Can’t Wear That

cannot wear stripes

I may weigh in on style rules around here, but I can’t say I’m terribly fond of them. Understanding them, knowing why they exist and how they work, and applying them occasionally as guidelines works just fine. But crafting every outfit around them? I’ll pass.

Especially since so many style rules are straight-up bullshit. Here are few of my infuriating faves:

  • Fat girls can’t wear skinny jeans
  • Skinny girls can’t wear chunky jewelry
  • Short girls can’t wear long skirts
  • Tall girls can’t wear platforms
  • Curvy girls can’t wear stripes
  • Boyishly-figured girls can’t wear pencil skirts
  • Busty girls can’t wear turtlenecks
  • Flat girls can’t wear bikinis

What a load.

As if a busty gal would BURST INTO FLAMES should she pull on a turtleneck. As if a short gal will sear the eyes of onlookers should she dare wear a maxi dress. As if there is one, and only one, choice for dressing and it is to create the tallest, skinniest, yet simultaneously most hourglass-y figure possible. At any cost. Including comfort, personal preference, and seasonal appropriateness. Makes me livid.

Now I’ve already mentioned that it infuriates me when people say, “Oh, she shouldn’t wear that.” That kind of wholesale, scathing judgment is just plain unproductive. But it exasperates me one a whole different level when I hear women tell me that they themselves simply “can’t” wear a style or garment. Because no matter the woman and no matter the garment, that statement is never, ever true. There is always a way. It may not create the most socially-sanctioned figure and you may not want to do it daily. In fact, you may not want to do it at all! Or you may want to find ways to balance out whatever supposedly-negative thing a taboo-to-you garment does to your proportions. But so long as it fits you and you love it, wearing any garment you wish is always, always possible. And to hear women say that they CANNOT wear particular items of clothing sends me into conniptions.

Certain garments will alter how your figure looks to the observing eye, and it is valuable to understand how your clothing will affect your unique proportions. But style is choice. Every outfit is yours to craft. Don’t ever let anyone tell you that your body shape, size, or configuration makes it impossible for you to wear anything.

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Originally posted 2011-04-06 06:08:18.

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104 Responses to “Can’t Wear That”

  1. Samantha

    As I never really think of what I fit into with regards to those categories, I never think I can’t wear things! It’s always stupid when people are told they can’t wear things because of their shape. I think that wearing clothes that fits and flatters you should be the most important thing, and if not then screw it and wear what you love!

  2. Miriana

    I’m tall (over 6 foot) and wear heels – I’m taller than most people in socks, so I might as well be even taller (but wont wear long skirts ‘cos I just don’t like ’em). I’m curvy and adore stripes. I’m busty, and currently don’t wear turtlenecks, but now you’ve mentioned it, I’m liking the idea.

    • Gracey at Fashion for Giants

      I’m with you Miriana – at six foot tall and curvy, I also wear when I want when I want to wear it. I wear turtlenecks, stripes (lots of stripes of all different widths), and high heels. And I’m glad I’m not the only one!

  3. Kate

    Thankyou! I used to work at Old Navy, and people in the fitting room would always ask me, “can I pull this off?” My response was usually, “Sure! You pull it off by putting it on, and being confident. If it’s not looking quite right, try it with a belt, or with a different color tank, or with a blazer, etc.”
    But I guess I haven’t been practicing what I preach. Because I myself do not buy horizontal stripes anymore. I’ve been ruined by “What Not to Wear.” I’m convinced that for me, a size XL, horizontal stripes just make me look like a wide load. But it ticks me off… because they’re so freaking trendy right now, and I love the way they look on some of my smaller friends. Do you have any tips on how to wear horizontal stripes so that they don’t make you look huge?
    PS I’m new to your blog in the past month, and I love it. Your style is so unique and fun, and I love your tips! Keep at it.

    • Tab

      You know know I was in your same situation until I recently said screw it, if all my friends whose style I adore look good in stripes I can too! I picked up a striped top, much like the one in the picture off the Old Navy clearance rack. The difference is, on my shirt the red stripes are a bit smaller and there’s fewer of them and that helped. That shirt with skinny jeans (watch out Stacy and Clinton cause my size 12 behind looks good in skinnies!), gladiator sandals and a straw fedora (I also thought I couldn’t do hats) got me so many compliments it made my night!

