I Can’t Stand It When People Say These 7 Things About Styling

January 08, 2022 at 06:00AM

Anyone who watched What Not to Wear back in the early noughties will be familiar with the idea of “fashion rules.” For me, it instantly summons a vision of Trinny and Susannah circling their subject in the infamous 360-degree mirror, calling out well-rehearsed style dictats: “Women with big boobs should never ever wear smock tops,” “Under 5’4”? Step away from the maxi dresses.“

Fast-forward almost 20 years and, thankfully, conversations around size diversity, "age-appropriate” dressing and sartorial dos and don’ts have progressed, allowing a new generation to experiment with fashion without the confines of arbitrary rules.

Unfortunately, outdated conceptions around “what to wear” still exist (more often than not in the comments section of social media platforms), and as a fashion editor, I’m constantly having to debunk unhelpful beliefs that stop people from truly expressing themselves and getting joy from their clothes. So for the record, I thought I would run through the seven fashion “rules” that particularly irk me. Of course, the list is by no means exhaustive, and I encourage you to create your own list to read through for when you’re having a wobbly moment in front of your wardrobe. But for now, feel free to use mine as a starting point. Scroll down to read my shortlist.

We’ve come a long way from Trinny and Susannah when it comes to perceptions around clothing sizes, but sadly, “I can’t wear that” remains a familiar refrain for many people. “Although the way people dress can seem like a playful or insignificant thing, these narrow ideas stem from two very impactful societal prejudices: fatphobia and racism,” explains fashion designer Sara Brown. “The attachment of morality to people’s body size has meant that fat people are seen as bad. In turn, this has meant their bodies should be covered up and made invisible. This is how we’ve got to ideas like ‘bigger people shouldn’t wear colour’ or ‘fat people should cover up’ or ‘plus-size women can’t wear voluminous styles because they are already too big.’ "For anyone who is nervous about experimenting with new or out-there style, I would say your body is valuable, you’re allowed to take up space, and every time you wear something bold as a bigger person, you’re paving the way for others to dress how they want rather than how they should. Wear what makes you happy!”

There are too many fashion rules around which colours do and don’t go together to list in one story, but one which particularly baffles me is the idea that wearing black and blue together is a serious style faux pas. You don’t have to look far on Instagram or the streets of fashion week to see that navy and black have become a fail-safe colour pairing of the industry’s tastemakers. It’s essentially replaced the mythical head-to-toe-black editor’s uniform. One of our favourite pairings is black tailored trousers with a navy cashmere knit, as seen here on Louisa Hatt. We also love the idea of combining these colours in a black-tie outfit, be it a black velvet suit and navy blouse or silken powder-blue coat with a black slip dress. The options are endless. 

One of my favourite things about Instagram is seeing how a new wave of mature fashion influencers have come to the fore, throwing the idea of “age-appropriate” dressing out the window and proving that you can experiment with new trends at any age.  “I think it’s a combination of ageism and sexism,” explains fashion journalist Alyson Walsh. "I’m not sure men have ever been told they can’t wear anything because they’re a certain age (put that jazzy jacket down, Mick Jagger!), but certain publications perpetuate this nonsense. I’ve always believed that style is individual, that we should wear what we love and feel comfortable in, regardless of our age. “The idea that ‘if you wore it first time round, don’t wear it again’ is utter rubbish. If I paid any attention to this, I would have an empty wardrobe. No jumpsuits or cargo pants, forget the Levi’s 501s, ditch the biker jacket? I don’t think so. There’s a reason these timeless pieces are popular from one generation to the next.”

Events seem to be a hotbed for dressing dictats, and in some cases, they’re warranted, but most of the time, they’re grounded in archaic stories or superstitions. (Did you know bridesmaids traditionally wear the same dress to ward off bad spirits?) Case in point: Wearing black to a wedding has historically been a rule that most guests have stuck to, but as various wedding traditions have been thrown out, so have restrictions around what to wear. Of course, it is best to respect the couple’s dress codes. However, within these confines, why not experiment with something different like a sharp black suit with blinged-up heels? Or consider a black Cecilie Bahnsen–style puffball dress. Black is a fashion classic for a reason, and boy does it look chic on the dance floor. 

There was a time when print clashing would be associated with bad taste, but over the last few years, I’ve loved seeing how brands, particularly of the Scandi variety, have wholeheartedly embraced the OTT appeal of mixed prints. Whether you try florals and leopard à la Marianne Theodorsen or stick to preppy stripes and checks, it’s all about embracing eclecticism and creativity. 

I remember as a teenager heading to my local H&M on an almost-weekly basis to find a new top or dress for the weekend’s social activities. God forbid you showed up to a party wearing the same thing as last time. Thankfully, I have outgrown this inclination, and the idea of outfit repeating has become much more the norm amongst the fashion crowd. Versatility is also key in this respect, so if you’re buying a pair of tailored black trousers, you know they’ll look just as good with a white T-shirt and trainers as they will with heels and a matching blazer. Keep things mixed up, and you can make items of clothing work so much harder.

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Out of all the fashion put-downs I’ve come across, “frumpy” is probably the one I hate the most. Only directed at women, it somehow suggests that our sole purpose is to wear clothes that flatter our figures in a specific way. It’s also associated with age and outdated notions of what older women wear. This is why it’s been so great to see women of all ages and body shapes embrace the oversized trend. No, it might not be the most traditionally “flattering,” but you know what? It’s comfortable, easy to throw on and looks damn chic. Our key source of inspiration? Alexis Foreman, of course.

Up Next: Spring/Summer 2022 Trends: The Only 17 Looks You Need to Know About

Author Joy Montgomery | Whowhatwear
Selected by CWC

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