“Never mix plaids.”
“Don’t wear white after labor day.”
“Always coordinate your shoes with your purse.”
We’ve all heard them before.
As women who grew up in a world inundated with fashion magazines and what-not-to-wear style lists, it has become incredibly easy to disregard a lot of the fashion advice that is thrown our way. When it all boils down, most fashion advice is presented in a one size (or style) fits all manner, which is not at all reflective of most women’s individual styles and preferences. However, after years of standing in grocery store check out lines skimming Cosmo, and having had too many department store arguments with my mother (“No Mom, it’s not too short that’s just the look”), I’ve realized that there are a few steadfast rules of fashion that are worth more than face value may imply.
Here are a few fashion rules that we’ve all heard, but maybe never considered in the larger context of daily life and how fashion impacts it:
1. If they hurt in the store, they’ll hurt out of the store
Anyone who has been shoe shopping with their mom or best friend has heard this one before. In all honesty this piece of advice always made me angry because it often meant that whoever I was shopping with was suggesting that the six-inch stiletto beauties I was contemplating were not a sensible purchase. Is there anything more cringe-worthy than seeing a girl walking around looking like a baby fawn just learning how to walk, as she attempts to stay up-right in a pair of heels that are clearly uncomfortable and too high for her? Do yourself the favor and listen to your shopping buddy on this one, they’re only looking out for you and your feet.
2. You’d rather be over-dressed, as opposed to under-dressed
Is there anything more annoying than an ambiguous, vague invitation with zero indication regarding expected attire? Is this a jeans and a t-shirt party? Do I need to wear heels? Is this meeting an actual interview or just a casual meet-and-greet? When it comes to deciding what to wear in ambiguous situations, it is always safest to veer on the edge of overdressed rather than under-dressed. In a society where people ask questions like “why are you so dressed up?” and “who are you trying to impress?” when young women start their day with a few minutes of hair and makeup maintenance, it can be intimidating to contemplate appearing somewhere where you are clearly more dressed up than others. But consider this, wouldn’t it be ten times more uncomfortable and intimidating to show up and be blatantly under-dressed? Whether it’s meeting with a potential employer or going to a party, being “over-dressed” is always a safer bet. Own your outfit. Own your elegance. Disregard whatever judgements or looks you might get from others who didn’t manage to show up looking as fly as you did.
3. Stick with classic looks, they never go out of style
Imagine this temptation: your birthday just passed. You’re sitting pretty on a nice stack of gift cards and cash. You’ve had your eye on a fun blazer that would be perfect to wear to your internship and future job interviews. You go in to buy it and you walk by the dress section and see some adorable little black dress with front and back cutouts and an asymmetrical hemline. Do you go for the blazer or the dress? As fun as it may be to pick up another fun going out dress, the older I get (and the more I realize how expensive adulting is) the more I understand the importance of investing in classic, versatile, staple pieces for my wardrobe. Are there times and places when buying a super trendy piece is appropriate and necessary? Of course. But don’t under estimate the value of having reliable, timeless basics in your closet that you can depend on. At the end of the day trends will come and go, but time proven classic looks and adaptable wardrobe elements will never go out of style, and will always serve you well.
4. Don’t forget to bring a sweater
If you’ve never had someone scream “don’t forget to bring a sweater!” at you as you were walking out the front door, then I am going to assume that you never left the house while your parents were home. For most people, this one will probably ring a few bells and evoke a few smirks. As annoying as it may be, this old adage that parents love to bellow at their kids as they leave the house is yet another fashion guideline that can make a big difference in your daily life. Being cold (and not having a sweater or jacket to warm you up) is a probably the quickest and most avoidable way to screw up an otherwise great day or night. It doesn’t matter if you are in class or at the bars, if you’re focused on the fact that you’re freezing cold, odds are you won’t be focusing on whatever else you are supposed to be doing. Is it annoying to have to grab a sweater as you’re leaving the house when you don’t think you’ll need one? Absolutely. Is it a major pain to have to carry around a sweater, to remember to not leave it in the über, and to remember to pick it up after you put it down on the table at a party? Yeah, it is. But I guarantee you it is far more annoying to get a cold after a night out because you were under-dressed. It’s not worth it to be shivering all night long or to risk getting sick. Bite the bullet, bring the sweater. The one time you bring it and end up needing it will make all of the other precautionary times well worth it.
5. Dress for your body, and your body only
It is so easy to talk yourself out of buying or wearing something that you love because you don’t think it will be well received by others. From being worried about size to being concerned about how much skin is showing, there is so much pressure on women to find clothing that is not too revealing while still remaining abundantly feminine and form fitting. No matter what you choose to wear people are going to have (unsolicited) opinions, so you might as well wear whatever it is that makes you feel the best in your own skin. You know how to dress your body better than anyone else, so capitalize on that and put your knowledge to use. Trying to mimic the exact look of models won’t serve you well unless you are almost the same size and shape as the model you’re emulating. Instead of trying to duplicate runway models and their looks, draw on them for inspiration but adjust as necessary to make styles work for you and your body. If you’re curvy, embrace it. If you have a more boxy, straight figure–embrace it. The easiest way to look and feel good in whatever you wear is to know your body and master the art of dressing it. It’s as easy as that.
What you wear and how you present yourself to the world should serve as an extra source of confidence and empowerment–not panic and blisters. Build yourself a wardrobe that looks just as good as it feels so you can spend less time trying to conquer clothing dilemmas and more time taking on the world. As cliche as they may sound, taking these tried and true fashion rules to heart could really simplify and beautify your life, one outfit at a time.