Five Hilarious Fashion Rules From My Childhood

Five hilarious fashion rules from the 1950’s and 60’s. It is fabulous to live in a time of fashion freedoms. There are still “rules” that people in certain professions are expected to follow, and there are still social norms to be respected (no nudity at the Mall, e.g.). But for the most part, we are free to choose our wardrobes according to our tastes, whims, budgets, and creativity.

One of my hobbies is reading fashion and style books, both modern and vintage. Some of them do provide helpful ideas, like The Curated Closet by Anuschka Rees, and How To Get Dressed by Alison Freer. Some are considered classics, like the little paperback style guide Simple Isn’t Easy by Olivia Goldsmith. It’s one of my favorites.

I’ve been reading (and laughing myself silly at times) a 1964 style book: A Guide to Elegance by Genevieve Antione Dariaux. Ms. Dariaux was the director of style for the haute couture house of Nina Ricci. She no doubt is among the most elegant women in France, and her little book encourages us to follow her example.

It’s a charming read, and I recommend it for enjoyment as well as a few useful style tips, such as what to wear to Black Tie/White Tie/Dinner Party events. The book is infused, however, with the non-feminist sensibilities of its time, and its very serious pronouncements sound hilarious today. There’s also an expectation of the lifestyle of the “upper” class and how that woman goes about daily life: morning tweed suits followed by an afternoon dress, then of course your dinner frock. And the ultimate goal of attracting a fine husband.

Here are a few tidbits of advice from the book, from the time of Father Knows Best and the Leave It To Beaver. Please let us know if you remember any similar “rules” from days gone by:

“Pastel accessories with a city outfit often seem rather insipid” I think the pastel blue puff is fab.

“The basic minimum coat wardrobe of a well dressed woman [includes] a silk evening coat – more chic than a fur coat, in my opinion, and far more elegant than a fur jacket.”

“After forty you should adopt a simple hairstyle: either short or pinned up in a French roll or a chignon; but never in any case long, glamorous tresses hanging down to your shoulder.”

Hello, gorgeous. Source.

“It is a good rule never to go shopping for clothes with a girlfriend. Since she is often an unwitting rival as well, she will unconsciously demolish everything that suits you best.”

“It is always good fashion to match: your raincoat, rain hat and umbrella; your dressing gown and bedroom slippers; and your suit blouse and jacket lining.”

Try to match this lining! Source.

Do you remember when the Elegant Woman would never wear white after Labor Day? Are you a committed rule breaker now? 😊

Keep joy in your heart, and stay fabulous, xo,

Here’s some fun pieces to browse, as you make your own rules:

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  1. How funny are some of these rules? The only one I can remember is matching shoes and bag!! I do still sometimes wear matching, but now love to blend, mix and match – it makes an outfit so much more interesting. Thanks for sharing today. Jacqui Mummabstylish

  2. What a funny and sadly ironic commentary about style rules. Well the rules have a relaxed I think, but our standards for a beauty have increased. So philosophically I’m not sure that we are much further ahead.
    These rules certainly do look ridiculous looking back. I actually remember that I also did not wear white after Labor Day for 20 years. Silly me!

  3. Thank you! About 6 months ago, I was trying to remember the title or author of Simple Isn’t Easy and I couldn’t for the life of me. Still hoping I didn’t get rid of my copy.

  4. I share your love of fashion books both new and vintage . I do remember many of those old rules and sayings, blue and green should never be seen together, is one that comes to mind. I don’t bother with rules but believe in dressing appropriately for the situation.I did smile about the one about not shopping with girlfriends. Having worked in clothing stores I have seen this play out, usually with quite young women but also daughters and mothers, often if Mum looks really good.

  5. No pants for girls. One bitterly cold walk to school made my legs turn purple with white blotches. I overheard a boy say to another boy, “Look at that girl’s legs!”

    Every evening, two working girls who were neighbors sudsed out their rubbery Playtex girdles and hung them on the line to dry. No “decent” woman went out in public without a girdle.

    • Ugh, girdles! I came up just as they were phasing out, but saw my mother and grandmother squeeze into them. And your poor cold legs! xox

  6. Hi again, I remember you saying you grew up in Nutley. I am from Kearny. I’m sure you know that’s not far from Nutley. A few towns away! Do you ever come back to NJ out of nostalgia? Or do you still have relatives around here? Arlene from NJ

    • Hi Arlene! Sure, I know Kearny. Bloomfield, Belleville, Montclair – all the old haunts. I still have an aunt and uncle in Nutley, but haven’t been there for at least 15 years. You and I were neighbors!

  7. Fashion rules are there to be broken, surely! Nevertheless, this looks like a fabulously fun read. I brought back an old book on etiquette from my parents’ home. Some of it is quite exasperating and even hilarious. But there’s still things I think (some) people could learn from in this day and age. Or does that make me sound old?

