I have provided post upon post of style ‘rules’ to follow, but one of the things I always teach my clients is how to break the style rules.
Why Follow Style Rules?
Why have rules at all? They help those who have no idea or no reference to figure out what works for their body shape and proportions, to create figure flattery (as Sal puts it) and are a good place to start. They help you find your basics and starting point, a place to launch your personal style. (And if you want to learn all your style rules, and then how to break them in a way that is authentic and right for you – my 7 Steps to Style program will give you all the information you need).
But once you understand your ‘rules’ it’s time to start breaking them. At least you then go into it understanding what you’re doing and then making a choice to break the rule, rather than unwittingly wearing something that may be less than ‘ideally’ flattering, in a way that you don’t want.
I have spent years studying why certain clothes are more ‘slimming’ (as that’s what the majority of my clients want) on different body shapes and proportions. But that is not the be all and end all of dressing. What these rules lack is PERSONALITY – where does your unique personality come into the equation if you just slavishly follow the rules?
I always tell my clients to BREAK ALL THE RULES when they are expressing part of their personality. When the piece of clothing or accessory is an outward reflection of the inner ‘me’ then no matter what any rulebook says, it’s a piece that needs to be worn, and one that you will LOVE.
Personality Trumps Rules
For example, a great friend of mine always goes out ‘blinged’ up to the 9s – she wears more bling going to the supermarket than I do on a big night out, as she says “there’s never a bad time for bling”, which is her personal philosophy. Some would say she’s over-accessorised, but for her, it’s an extension of her personality. Iris Apfel is another great example of this – how personality trumps all style rules. In fact, I’ve written a post on 10 ways personality is more important than body shape when choosing flattering clothing, which you can read here.
For example: I have a jacket that I love, that’s in a khaki/olive colour – which is not flattering at all on my skin, in fact, it makes me look like I have a serious case of jaundice, but I love the collar and other details of the jacket, the style is so ME. So I wear it with a hot pink top that flatters my complexion and moves the unflattering colour further from my face.
Another example is a skirt with lots of pocket detail on the hips, which makes my hips look wider (and believe me, they are wide enough already), but because of the deconstructed nature of the skirt and other detail that I LOVE, I just DON’T CARE about looking ‘slimmer’ and wear it happily.
When you understand your personal style, it’s so easy to break the rules and make it work for you, because it is an extension of your wonderful inner you.
What style rules do you break?
How 3-5 Style Guidelines Are All You Need to Be Super Stylish
I got an Ossie Clark dress in a sort of olive/khaki color — also feeling like it wasn't a great color for me, but I loved the dress so much and it's a great signature print, I decided I didn't care.
Same here: I love military-inspired pieces, but don't look great in green and brown. I still wear those colors because I love the styles, though. I will also sometimes wear chest pockets even though I generally don't like how they look, just because I LOVE plaid flannel and, well, most plaid flannel shirts come with pockets.
Well, today I wore a dress (new to me, bought online but second hand) from Club Monaco last season. It's a yellow, black and grey (mega loud pattern) sack dress, sleeveless, with a high, Elizabethan collar. No joke. My husband said it was like Cirque de Soleil crossed with Project Runway. It was def rule breaking. Not something I do every day! The sack look is tough on a girl with boobs – but sometimes I just want to push the envelope.
I'm over 50 and I go to the supermarket in shorts. Shortish shorts. And flip flops. It's Northern California. I don't even register….
Funny that this post links back to how to wear a high neckline with a large bust–this is a rule I have recently started to break. I have a great long neck and have always loved turtlenecks for that reason, but my bust has prevented me from enjoying them for years and I miss them. I reintroduced one into my closet recently and I'm happy as a clam. I just make sure to layer it with a deep v and make sure the color of the turtleneck recedes rather than pops. I think it works quite well.
Oh yay, Imogen, I'm glad to read this post and have official permission to break the rules!
Mine is wearing pants at the dreadful lower calf/ankle length. I have a pair of Diesel pants that end there, but I adore them and so have not given them up!
Another fabulous post! I loved that example and I have started to have more confidence in breaking colour rules that I wear so this was timely!
Love your blog!
Thank you for this post! You, and my daughter have made it possible for me to throw away some old beliefs I have had about dressing. For example: I´m small breasted, but I want to wear, and do wear tops that reveal my neckline generously. As a camouflage, and for the warmth, I keep along a nice pashmina. I also have decided, that I don´t have to wear a whole set of jewelry, not even on special events. The pashmina will do the trick as well ( this pashmina thing is my new obsession ). Heels. I suddenly have liberated myself from flat heels. I now feel that I too, can wear them. I realize that it was my mother, who had the complex of tallness, and she made it my complex too. Luckily my daughter, who is as tall as me ( 5 and 10), has encouraged me, and now we both feel that it is ok for us to wear high heels. I think that if someone is having trouble with this, it is they, who have a problem, not me!
For me this would be the colour red. I heard a lot growing up about how redheads can't wear red so it's always felt like a rule I'm breaking, always a hint of doubt about my choice, though I imagine it was kicked out of the rule book a long time ago.
WendyB – you are the biggest style rule breaker – but it works for you so well
Ranksubjugation: there is a brown for everyone – it's just a matter of figuring out the right shade for you.
K.Line – doesn't this dress prove that women DON'T dress for men!
LPC – you'd register in Melbourne that's for sure!
Peppermint – so glad that you're getting to wear your favourite turtlenecks!
cciele – if you wear them with a low vamp shoe they're nowhere near as shortening!
Maria – tell me how do you wear orange?
Metscan – I'm so glad that you are gaining the confidence to break the rules!
A. of course redheads can wear red – just a yellow based red not a blue red.
I have 2 break the rules garments
1) an ankle length pink skirt with lots of interesting seaming
2) a skat (I think it is called – a skirt trouser combination)It is at a bad length for me, but is flattering to my thighs and makes me feel avant-garde
Hmm, I think rules are meant to be broken, but broken with an awareness of exactly "what" is being broken. I think I do it a lot. I especially like breaking color rules, but I break the rules about how to dress my long torso and short legs fairly frequently as well even though I can maximize those legs when I wish.
Go wild with clothes…never!
My most flagrant disregard of the rules is wearing birkenstocks. Yes I know they are crunchy, but I'm happy when my feet are not in pain.
That's when I wear all black even though at 61 it is thought to be "draining". Maybe I look drained but feel great.
Women can be too anxious about what is "appropriate" or "flattering", and for this I do not thank magazines like InStyle, show so little variation, everyone looking like a Rachel Zoe clone.
Like Brenda Kinsel says, Style Trumps Everything.
I am a Winter and have just bought a Leona wrap dress in warm but brght colours (n a print that is quite busy. Because it is funky and so me, I am such a lover!!
There are some 'rules' I'll break. Here are two that beg to be broken.
1) SCA dictates that redheads must be either Spring or Autumn. Thing is, the colors from those palettes don't flatter me, don't enhance me, and instead make me look dull and/or ill.
2) Redheads can't wear blue-based reds? I'm one of those redheads that can not wear yellow-based reds because they don't work — I would know, I tried them. Instead, the very blue-based red that's being discounted for redheads looks awesome on me.
Like Samantha, I'm a redhead who can wear a bluey red and lately I've discovered I can even wear a pink shade of same. All my life people have pushed me towards blue, green and brown, but no colour works unless it's bold enough to match my personality as well as my hair and skin.
I'll wear black next to my face, because I have black hair, and because I'm petite but A-shaped, I'll wear straight-leg jeans instead of flare.