Breaking the Rules

No white after Labour Day. Always match your shoes to your belt. Never wear brown in town. Sound familiar?

Throughout the years, there have been many fashion “rules” and while some of these so-called rules have changed, many have endured the test of time. So how is anyone to know which rules to follow and which ones to ignore?

While I don’t subscribe to many hard and fast rules, I do find that there are certain guidelines that help people with their decision making process when dressing. More importantly, I find that once people understand the reasoning behind the rules, they learn why and how to effectively break them and still look great.

If you were to take a look at some of the more popular fashion rules, you would see that while some of them are based on common sense or social norms, others are based on opinion or are by-products of the era in which they were created. This is why some rules are still around today and why others have gone by the wayside.

Rules that consist of matching shoes to belts or bags, socks to pants and ties to shirts are both relevant and outdated at the same time. These days, it isn’t necessary to match and some might say that you don’t want to be too “matchy-matchy”. That said, there must be a method to the madness, so to speak. Otherwise, things tend to look a little off. If however you find yourself unsure of what works and what doesn’t, matching is often a safe bet and something to fall back on.

Rules that have to do with wearing certain items in certain seasons or at certain times can also be viewed in different ways. For example, wearing material that is heavier or thicker (patent leather, wool) in the cooler months makes sense in that it keeps you warm. Lighter materials (silk, linen) are typically worn in the warmer months to stay cool. That said, a pair of patent leather, open-toe sling backs worn in the middle of summer are just fine, because they have been designed for that season. However, wear them with a pair of opaque tights in the fall and the look is considered fashionable.

Let’s take it one step further. One of the most common fashion rules is the one that states that you are not to wear white after Labour Day or only wear white between Memorial / Victoria Day and Labour Day. While there are a variety of theories regarding the origin and intention of this rule, the basic premise remains the same.

This is where a little practicality comes into play. White reflects heat (keeping you cooler) and it soils easily – a good reason to avoid it in the cold winter months. You probably wouldn’t wear a bright white summer dress or white pumps in the winter, however a pair of winter white jeans or wool coat are right on track in cooler temperatures.

So you see, in some cases a certain fashion rule makes sense. In others, it may seem rather limiting. The key is to take a good long look at the rule in question, consider the context and how it may or may not apply to you and your particular situation. If you realize that it doesn’t work for you, then go ahead – break the rules.