When did the rules change? My mother asked me this as she carefully pulled out her handbag that matched her shoes that matched her watchband that matched her leather gloves. She smirked as she saw me grab my turquoise handbag and slip into my red boots. “Haven’t you heard? There are no fashion rules anymore,” I said to her. She just laughed.
Yes, the style rules have changed over the years, and as my mother would admit with many reservations: “It does seem like anything goes these days.” As our mothers watch in amusement, many of them are just like us .. still trying to figure out what looks best on them in a world where good taste often seems like it has vanished along with the style icons of yore: Audrey Hepburn and company. My mom and I also love Coco Chanel — the French designer whose name lives on today as a fashion legend. We both agree with her when she said: “A girl should be two things: classy and fabulous.”
But if your interested in what the new generation of fashionistas are proclaiming, here are a few “new” rules:
• No, everything does not have to match. There was a time when I remember my mom and my grandmother would never leave the house without their matching shoes, handbags, gloves AND hats. Now, individuality reigns and eclectic accessories that do anything but match are the new way to go.
• One size does not fit all. Buyer beware when you see this tag, unless of course it’s a fabulous scarf, a pair of diamond earrings or a sterling silver flower pin.
• Black is always in style. My mom may like Coco Chanel and her black and white classics, but she always believed that “black attracts everything but men and money.” So when she sees me having yet another black attack, she always thinks I’m once again teetering on the dark side. My daughter’s “Goth” period was enough to do her in. And then when my cousin’s bridesmaids wore black dresses in her wedding .. well, that did put her over the fashion cliff.
• White is always right. Another color conundrum for the fashion challenged. When I was growing up, one rule you never broke was not wearing white until after Memorial Day. Then you put up your white cotton pinafores and white patent shoes when Labor Day rolled around and your new fall school clothes took their place. Now, I have a white coat I wear in the bleakest of winter, but I still hesitate to wear white jeans year-round like some of my friends.
• Clashing is cool. Mix your paisleys and your checks, your purples and your pinks. This rule is another one that I seem to side with my Mom on — mixing patterns and prints and colors that clash is one way to get some fashion forward looks into an otherwise boring wardrobe full of basics, but it does take some savvy expertise to pull it off.
• Whatever you do, don’t wear those “Mom” jeans. By now, you and your Mom (and President Obama) should know this rule. But let’s face it, jeans have become a go-to uniform for many of us, even dressed up for the office .. something my Mom would never have done. Her rolled-up jeans and saddle shoes were reserved for sock hops only.
• Forget pantyhose, unless your office dress code requires it or you’re bowing in the presence of the queen herself. Otherwise, keep your feet buffed, your toes polished and your legs moisturized. If they’re not your best asset, wear pants, not pantyhose.
• Let your undies show .. well, sorta kinda. That lacy camisole that peeks out from under your jacket is just fine, as long as you don’t bare too much skin. If you can hear echoes of your Mom’s voice saying, “You are not leaving the house looking like that!” then you might need to head back to the closet.
• So, even though the way we dress may have changed since the days of Audrey and Coco, we can all still follow one of Chanel’s enduring quotes: “The most courageous act is still to think for yourself. Aloud.” And dress for yourself, too!.