites pretty much. But she's never enforced any fashion rule on me or my brother. We dressed ourselves from the moment we could convey the opinion. AND I LOVE IT! I went through a fear stage of what clothes and hair was "okay" but now, anything goes. If I love it, I wear it.

  19. I should probably clarify, it is the fifties and early sixties that I am talking about.

  20. Those days had so many rules it was no wonder the hippies of the sixties happened. Don't mix pink and red, chartreuse was forbidden, long hair was called "stringy" etcerera, etcetera ad nausium.

  21. A friend always said her mother went shopping with her even though her mom was long dead. I have thought about that so many times. When I shop, my mother's voice still haunts me no matter that I am 73 years old. I cannot wear polka dots EVER because my mother despised them. I just couldn't do it.

  22. I remember more things about table manners that my mother taught me. She wasn't too bossy. But she was concerned about nipples showing when I went without a bra. I was rebellious, and I had long hair so I could hide behind it if necessary. I think she was mostly right about that one.

  23. oh yes, Pam – bare legs were a definite no-no, except at the beach!

  24. I think my mother would freak out if she knew I wear leggings…I am certain she would consider them inappropriate! Also, she told me to always wear hose with a dress and never go bare leggs!!

  25. Actually my mum was pretty good laying off rules and most of her advice was good but she was against wearing high heels too often – which I did a lot of after leaving home! She was also against wearing "good" clothes at home and always scolded us for doing so. It has meant I have grown up never making an effort with dress when at home and just stay mooching around in my pyjamas! This is something I have found hard to shrug off but I think like you mentioned on a previous post here – even if your loved ones love you any way you dress you ought to make an effort – even if it is just a bit!

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