    • No, you don’t sound old! Place settings are not important, but good manners are always welcome.xox

  8. Never allowed to wear trousers to school. That rule didn’t change until a few years after I graduated. Other ‘rules’ – handbag, belt and shoes should be the same color; dress up in good clothes when flying anywhere–but especially overseas; wear (usually white) gloves to church or whenever dressing up–including elbow length ones to any formal dance where the dress was sleeveless. At no time would one go without pantyhose/stockings when dressed up. And I am old enough to remember the days prior to pantyhose coming on the scene when one had to wear a garter belt–which always, always slewed sideways so that one spent a lot of time in the bathroom trying to straighten the damn thing out or reconnecting a garter that snapped off the stocking–sometimes very inconveniently or with a loud snap. Ah, yes. The good old days. 😉

    • Oh yes, the garter belt, good one! I felt so grown up when I got my first one, but they were NOT comfortable! I still like to dress up when flying, but not with hat and gloves. Thanks for all your spot-on memories, xox.

  9. I suppose that rules like that made getting dressed less stressful for women who were unsure of their own style, but I’m glad we’ve abandoned them now. I don’t have any rules about what I wear other than it is appropriate for the situation (ie. funeral), comfortable, and I feel good wearing it.

    • Your “rules” are the best – that’s why your style is individual and creative, and fun to watch. xox

  10. Another great article, thank you! Rules rules rules. My only rule is that I have no rules!!! Ooops that’s a rule. And I agree with Suzanne, how sad not to shop with girlfriends (not to HAVE girlfriends!) The idea that other women should be viewed with mistrust as they probably just want to put you down and mess with your head (or, worse, your wardrobe!) Hmmm.

    • Yes, that “rule” about your friends wanting to take you down – no, no, no. Friends make style more fun! xox

  11. We had the “no pants for girls” rule at our school until it got cold and my best friends’ mom refused to send her daughter out in a skirt. The rule was changed by the end of the week and I never went back to skirts or dresses!

  12. We were discussing ‘Mother’s Rules’ one day. My mother’s rules mostly had to do with table manners and the feelings of others. My friend Diane said her mother’s rules (1950s) were things like, “If you wear a yellow dress you must have yellow shoes.”

    • Sounds like a fun nostalgic discussion! And table manners never go out of style, imho. : > xox

    • You can make all the rules for yourself! If you like this one, then you enjoy it. Thanks for coming by, xox.

  13. I remember very well the “color rules.” Purple and green should never be seen
    ( together). Redheads should never wear orange or red. Blondes should only wear pastels. Women under a certain age should not wear black and black was only for funerals or very serious business occasions, unless it’s evening, then the LBD is acceptable. Never wear brown and black together. Same with navy and black. Don’t mix metals in jewelry. A well dressed woman always wears white gloves. Crazy making rules, yes?!

    • yes, yes! I remember all these too! Don’t mix gold and silver was a big one. thanks for coming over, Cee!

  14. Hi I grew up with some of those rules. Couldn’t wear pants to school. Had a “skirt length” rule too! It was the 60s so minis were in but they were no nos at my school! I still have certain rules for myself. They just involve having common sense mostly. I went to a viewing (wake) recently where women came into the funeral home with short shorts on and tank tops. I just think there’s a place for those and it’s not at a funeral. Maybe I’m just old fashioned. I thought they must have a pair of long pants they could’ve worn. Other than that, I am into casual dressing most of the time. Don’t care what others wear except if it is rude (like the short shorts at a funeral). Cheers from Arlene from NJ

    • Yikes – shorts at the funeral. That’s what I meant about certain “social norms” that should be respected! And I remember the skirt length rule too. Thanks for coming by with your thoughts; I grew up in Nutley NJ! xox

  15. I can see a certain peace of mind in having strict rules, and you know you where you stand. It must be stressful having everything be possible–it requires opinions, taste, personality. If you care about being fashionable yet lack taste, rules like these are life and death.
    (I guess I don’t care–I love looking at fashion blogs like yours–well, I also come here for your lively attitude and good writing–and I actually scour the photos of the various fashion weeks. Yet here I am, wearing the same thing for three months now–black sweater and black pants. Not the same ones for three months! I have several to rotate among.) My only fashion rule is no white tube socks with black shoes. There are other details, but they are preferences, not rules.

    • I love your “uniform” style, TOF – what’s chicer than head to toe black? And I agree, white socks for playing basketball only. : > xox

  16. I love the model with the long grey hair. I see her face everywhere I look for fashion and I think she is great. Reading this post just puts me in mind of the many years I had to wear dresses to school. No pants were allowed till about 10th grade. I was so used to wearing dresses that I rarely wore pant even after they lifted the ban.

    • Yes, I should have given the model’s name, she’s Yazemeenah Rossi. She’s in her early 60’s, and simple beautiful. And I remember being “allowed” to wear pants to school in about the 9th grade – it was a big deal! xox

  17. Ha ha! Those are pretty detailed rules. That bit about not shopping with girlfriends makes me sorry for the women that lived during that period. If you can’t count on your friends to have your back what’s the point of having them?

    My only rule is to feel happy with what I’m wearing. Makes life simple.


    • Yeah, I thought about you and my other shopping buds when I read that – how sad! The best fun is having my friends along to help find treasures, xox.

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