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 Eater covered the topic, chronicling experiences by black patrons and detailing the history behind these outdated practices.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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ILP
ILP
1 month ago

Fashion rules and dress codes are very different. Fashion rules have more to do with style and appropriateness for occasion, weather and place you are attending. Dress codes are rules set by an institution (school, work place, restaurant). Sometimes dress codes are used to set a level of formality but often they are about control (usually of women who are made to feel responsible for men’s lack of self control)

J B
J B
1 month ago
Reply to  ILP

I think the article explained it perfectly fine not sure why you felt the need to clarify.

ILP
ILP
1 month ago
Reply to  J B

I’m not sure why you felt the need to make your comment. I added my own thoughts and this IS a discussion section.

PeggySue
PeggySue
1 month ago

Dress codes don’t seem to be as important as they once were. People dress casually while attending church, theatre, weddings, dinners in nice restaurants, etc. Idk, I miss seeing formal dressing during formal occasions.

In the 50’s women (my Mom included) wore heels, a dress and pearls/necklace and earrings to greet their husband when they came home from a hard day at the office. (Too bad times have changed…I’m kidding! 😂).

Rose
Rose
1 month ago
Reply to  PeggySue

Objectively, the 1950s was one of the most socially and culturally oppressive period in American history for anyone who wasn’t a straight white Christian man. Let’s not idealize its pearls and heels.

PeggySue
PeggySue
1 month ago
Reply to  Rose

Do you know what “I’m kidding” means? I wasn’t “idealizing its pearls and heels”. I was reflecting back to a time when times/fashion and people were different. Don’t politicize everything and make assumptions about me that don’t exist. Ok?

GG paris
GG paris
1 month ago
Reply to  Rose

Oh lord we can still look at the positives and admire the fashions of different eras, even when said era displays obvious social wrongs. I really don’t think the op is idealising its pearls and heels. However they are perfectly entitled to admire certain fashion elements from the 1950s if they wish whilst also acknowledging this was an era with its faults.

psny15
psny15
1 month ago
Reply to  GG paris

I agree with you but of course we have individuals who focus on negativity and point the flaws in every comment

PeggySue
PeggySue
1 month ago
Reply to  psny15

Well said! It’s becoming difficult to express an opinion for concern that what is said will inevitably, but unknowingly or unintentionally offend someone, somewhere.

psny15
psny15
1 month ago
Reply to  PeggySue

❤️

GG paris
GG paris
1 month ago
Reply to  psny15

Exactly. It really is ridiculous though. I find it so strange when people analyse a time period decades ago through the lens of 2022… the first thing you’re taught not to do if you’re an academic in any field. I mean, can we please just admire fashion sometimes lol.

psny15
psny15
1 month ago
Reply to  GG paris

There are people on PB who want to make everything racist, sexist etc.

psny15
psny15
1 month ago

I didn’t know there were any fashion rules but of there are dress codes one must follow of one wants to visit an institution that enforces them. I quite like them and always feel we really need more of them similar to Europe!

Last edited 1 month ago by psny15
Coki
Coki
1 month ago
Reply to  psny15

Would love you to elaborate on this… As I mentioned I appreciate my experience having to wear uniforms (grade school and currently for work) but I absolutely love the Freedom I have to wear, and “customize” via being able to add things that show more of my own personality as well. After all,
humans are not androids and I certainly hope to we don’t end up like them when I’m old, grey and gone!

KHP
KHP
1 month ago

I will just say this: fashion rules may be let go, but there is still such a thing as etiquette and appropriate dress. And no, I am no grandma, I’m a millennial in fact.
The thing is, the first rule of any form of etiquette is not to point out any ‘mistakes’. This causes people to think they ‘got away’ with something, but it will have consequences. Personally, I like some formality, but more importantly, I have seen it work magic for people.
Having said that, most of these rules are silly and should be broken. And blatantly so. But do it with style and occasion. And knowledge of the rules you’re breaking! Not just as a woman by the way. The same goes for men.

Last edited 1 month ago by KHP
Coki
Coki
1 month ago

As the saying goes “Some rules were meant to be broken!” I wholeheartedly agree when it comes to Fashion and despite having grown up (and quite frankly- enjoy) having to wear uniforms for many phases of my life, I think that’s why I appreciate accessories like purses that much more! Also, I absolutely cannot wait to visit Tokyo, Japan to witness ‘harajuku’ [street wear] and showcase my own ensembles! I wish we did this more in USA, but perhaps
I really ought to start, I tend to be extremely casual or solely boho w/some vintage touches but I’d really love to show even more personality with my wardrobe! Why the heck not?!

Jaime
Jaime
1 month ago

Post Covid – Life now dictates fashion. We have access to looks from around the world now instantly. I love this time in our lives where we can truly dress to our personal taste. People/Businesses can maintain their personal dress codes but fashion is now personal.

Gayle
Gayle
1 month ago

Growing up my mom always taught me to match my shoes and bags if i have clothing that match with my bags or shoes then go wear it together. I always like to tell her now that color blocking is in. And you can mix different prints together or go for a complimentary color.

Passerine
Passerine
1 month ago

I’m surprised that an article on fashion rules didn’t mention Beau Brummell who was “the decider” for fashion in the Regency period and still has influence today. They even made a movie about him. https://www.esquire.com/style/mens-fashion/a26870204/beau-brummell-style-toxic-masculinity/

Eos
Eos
1 month ago
Reply to  Passerine

I follow you on that. In general the article is not (in my opinion) thoroughly researched nor documented. More could have been done on such a broad topic.

Sandy
Sandy
1 month ago

While I agree that certain occasions may dictate what you wear to some degree I think dressing restrictions are changing. I notice people attending formal weddings in jeans and a t-shirt, I kind of love it! Wear what you love, what feels like you, what makes you comfortable.

Fabuleux
Fabuleux
1 month ago

I’m spending a few days in London and went to the “ Fashioning Masculinities: The Art of Menswear” exhibit at the V&A. The show answers many of the questions raised by this blog post. I highly recommend it for anyone who loves the social and political aspect of fashion.

Also… ABBA VOYAGE was amazing. 🤣

Admin
1 month ago
Reply to  Fabuleux

Fabuleux, any interest in writing for PurseBlog? Lmk. v@pb

PeggySue
PeggySue
1 month ago
Reply to  Vlad Dusil

I hope Fabuleux does write for PB! I love “her”(?) perspective and fashion experience! It’s very eclectic and interesting!

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