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The M Dash

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5 Outdated Style Rules You Should Stop Following Now

It’s time to banish ideas about what you “can” and “can’t” pull off.

By Madeleine Kim

I’ll never forget the moment when I learned that fashion had “rules.” I was 11 or 12, and my friend told me something she’d learned from her older sister. She said, “Black and navy should never be seen, except in the washing machine.” While admittedly I probably only remember this because of how catchy it sounded, I’ve since learned hundreds of style rules, both explicit and unspoken, that dictate the way I think about clothes.

And then 2020 came along, and every rule about how we work, clean, date, eat, interact, and dress went out the window. It turns out that when no one is around to see my outfit, it’s easier to banish ideas about what I think I “can” or “can’t” pull off—which is very liberating and fun. I wanted to know if my colleagues had the same experience, so I asked a few of them if there were any style rules they planned to leave behind in the new year.

Nyjerah, Brand Stylist

Don’t Wear White After Labor Day

“My mom made me aware of this style rule when I was younger, and I didn’t quite understand it,” says our Brand Stylist, Nyjerah. “My younger self always thought: Technically, isn’t every day after Labor Day? So you can only wear white on Labor Day? As a kid, this rule put me in a box that I was in no rush to be put into.”

While most of us wouldn’t hesitate to wear an ivory blouse or sweater through fall and beyond, going for an all-white ensemble—like the Mejia pants, Bennett blazer, and Leslie tee—can feel a little more daunting. Luckily, Nyjerah says it’s A-okay. “I don’t like rules when it comes to style,” she explains. “Your style is your perspective, and no one should put a rule on that except YOU. White is a timeless color staple that can be worn all year round.” For this striking outfit, Nyjerah introduced a bit of texture and contrast by adding the Rowan flats in snakeskin and the Claressa hoops in gold.

Shelby, Senior Product Development Manager

Remove an Accessory Before You Leave the House

Coco Chanel’s famous quote goes, “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror, and take one thing off.” We can appreciate a minimalist approach to dressing, but after this year of living in loungewear, going all in on bright colors, sparkly layers, and jewelry sounds like a lot more fun.

M.M.’s Senior Product Development Manager, Shelby, agrees. “I first learned about this style rule while watching shows like What Not to Wear when I was growing up,” she says. “I’ve left it behind because I like to add extra oomph to an outfit with my necklace layers and bracelet stacks. Each one has a story and feels very personal. Also, I like some sparkle—whether it’s on my jardigan or in my champagne glass.” Cheers to that.

Jordan, Experience Operations Analyst

Petites Can’t Wear Oversized Pieces

Some style rules aren’t explicit but are self-imposed. This was the case for Experience Operations Analyst, Jordan, who is 5’3”. “In the past, when I tried on dresses or jackets that belonged to my more vertically gifted friends, I felt that their silhouettes overwhelmed my smaller frame and didn’t show off my body shape,” she says.

“I’m leaving this style rule behind, because 2020 has been the year of shaking things up—in life and in fashion. So many style icons I follow are pushing boundaries by diversifying the length and volume of pieces in their ensembles (for work and play!). It’s been fun to experiment with this idea using pieces I never thought I could pull off. Oversized blazers, like the O’Hara, deliver that cool, lived-in boyfriend fit that adds texture and unexpected edge to an outfit. I like pairing this piece with tighter-fitting bottoms, like the Foster or Curie pants, or with a simple shift dress, like the Maaza. The oversized look up top is balanced out by something more form-fitting on bottom. What I’ve really come to understand is that ‘style rules’ (or any rules, for that matter) should be taken with a grain of salt. I’m opting into wearing what makes me feel comfortable, confident, and fearless.”

Lauren, Art Director

Tall Women Can’t Wear Cropped Styles

Our Art Director, Lauren, who is 5’8”, spent most of her life believing that she was too tall to wear cropped styles. “This rule was actually self-taught in the dressing room,” she says. “Cropped things always seemed a little too cropped on my frame. As someone with longer legs, I often found that full-length pants were really ankle length, and cropped pants might as well be shorts. As a result, I typically stayed away from anything labeled ‘cropped,’ assuming it just wouldn’t work for me; it would be too short, and I wouldn’t be comfortable in it.”

“Time (most of it being spent on-set with our genius stylist, Nyjerah) has taught me that cropped, in general, is not something to be afraid of! It’s all about embracing your shape and playing with proportions. I have a shorter torso, so wearing something cropped up top, like the Neale jacket, makes my legs look even longer—and quite frankly, who doesn’t want that? In 2021, I’m leaving my ‘no cropped’ rule behind, experimenting with proportion, and celebrating the things I love about my body instead of dwelling on the things I want to hide.”

Maddie, Brand Manager

Don’t Mix Warm and Cool Colors

I don’t know where exactly I learned this rule, but I’ve followed it for as long as I can remember. Since I’ve been dressing myself, I’ve been mentally separating my closet into warm and cool colors and limiting my outfit pairings to those categories. (One exception: I’ve always loved mixing gold and silver jewelry.)

I’ve broken more than a few style rules while working from home, and most of them haven’t exactly been…um…sartorially enlightening. But one thing I have discovered is that mixing warm and cool colors is actually pretty chic. I did it for the first time on a Saturday, and it only happened because, frankly, I didn’t care about my outfit—I just wanted to be comfy. I pulled on my Wesley loungers in cool charcoal and my McKenzie sweater in deep flax and prepared to go about my day. But first, I looked in the mirror and discovered that damn, I looked good. Pairing warm and cool colors is sophisticated and unexpected, and it gives you more freedom to mix, match, and have fun with the pieces in your closet. I’m leaving my strict color-palette rules in 2020, hopeful for a brighter 2021.

Written By

Madeleine Kim

Madeleine Kim is the Senior Brand Manager at M.M.LaFleur, where she started out as a stylist. She loves developing styling-focused content and creating newsletters that bring the M.M. community together.

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