      Also, when I was a bit larger I had a shirt with big, dark colored stripes. One of the stripes went straight accross the smallest part of me like a belt would have done. The shirt fit perfect. Those are the types of stripes that work for me, oh and tiny ones that are so similar in color they look like a solid from far away. Maybe those will work for you too, but of course we’re all different. I think the best “rule” to follow though is make sure your clothes fit perfectly and you feel confident. People will notice confidence radiating from you first!

  4. Cat

    YES! This is why I love you, Sal. As I said on Twitter the other day, there are no rules, just effects you may or may not like.

  5. Jen

    Here is a list of all the reasons I should have burst into flames:

    I’m curvy and wear skinny jeans
    I’m short and wear long skirts
    I’m curvy and wear stripes
    I’m super-busty and LOVE wearing turtlenecks

    Good thing I carry a fire-extinguisher at all times in my purse.

    That said, I wear what makes me feel pretty, sexy, and stylish. My short (4’10”), curvy grandmother wore everything the world said not to-clingy fabrics, turtlenecks, tall red boots (it was the 80’s and she was smokin!), crop tops, capris…and worked it. I learned from her that it wasn’t the outfit that made the woman, but the sass in the woman that made the outfit. Does that mean I buy everything I see that I like? No! But if I try something on and I love it, it is mine. Don’t care what the “rules” tell me.

  6. FutureLint

    I threw the rules out the window and rocked a horizontal striped turtleneck on my size D boobs exactly once… but spent the whole day thinking about my boobs so I decided that while I CAN, I probably WON’T again… on the other hand I’m just under 5’3″ and think I look fabulous in maxi dresses and skirts!

  7. Vildy

    Thanks for writing this. I am exasperated when looking “good” or “better” so often seems to decode as taller, thinner and/or younger.

  8. Erin

    EXACTLY! I’m very plus size and my own loving mother told me the other day not to buy a (horizontal) striped shirt because of these fashion rules. I just told her that I defied her fashion rules, making my mama roll her eyes at me again. What? Are the stripes going to make my CHEST look bigger? Seriously, people LOVE my awesomely big chest!

    • Jen

      Erin-so glad there are other women out there like me! I mean, people have surgery to get what I came by honestly!! Why should I hide it under bulky layers and solids? Not that I walk around my office in low-cut blouses and tight shirts. But seriously, no sripes and no turtlenecks? Please.

  9. Tricia

    It’s the age rules that rankle at me. I spent my late 20s-early 30s pregnant and/or nursing, and now I’m getting into clothes again. I like funky styles, crazy tights, vintage, etc., and I hate feeling like I’m “too old” to wear them. (I wear them anyway.)

  10. Loren

    For styles I agree. I’m short but I’ve yet to attempt to wear a maxi-dress. Although I do have some cute floor length skirts. But what about colors?
    There are certain shades of green that I ‘can’t wear’ because kind of make me look ill. I guess maybe one day looking sickly might be hip. But I’m not sure it will ever suit me. Is there a way to pull off colors that don’t complement your complexion?

    • Laura

      Sneaking in extra layers. I just bought an adorable stripy shirt that’s gray and yellow, but yellow doesn’t work so well with my super pale complexion, so I wear the shirt layered over a shirt that DOES compliment my skin tone. I still get the burst of color, but don’t have it right next to my face, which is usually where all the ‘problems’ with color end up focused.

      Or accessories. I look best in earth tones and jewel tones, but I REALLY wanted something orange. I’m artsy and felt like I was insulting orange by not owning any. So I snagged a funky necklace made out of dried orange rinds and beads, and because it’s small (compared to an all orange shirt, for instance), it doesn’t overwhelm in terms of color.

  11. amber

    Now that’s refreshing! Thanks for this. Personally, I love long skirts, but like the commenter above, I’ve been ruined by What Not To Wear. At 5’4, I just assumed they were “wrong” for me.

