Do Fashion Rules Still Exist?

Where do they come from and should they still be 'enforced?'

One quick google search of ‘fashion rules’ yields an endless supply of results, covering the topic from every possible angle. I’m talking about what you should wear, WHERE, and when. White after labor day? Don’t even think about it. Sneakers for a night out? An absolute no. Print mixing? Don’t you dare.

Forget all that, though; I’m here to break it down for you; the only rule you need to know is that there are no rules anymore when it comes to fashion.

The Historical Origins of Fashion’s Rules

Fashion rules have been around for as long as mankind has been dressing, and while many fashion rules are inherently rooted in sexism (there was once a time women weren’t allowed to wear pants!), it’s not just women who have experienced these biases. Some of the earliest evidence of fashion rules dates back to a 1797 edition of the Times of London, in which a certain John Hetherington was arraigned for wearing a top hat that was said to have frightened a few timid folks.

And while some rules remain unspoken, formal dress codes have long existed for centuries, prohibiting specific garments from being worn in houses of worship, schools, workplaces, and more. As of 2014, 58.5 percent of U.S. public schools enforced a strict code of dress. Even not-so-formal places for socializing and fun have been known to follow certain dress codes like nightclubs and restaurants.

But, in 2022, there is little tolerance for these antiquated rules, and it would be remiss to talk about fashion rules without discussing those rooted not only in sexism but often racism as well. The 2020 social justice movement highlighted in detail the enforcement of racist policies hidden behind the guise of a dress code. Eater covered the topic, chronicling experiences by black patrons and detailing the history behind these outdated practices.

Dress codes obviously targeting Black customers date back to the 1970s, when business owners sought ways to ban Black customers that didn’t exactly classify as segregation. The report discussed how, amidst the worldwide raging pandemic and nationwide protests fighting anti-Black racism, the hospitality industry faced a unique chance to change how things have been done historically.

Rules Are Meant to Be Broken

Many of fashion’s unspoken rules are derived from the formalities of dress codes, and many of us have been taught these must-avoid fashion faux-pas by our mothers and grandmothers. They are as antiquated as the codes they were derived from (raise your hands if you remember a relative convincing you that you needed to wear heels to be properly formal). But, as we move away from gender norms and dress codes, we should also move beyond the need to feel confined by fashion rules, unspoken or otherwise.

It’s all about feeling happy and confident, which means wearing what we want when we want. In 2022, really anything goes, even if it means breaking a few “rules” along the way.


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