Who Writes the Fashion Rules? Better Yet, Why Do We Care?

Rules? What rules? If it makes you feel great, wear it.

Posted Mar 01, 2021 | Reviewed by Lybi Ma

Carrie Knowles
Lily says: There are no rules about what to wear.
Source: Carrie Knowles

I first got schooled regarding fashion when I was in second grade. On that fateful morning, I had chosen to wear a red plaid skirt paired with my favorite bright pink sweater.

At the ripe old age of 6, I was not only allowed to dress myself but could walk the two blocks to school on my own. When I crossed the street to the second block, a third-grader, who was an only child and had both a fine wardrobe and a divine sense of her personal fashion acumen, bounced down her front steps in her polished black and white saddle oxfords, hands on hips, to tell me, with certainty and righteousness in her voice, that one should never wear pink and red together.

She was wearing a gray flannel circular poodle skirt and a white blouse topped with a creamy white pearl button cardigan.

Funny what memories get stuck in your head.

I remember that skirt because I wanted one. Wanted, but never got one. They were the height of elementary school fashion that year and way beyond what my mother thought we should spend money on. I was also pretty keen on owning a cardigan sweater with pearl buttons. Never got one of those either.

My mother didn’t believe in fashion or fads or spending a lot of money on clothes. She believed in things that could be laundered in the washing machine. She didn’t go for fancy flannel this or that, satin, silk, lace, or heaven forbid, velvet. She liked simple things like cotton, the sale rack at the local department store, and serviceable clothing that could be worn to school as well as church on Sundays. She also liked skirts and dresses that had deep hems she could let down midway through the year so they would last from the first day of school to summer vacation.

Practical was her clothing mantra. 

What I most remember about that red plaid/pink sweater morning was the shame I felt that I didn’t know the rules about what one should or should not wear. I was also startled to discover that, in fact, there were rules about what one should or should not wear.

Next came the hardcore shocking discovery that one shouldn’t wear a white dress until Easter and never after Labor Day.

The no white until Easter kept my head spinning for years. I had no idea colors were so socially and religiously charged.

Things were sailing along fine in my limited knowledge of fashion rules until folks in college began talking about being an “autumn” or “summer” and what the various “seasons” should wear to look their best.

No matter how many Cosmopolitan beauty quizzes I took during this new fashion twist, I never could figure out my season. The only thing I knew for sure was that I was Scotch-Irish, sunburned easily, and should probably always wear a hat or at least sunscreen.

Then along came Lily.

Lily is our granddaughter. She is going on 5.

That’s her in the picture.

Lily has dressed herself since she could walk. She is fierce in her determination and fashion choices.

On this particular day of getting dressed, our daughter made the mistake of suggesting that perhaps Lily had not made good choices and might want to tone it down a tick or two.

Lily’s retort: “There are no rules about what to wear.”

She inspires me.

I dress up more since Lily has arrived in my life. I’m also bolder in my choices.

Just yesterday, in a moment of feeling rather shopworn and February dreary, I reached deep into my closet, found my white jeans, paired them with a royal blue velvet top (that some might think should only be worn to a New Year’s Eve party) added a favorite silk scarf and went to work.

No rules. I like that.

Thanks, Lily.