  12. two birds

    i did once burst into flames because i wore a turtleneck. true story ; ) i wholeheartedly agree with what you say! while i know what looks best on me, i certainly will never follow any “rules” if i like something that people tell me i cannot wear!

  13. anonymous

    It all depends on what you YOU think looks good or bad. I don’t have a problem saying “I don’t do turtlenecks” because I really don’t like the way I look in them (if they are chunky sweater-type turtlenecks)… I feel as if I am wearing a sandwich board exclaiming “I have big boobs!” But I do do stripes even though stripes are supposedly on the naughty list.

  14. Annie

    You’re so right and the very existence of ‘rules’ can be such a difficult mental barrier to break! I’m curvy with a small waist and everywhere I go I’m told I should be using belts to emphasise my waist. That’s a sure-fire bundle-of-laundry look for me! Getting out of the ‘rules’ mindset is the biggest challenge I face when I’m clothes shopping.

  15. Rudyinparis

    Oh, yeah! I’m short and it drives me crazy that just about all fashion advice for short people seems to revolve around hiding that–so: no flats, no long skirts, no capris. What’s so wrong with being short?! I like it, I think it’s cute–so there! {Thumbs nose and does a ridiculous little dance}

  16. Katharine

    I think it’s worth knowing YOUR OWN rules and guidelines, but they may not match the general ones. I’m short and round, and I wear: maxi skirts, full trousers, horizontal stripes, jeggings — and probably a host of other things I’m not “supposed” to wear.

    On the other hand, I know that pure white is always going to make me look as though I rose from the grave, and even with scarves and tweaking, I’m not going to feel my happiest in it. Turtlenecks are always going to make me look weird — I’m not busty, exactly, but I have huge shoulders, so a turtleneck makes me appear hunched and neckless with a tiny head.

    So — don’t listen to what anyone ELSE tells you you should wear. But if you try variations on the same thing several times, and always find they’re never quite quite, maybe you shouldn’t keep buying them, even if you DO keep seeing other people looking awesome in them. (Like me with blazer variations. They don’t suit my personality and make me look bulky, but I keep on trying to achieve Casual Cool Blazer, which women twenty pounds lighter and four inches taller inhabit with effortless ease.)

  17. Roisin

    Rules bug me silly, and not just the rules about what supposedly looks good on certain body types – I was fuming when reading a fashion magazine yesterday that had an article in it about how big handbags are the new small handbags, and it had a line in it to the effect of ‘I know that for months you’ve all religiously been carrying small bags like all the really fashionable people do, but now they’re carrying big bags so it’s time to change up’ – I mean, I know it’s what these magazines are about so I shouldn’t let it get to me, but it made me so cross. I’ll carry whatever bag I damn well please and I don’t CARE what Alexa Bloody Chung might be doing.

    I feel the same way about so-called style rules. I’m short, and I wear maxi dresses. I wear whatever colour I feel like wearing and I really believe that there’s no colour you can’t wear. So, yes, well said!

    • Tab

      Wait, so you’re telling me that the big shoulder bags I was carrying all last year was out of style? And so was the little one I adored at Fossil yesterday? Darn *snaps fingers* lol

  18. Casey

    I have to agree with what some of the other commenters pointed out about WNtW ruining a lot of women’s ideas about what is “flattering” or not (which usually translates into “thinner” and “hourglass”–such a narrow definition of a woman’s figure!). I, myself, tend to like to break style rules–as long as I feel like what I am wearing flatters my own sense of my figure and personality. I wear maxi skirts with glee, even though proportionately I have short legs and they should be a no-no (that being said, 99% of the time I pair them with 4″ or 5″ platforms; I like feeling like I’m towering over everyone! hehe!). Even though I have a smaller bust than a lot of women, I like wearing things that require I go braless, even though this makes me look even flatter. Girls with small busts are only supposed to wear padded push-up bras, right? (Something I HATE and LOATHE! Every time I’ve tried to get fitted for a bra, they want to make me look bigger/perkier. I actually like my size, thankyouverymuch!) Oh, and I also love shoes with ankle straps, which technically I shouldn’t wear because I have muscular calves. hehe.

