The Rules: Seven fashion laws stylish women break

By Laura Murphy

Oh, the dreaded fashion rules.

Restricting, confusing and, in my opinion, outdated. Fashion publications and even industry icons have tried to dispel them, but many fashionistas still feel compelled to follow “the rules.”

But why? Fashion isn’t supposed to be constricting — it’s about self-expression and creativity, right?

As my personal style matures, and I become more adventurous and open-minded about trying new trends, I find myself disagreeing more and more with many of the rules we’re all supposed to follow.   And I’m not alone in my thinking.

“I have never believed in fashion rules. It just takes a strong sense of yourself and your personal style to smash any of these rules,” says Tammy Theis, stylist and creative director/owner of Wallflower Management modeling agency.

So go ahead: Smash away.

Here’s a list of fashion “do’s and don’ts” that stylistas are allowed to bend, even break.  Just be sure to make the look your own.

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  1. Never wear white after Labor Day.

While this rule is possibly the most widely known and sacred rule of style etiquette, it is also the most outdated.

The no-white-after-Labor Day rule dates from the early 20th century, before the days of air conditioning.

White reflects light and heat, which made it the ideal color to wear during the scorching summer months in that era.

That’s one explanation, but no one knows the exact origin of the rule.

Although some still consider white after Labor Day taboo, there’s nothing wrong with a little “winter white.”

As far back as the 1920s, Coco Chanel made white a year-round staple, and so should you.

Take a break from the drab, dark shades of winter. For a classic look, pair a white cashmere cable-knit sweater with blue jeans and brown leather boots.

“Instead of going all out with color during the holidays, turn to subtle, yet stunning white coats,” writes Candy Pratts Price in Vogue.

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  1. Never mix metals.

This rule is 100-percent breakable. While some of us may have a preference for one type of metal over another, never worry about mixing them up.  Experts agree that sporting gold and silver accessories together is perfectly OK, even chic.

Metallic basics are a top trend for spring. Don’t hesitate to wear silver shoes when you’re wearing gold jewelry.

Jewelry can be a great form of self-expression. Layer different metallic necklaces for an eclectic look. Stacks of bracelets and rows of rings are another trend right now: Decorate your wrists with sentimental bracelets or stack on bangles of all metallic tones.

  1. Never wear black with brown or navy.

Black, brown and navy are neutral colors, which can easily be worn together. And while I am a fan of the head-to-toe black ensemble, I must admit it can look a bit harsh.

Experts suggest lightening up a monochromatic outfit with accessories.

For instance, pair a brown belt or bag with a navy or black outfit to instantly soften the look. Wear a brown pump with a black dress, a navy bag with a brown jacket, a black belt with navy pants.

Fashionable rule breaker: Tilda Swinton in a navy Jil Sander suit with Marc Jacobs two-tone black and white loafers – killer!

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  1. Shoes and bags must always match.

This rule is so dated. It reminds me of the 1940s-style twinset. Buying a handbag to match each pair of shoes in your closet would be both absurd and expensive.

“Matching your shoes to bags is almost seen as a bad thing with the color-blocking trend,” says fashion blogger and SMU senior Krystal Schlegel. “Matching different colors together is huge right now.”

So do yourself a favor: Don’t worry about matching accessories.

Instead, make your shoes and bag work with your outfit. Think of them as accent pieces that tie your look together, like jewelry. Trust your eye and be creative.

Marie Claire magazine suggests: “A safe bet is to make sure the shoes work first with what you’re wearing. Then choose the bag that goes best with the entire outfit.”

  1. You can’t wear suede or leather in summer.

Go look in your closet and count how many shoes and purses are made out of leather or suede. You see my point.

You can always use your leather and suede bags in the summer, especially if they are in softer colors. Most sandals and wedges are made out of leather, too.

Leather jackets are a huge trend right now, and believe it or not, they can be worn year-round. Don a leather jacket in a bright color or go pastel for a daintier look. To be safe, stick with lightweight materials.

For inspiration, think ‘60s icon British model-and-actress Jane Birkin (she who inspired the equally iconic Birkin bag), wearing suede shorts and a bikini top in St. Barts.  Or, for a vintage look closer to home, channel Woodstock with a fringe bag or vest.

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  1. You shouldn’t wear denim-on-denim.

False. Denim-on-denim is completely doable, especially with the popularity of chambray and the recent re-emergence of ‘90s grunge.

Varying the color and weight of fabrics is key to breaking this rule.  Keep balance and contrast in mind.

Model Erin Wasson pulls off this look beautifully in a lightweight blue chambray work shirt paired with dark-washed denim shorts.

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  1. Never mix prints and patterns.

Who would have guessed: One of the hottest trends for spring is mixing prints and patterns, especially florals.

One way to mix prints is to wear similar prints in different colors. Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen’s line Elizabeth and James does a fantastic job of this. For instance, one look from the line pairs a pink floral top with a navy floral skirt of the same pattern.

Schlegel’s tip for mixing prints: Keep them in the same color family.

“Wear red and blue stripes with a blue and white polka-dot shirt,” she says, “or a pink and red floral blazer with a red and color block pant.”

So the experts agree:  Even fashion rules are meant to be broken, as long as you do so with style and an eye for what works for you.

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