Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The Golden Rules of Fashion

At a local nail salon that my sisters and I frequent, one of the ladies that works there has given us nicknames. Mine is “Fashion.” The reason for that might be clear if you are reading this blog, but most people who know me in real life know that this is because I studied fashion design for a few years. (I want to continue studying fashion design, but I am taking the scenic route right now).

A lot of my friends who know this ask me for my opinion on what they are wearing or what they should wear, but I tend to be much more of, to borrow a linguistic term, a descriptivist when it comes to fashion. I don’t like to tell people what to do. Rules like "Thou shalt never match your bag and shoes!" or "Thou shalt never wear black to a wedding!" are just plain silly. Someone somewhere has broken these rules and has done so beautifully.

I have my personal opinions about some rules like this. For instance, I don’t like to match my eye shadow color to my shirt, but I can respect it when someone else can pull it off. In my world, there are only three simple rules of fashion that must be followed.

The Golden Rule: Fashion is what you wear NOT who you are. To me, fashion is like the packaging of a product. The product inside the package is what it is. It is either good or bad. You either like it, or you don’t. It does not matter how awesome the package is, nothing will change what is inside of it. The package simply explains what is inside of the package.

Luckily, as humans we can change ourselves for better or for worse, but our clothing will not make that change for us. This is the first and foremost rule you need to master before you can start fashioning correctly.

1. Take super-good care of yourself. If you think about it, this is the only real beauty secret there is. Everything else like what kind of mascara you should use and what kind of shampoo you should use are someone else’s opinion.

Basically, what this means is: shower, wear sunscreen, brush your hair, eat good foods, get a decent amount of exercise, follow your doctor’s advice, love your friends and family etc.

But please, I beg of you, understand that the goal of this is not to look like a model in a magazine, it is to be healthy. There is no one on earth that looks like those models—including the models themselves. Health is what physical beauty looks like, even if all you have is emotional health.

Print by Kensiekate. Available on Etsy.

The point I am trying to make here is that I don’t want people to go around thinking, “Gee, I will be so much more beautiful/happy when I lose/gain weight.” I especially don’t want people to go around thinking something like “Golly, I will be so much more valuable and lovable when I have perfect skin/bigger boobs/no cellulite.” None of that has anything to do with happiness or health or beauty.

Okay, I am off that particular soapbox.

2. Wear clothing that fits. This is a huge pet peeve of mine. Clothing that is too tight or too loose makes you look like you have no idea what’s up. Well-fitting clothing has the power to make you look professional, competent and put together.

Knowing if your clothes fit can be tricky, but as a general rule, if you put your clothing on and there are horizontal bunches of fabric where they are not supposed to be or you have some serious and painful red marks on your body when you take your clothes off, then it is too tight. If your clothing is gaping where it isn’t supposed to be, the seams don’t hit you where they should or you feel like you are swimming in it, it is probably too loose.

Here are some examples:

How do I know if clothing fits? How do I know if clothing looks good on me?
Here is an example of Katy Perry at the Grammys wearing a Gucci dress that is a smidge too tight. I marked the horizontal puckers to illustrate what to look for. Li Bing Bing, on the right, is wearing the same dress, but the fit is much better.

This is Marisa Tomei in a vintage Charles James dress last year at the Oscars. Notice the puckers around the waist indicate that it is too tight. The red marks, however, show where the dress is too loose. (Photo courtesy of Style.com)

This rule takes a lot of practice, but it is invaluable.

3. Dress with confidence! This rule has two subsections.

Rule 3a: Dress yourself like you respect yourself. Seriously. Know who you are. Don’t dress in baggy, black clothes, and walk around with your eyes cast downward! Don’t dress like a strumpet, and think that you have “confidence” because you are showing skin! You are better than that! Neither of those examples oozes the message, “I am a strong, confident person who believes in himself/herself, and is on top of his/her game!”

What I often find with people dressing like either of those examples is that they are dressing for the attention—or lack of attention—of other people. You don't need to dress for other people.

Getting attention is great, but get it for the right reasons, like your sparkling personality or your serious smarts. The package around it should reflect what is on the inside (refer to The Golden Rule). Now that is self-respect.

Coco chanel perfume. What is Coco Chanel's famous perfume? What is in fashion?
The packaging for this bottle of Chanel No. 19 reflects the elegance and simplicity of the perfume inside.

Rule 3b: If you have the audacity to wear it, OWN IT! Don’t apologize for what you are wearing. If you want to wear a Metallica t-shirt with a tutu-like skirt (I have seen it done) take responsibility for it. This is what fashion is about! Having fun! I very much believe that the success of an ensemble is directly related to how confidently you choose to wear it. This is why you will never see me going after Helena Bonham-Carter or Tilda Swinton for what they wear. Yeah, they wear some weird stuff, but they wear it with style.

The fabulous Helena Bonham-Carter. Photograph by  Tim Walker.

In conclusion, to everyone who wants to ask me for fashion advice, other than these rules, there really aren’t any rules. You may even be able to find some loopholes in these ones, so don’t sweat it. You look fine, so have fun!

How should I dress myself? How do I know what's in fashion? What are the rules of fashion?
No, really. You do. Now go out and enjoy the world. :)

(P.S. I linked y'all to a few articles above. I would highly recommend reading them.)

UPDATE: I’m not writing on Blogger much anymore, but if you would like to follow me and my writing, please sign up through the form below, and also please consider a free or paid subscription. I’d love to see you over at The Charrette. I'll still keep writing things on here, but mostly as a way to keep all of you updated on what's going on with my career currently. You can read more about it here


  1. What a lovely post! I could not agree with you more about wearing things that fit. I think it's absolutely essential to invest time in the dressing room, REALLY looking at how all the parts fit. If I still love an article but am between sizes, I'd rather go up a size and tailor where needed.

    Also, I wouldn't emulate style of Helena Bonham-Carter or Tilda Swinton but I absolutely adore the confidence they have to pull off just about anything.

    I frequently encounter women like that in real life, not to that extreme though. One of my workers wears gaudy jewelry and bright / bold colors that individually I kind of dig, but together feels overwhelming for me. Point is, it works for them!

  2. I definitely agree with the rule on confidence. Love the post!



  3. katy perry looks way better

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