    *sigh* Fashion “rules” annoy me so much sometimes. My mom and I were discussing this, and while I think there is something to be said for appropriateness and comfort in your own look, it’s such a narrow mindset. My mom is in her mid 50s and is struggling because there is a certain “look” that most women her age are supposed to gravitate towards (think places like Chicos). While she likes some elements, she still rocks a lot of the looks that she did back in the 80s when she was my age–and looks mighty good doing it! πŸ™‚ Even wearing things that women her age aren’t “allowed” to. I tell her that it’s whatever she likes and makes her feel good! After all: isn’t fashion about fun and expressing yourself? I’d hate the day that someone told me to pack up my favorite pieces just because they weren’t 100% flattering!

    β™₯ Casey

    • Elizabeth

      My husband calls What Not to Wear – “You’d look better in a jacket.”

  19. Kat

    I am not skinny, and I wear leggings. Sometimes even as pants. I have yet to receive a citation from any actual fashion police. Also, I think turtlenecks look perfectly fine over my big boobs. (I’m more concerned with whether they stumpify my neck.) And I sometimes dress much “older” or “younger” than I am (old people can’t wear miniskirts! young people can’t wear Chico’s tunics!). So basically, to heck with the “rules”.

  20. Frumptastic

    I am quite sure I break “fashion rules” all the time just because I am so oblivious. But the “do not wear horizontal stripes, big girl” sticks out in my mind from long again. What do I say to the naysayers? Suck it. Thanks again, Sally for being so right on.

  21. Ashe Mischief

    It’d be really fun if people DID burst in to flame for wearing something they shouldn’t. Like fashion vampires!

  22. Corinna

    I agree with Casey, I’m only 5’1″ but a maxi dress is very flattering with platform heels. I also made a pair of very wide leg pants and even though it is supposed to be against the rules, I think they actually make me look taller! I do struggle with how to dress, I am 45 years old and really love vintage styles but am afraid they would look frumpy so I don’t wear them πŸ™

    • Eliza

      Aurgh! I can’t believe I’m about to post a “rule” here. Corinna, if you’re worried about looking dated in vintage, my rule of thumb is that any time period up to a decade before you were born is absolutely worry-free. People looking at a twenty year old dressed in 70’s style, a 50 year old dressed in late 40s style, or even a 70 year old in a flapper-style dress aren’t going to think you just pulled it out of the back of your closet. Everyone looking at you knows what you are wearing is undoubtably a considered style choice, rather than a trip down memory lane. Plus, you’re more likely to interpret the vintage pieces in a modern way, if you didn’t experiance those looks the first time they were around. I’m not saying that you can’t pull from later decades, but I think in some ways it’s easier to gain confidence in wearing vintage-inspired outfits by picking earlier time periods initially.

      • Sal

        Eliza, I think this is great and valuable advice! Really good rules of thumb for vintage dressing, and very well put.

        I’m definitely not saying that style rules are completely useless awful garbage at all times and under all circumstances. Just that they should be pushed and tested and bent, especially when doing so makes us feel confident and happy. And that NONE of us should feel oppressed by them, or like certain garments are just plain off limits because some expert has deemed them so.

        Be aware of the “rules,” consider how they apply to you (if at all), and THEN make your dressing decisions.

        • JennyDC

          Wah! I was born in the late 1960s and would love to emulate both the Mad Men look and a bit of the 70s (I just found that slightly higher waisted flared pants look really awesome on me, as do the slightly high waisted shift dresses of the early 60s). Am I too old? Or are you talking true vintage rather than new styles that reference vintage?

          Sadly, I have no patience for looking for actual vintage. Oh well, more for those of you who do!

          • Sal

            Don’t cry! Just guidelines! And hopefully Eliza can weigh in here, too, but I think we’re talking actual vintage garments as opposed to vintage-inspired. And distinctly vintage-looking ones at that. Cuts and styles that reference previous eras of design – high waists, wide legs, flared skirts, etc. – in my opinion, are all about personal figure flattery priorities and personal style.

            Also traditional ideas about age-appropriate dressing don’t sit well with me. More on that here:

          • WendyB

            I was born in the late ’60s too and I wear a lot of vintage. You don’t need patience anymore. You just need eBay.

      • Tab

        Unless you’re in your early 20s, because apparently the 80s and 90s are back in style and I quite frankly don’t feel old enough to see people running around in stirrup pants again!

  23. Nicole

    THANK YOU for writing this. I have a very love/hate relationship with fashion advice about how to flatter your body. On the one had, I’ve found it very empowering to figure out what kinds of shapes and fits in RTW clothes are likely to work for me and which one are just not cut for my shape. I appreciate this knowledge because it saves me from feeling frustrated when I can’t find a pair of tall boots or a jacket that will do up. It’s also useful to know how to create that socially sanctioned silhouette for interviews or other work events.

    On the other hand, I find the idea that in order for a garment to “work for me” it needs to make me look taller and thinner to be really oppressive. When I was in Japan recently, I was really struck to see so many silhouettes that looked really unusual to me, especially things that North American style advice often tells you to avoid because it doesn’t “define a waist” (like loose tunics and blousy layers). There is more than one way to look, feel and be stylish!

    I’m wearing a horizontal stripe shirt today in honor of your post πŸ™‚

  24. Allison

    How refreshing! I am rather square-ish through the torso, and probably “should” belt. But I don’t care for belting, and so I rock the rectangle on most days and usually never define my waist.

  25. Rad

    Thank you for this reminder. Despite being thin, I refused to wear anything but super modest bathing suits until 24 because I have small breasts (and a long torso, so they appear to hang a bit low). Now, I wear skimpy bikinis and celebrate my body in its non-perfect, but fit, ways. I also wear flats with skinny jeans, which a “mentor” told me looked terrible because of my average length legs, but I like it anyway.

  26. preppywithatwist

    Amen! I had one very hard-to-please reader write similar comments on my blog for a short time. Of course I welcome constructive criticism since I don’t know everything and often people offer helpful styling suggestions, but her opinions erred more on the side of “Tim Gunn says you should never wear stripes or cropped pants.” Oops, I wore them both together and guess what? I felt great in them! To each her own!

  27. cora

    three cheers!
    i’m tall and skinny with a very few curves. i love wearing heels, chunky jewelry, and pencil skirts. pencil skirts are a particular love of mine because of the extra “oomph” they give my less than curvy figure. i also wear orange even though i’m a redhead, and dresses over pants all the dang time. and i get compliments for my style when i do so. when i wear what i’m “supposed to” instead of what i want, i feel awkward and uncomfortable. and i’m sure it shows.
    rules, schmules. wear what you love, and what makes you feel your best.

    • Eleanorjane

      Red heads can look *great* in organge, in my humble opinion! I think red heads get a pretty hard time with colour rules that aren’t really that simple. For example a rule like ‘No pink’ when dusty pink looks great. There are also a lot of different shades of red hair and skin tone so it does vary!

    • Gracey at Fashion for Giants

      I love that you wear dresses over pants “all the dang time” – I personally love that look and it cracks me up how big of a no-no it’s considered. I think with your height and build it probably looks smashing.

  28. LQ

    I could not agree more. I don’t usually post pure “rah rah” posts but yeah.

  29. Ravina

    I hadn’t realized it but I guess I do buy into some of the fashion ‘rules’! I saw a really cute horizontally striped maxi dress the other day and thought “oh, no, I can’t wear that!” I’m gonna go back today and try it on – if it works, awesome! If it doesn’t, at least I tested it out. =)

  30. RK

    I love that this post has a photo of a horizontal stripe shirt when I just blogged about overcoming my fear of Breton stripes! I also detest style rules that sound so authoritarian. The rules have kept me away from so many awesome things that I’m just discovering now – like wearing beige (because someone off-handedly mentioned that Asians shouldn’t wear beige, and I followed that rul too religiously as an insecure high school student). Thank you for the apt reminder, Sally.

  31. Maythe

    I particularly hate Short Women Must Wear Heels 4EVA cos heaven forbid anyone should notice I’m 5′. I wear work boots all week so my feet are never going to get very used to heels and while they’re fun for parties I’m never going to be able to wear them shopping. While I’m not keen on being regarded as ‘cute’ (although it can be fun disabusing people of the ‘sweet and innocent’ assumption) I’m perfectly happy being petite.

    I’m another one with small boobs too and also find it irritating when I can’t find unpadded bras in my size – I’m not averse to moulded cups but don’t like actual padding. I like my boobs! Why should I pretend they’re bigger than they are?

    • pope suburban

      I think that in some stores or styles of bra, no one can win. I’m a solid D, and every time I try to find something other than a basic bra designed to go under t-shirts, I end up wading through a sea of hellaciously padded bras. I don’t really want the “help,” thanks!

      • Frankincensy

        I’ve experienced this, too. Some bra manufacturers just seem to assume that *everyone* wants padding or push-up or plunge styles, when there are plenty of women at all points on the cup-size spectrum who don’t.

  32. cinnamonsticks

    Sal, thank you for this post and your blog. I’ve been reading for about 2 years now (wow, really? counts back… yeah, that seems right) and just wanted to drop you a quick note saying what an absolute inspiration you are to me. I’m happy that you keep our minds open to new possibilities and encourage us not to be judge and jury to others trying things different from our own defined norms.

    Anyways, thanks.

    • Sal

      Oh lady, thank YOU for being such a loyal reader! And for this lovely, lovely comment.

  33. A-C

    love you! This is a rant that is near and dear to my heart. Thanks for being so positive about everything. You rock!

  34. Marie

    As Nicole alluded to, I think “rules” can help people who are trying to figure out this whole fashion/style thing, and who might appreciate some guidance because they don’t have a clue where to start. I definitely think WNTW has stifled some of the participants’ personal style and creativity, but there are just as many others who got a huge boost of confidence afterwards because they didn’t realize they could feel so attractive. That said, I’m all for breaking the rules. I do! Style isn’t just about “looking attractive” in the way our society approves of.

    • Meg

      I read an article a fw days ago by the style editor at The Frisky who participated in “What Not to Wear” and found that it had a positive effect on her body dysmorphia ( The “rules” Stacey and Clinton use might be a bit restrictive, but I think Marie is right – the experience boosts self-confidence. And the more self-confident you are, the easier it gets to rock whatever looks you darn well please.

      I’m 5’4″ and today I’m wearing flats and a horizontally striped t-shirt dress. Yesterday I wore a maxi dress. My husband thinks they look great on me. πŸ™‚

      • Tab

        It is great how the makeover helped her body dysmorphia, and how a lot of women get a positive boost from it. With that said, I have seen a few women leave rather disheartened because despite how much they talk about keeping the MO’s personality in the clothes…they don’t. Jillian’s makeover was great though, I actually saw that episode, however, they let her keep her style only because of how petite she was. It was only because she was tiny that she was allowed to wear skinny jeans, and the high-waisted skirts, everyone else leaves in the same dress, or same trouser jean, belt, and blazer look.

  35. Terri

    AYMEN, Sal! I hate these kinds of “rules”!

    I used to work as a diner waitress. In the summertime, it was sweltering in the building, what with fryolaters, ovens, and grills on going gangbusters. My typilcal uniform during warm weather were sneakers, denim capris and tee shirts. A particularly mouthy co-worker told me “You really shouldn’t wear capris, you know. They make you look short.” I said, “Excuse me, but I am FOUR FOOT SEVEN INCHES. Nothing that I do except for leg lengthening surgery is going to make me look taller. Nothing! And I am not wearing platforms to wait tables. I’m fine with being short, and you should be too.”

  36. Stacy

    I tend to bend the rules a bit, too. I think if you wear what makes you feel good, then it’s a winner! I’m built a bit like a ruler, so not much indention in the hips to waist. I tried on a shirtdress that I didn’t think would work for me, but it didn’t look too bad (I’m a little busty so it didn’t fit on top…the search continues).

  37. Shannon

    I’m a busty gal who can’t wear turtlenecks, but it has nothing to do with my bustiness and everything to do with the fact that they make me feel like I’m being choked all day long. I’m all for personal rules and guidelines, especially if you revisit them every so often to make sure you want to keep sticking with them… but yeah, overall blanket style laws are so misguided. As a curvier girl, I was convinced for years that I could NOT wear any skirt shorter than knee length… in recent years, I’ve discovered that shorter skirt often look way better on me than the longer ones I used to wear, and I get to feel cute and flirty in them!

    • Sal

      Good point! Personal style rules can be very valuable, but should be revisited every so often.

    • Laura

      I’m 5’4″ and if I can spend an entire day without actually wearing shoes, I’m all kinds of happy. Why am I supposed to be making myself look taller when I’m so damned cute the size I actually am?

  38. candice

    I just bought a grey and blue horizontal stripe dress at Target. It is an a-line, knee-length dress with cap sleeves and a deep v-neck. I found it online and loved it for weeks before actually working up the courage to go into the store to try it on.

    It took me weeks because I was terrified that the dress–which is the opposite of every fashion rule I hold for myself–would bring out all of my insecurities; that instead of buying it because I LOVED it, I would simply shake my head after seeing the fit and return it to the rack, as I always do.

    Lately, though, I have tried to overcome some of my unhealthy frustration with my untoned upper arms, my DD bust and my large, muscular calves. So, as I stood in the dressing room, looking at myself in that dress, scrutinizing how the fit accentuated all of those old, familiar “problem” areas, I decided that it was time to show myself a little mercy. And I bought the dress.

    I don’t know if it is the most flattering piece in my closet, but I do know this: I will be wearing the heck out of that dress in the next few months, arms, legs and bust there for all to see, and anyone who doesn’t like the way I look can take a hike.

  39. The Waves

    Hear, hear! When I worked in clothing retail, you wouldn’t believe (actually, you probably will, since you know) how many women out there assume that they can’t wear certain things. The ones you listed are pretty common “can’ts”, but seriously, some women have the weirdest ideas about what they can or cannot wear. Grown women saying that they can’t wear pink (childish), sandals (ugly toes), polka-dots (just can’t), jeans (my mother-in-law would kill me), any skirts (what if it’s windy), you name it, all because either their mother once told them so, or they had read a style handbook in the 70s. Ugh!

  40. Audi

    There’s also an underhanded insult wrapped up in statements such as, “I could never wear what you’ve got on.” To me it implies that the person doesn’t really approve of or like what the other person is wearing, and they’re trying to disguise it by making what seems like a self deprecating remark. But the vibe I’ve sometimes gotten from statements like that is, “Well, YOU can wear it because you don’t care about being inappropriate, but I would never dare to wear such a thing.” And believe me, I’m not being overly sensitive, and I’m well aware of when I push the boundaries. I just don’t like it when people feel the need to make a comment, but then can’t say what it is they’re really thinking.

    • Elizabeth

      Sometimes. On the other hand, I love how silver jewelry looks on dark skinned people. I’m pale and it doesn’t pop the same way on me. A member of my choir who has beautiful dark brown skin wears gorgeous silver and mother of pearl jewelry that looks amazing on her in a way it wouldn’t on me.

  41. hexia

    “Redheads can’t wear pink. Or orange. Or red. Or anything that isn’t a Warm Earth Colour.” I stopped worrying about this when I realised it’s not what “goes with” your hair you need to worry about, but what goes with your skin tone. And you can only discover that by trying things on.

    Thanks for your blog, it’s really informed and full of useful advice. And funny!

  42. malevolent andrea

    Like others have said, as a short person I am perplexed by the idea that if I wear or don’t wear a certain garment, people will magically not notice I’m 5’2, and ticked off by the idea that I’m supposed to wish I wasn’t 5’2. Being short isn’t a “flaw” to disguise. I like being this height. The down side of not being able to reach stuff on the top shelf is offset by the upside of never having to grouse about the lack of leg space on public transportation πŸ˜‰

  43. Julia H.

    This is great- I especially love the part about “bursting into flames”..we make such a big deal about these kinds of things, when in reality they’re such minor “issues”!

  44. Jane

    I absolutely love how positive your blog is. Yours is probably the only blog I can think of (among those I read) that is consistently positive and non-judgey. You’ve completely changed how I think about style/fashion. I used to come away from fashion blogs/articles feeling vaguely unhappy with myself, but I think it took the contrast of reading your blog to realize that wasn’t a necessary part of fashion (and now I come away from those other blogs feeling angry, not ashamed or insecure). So thank you!

  45. Lindsay

    hilarious! i love the bursting into flames part.. i figure if you feel good in it.. go for it!! love your blog, so happy i found you!

  46. emily

    I am a large girl(getting smaller everyday thanks to my raw diet) and never bought stripes in the past thinking it would make me look bigger but guess what? They actually make me look 2 sizes smaller! I just bought a wonderful stripped long sweater and I love wearing it. There must be so many of the rules I have in my brain that need to be broken but without really thinking of them, I never know to break them. Thank you so much for putting these stupid rules out there so I can break them! Keep up the good work.

  47. Ashley

    I’m a big-busted woman who rocks turtlenecks. Especially striped turtlenecks.

    I like ignoring the rules.

  48. Emma at Daily Clothes Fix

    So many of these are plain wrong. As a short girl, maxi dresses give me a long silhouette which makes me look taller and thinner (i.e. socially sanctioned). So even if it is about creating the ideal silhouette they are still wrong. And it’s not just me, I see lots of shorter bloggers who look tall and slim in maxis.

    This makes me conclude that most rules are rubbish and you should wear what you like.

  49. Bekah

    You are so correct, and thank you for this post. As a big girl who loves my stripes and my skinny jeans, it was refreshing to read such positive thoughts.

    I love your blog! matters of merrymaking

  50. Jak

    I was told when I was younger and had started gaining weight that I should never wear horizontal stripes by my mother. So I never did. The thing is, I’ve always liked stripes and I would pick up a striped shirt and stare at it a bit wistfully but then put it down and buy the black shirt instead. I might just have to revisit this thing of mine.

    I heard the fat girls can’t wear skinny jeans thing from a friend. She was, in fact, stating how she didn’t think that fat girls should wear skinny jeans. After I told her that I planned on getting skinny jeans at some point because I love the fashion of wearing boots over them she suddenly changed to “well, some fat girls can”. It still somewhat angers me–don’t presume to tell anyone what they should wear as long as they’re appropriately covered.

    • pope suburban

      For what it’s worth, I love skinny jeans on fat girls! I don’t wear skinny jeans except with tall boots myself (I just don’t like them any other way on me; I think it looks silly) but every time I find myself compelled to revisit that personal guideline? It’s because I see a plus-sized girl rocking the hell out of skinny jeans. I suspect it’s because said girl has the gumption to ignore the rules and other people’s opinions in favor of wearing what she likes, but whatever the reason, I am totally sold on it. Go forth and wear the skinny jean!

      • Jak

        I love it as well. It widens their hips and pumps up their butt and, in general, makes them look like a voluptuous, hot lady.

        Their biggest point of contention is the large belly. Short of liposuction and/or extended exercise I’m never going to get rid of this stomach. I’m not going to restrict myself from awesome styles just because of this one problem πŸ™‚

    • Tab

      You know I had a boss at a Plato’s Closet once that told us we could no longer buy skinny jeans over a size 7/8 because they did not look good on anyone bigger. She not only had the nerve to say this, but also write it and tape it to the counter where customers could see it! We immediately marked it out because she was just plain wrong. Her own sister wore a size 13, and only wore skinnies and leggings and she was gorgeous! Soon after this beautiful woman confined in me that she wanted to be a size 3 which honestly was impossible. She was thin on top and just had wide hips, there was no fat on her. It really made me sad that she never realized how gorgeous she was and a lot of it probably had to do with her sister’s comments.

      So rock them if you got them! Also, you’re not fat. I hate when women call themselves or others fat. What your friend said was mean and probably came from body dissatisfaction of her own, you should of replied with “well it’s a good thing I’m not fat then isn’t it?”

  51. Linette

    Thank you, thank you, thank you!

    I think that what rule-mongers sometimes forget is that there are as many ideals of beauty as there are people. I really love that you are encouraging women to love their bodies as they are and accept themselves for who they are (flaws and strengths). It is so important in a world where we are bombarded with messages to be thinner, younger-looking, taller, etc…

    Thanks again. πŸ™‚

  52. Mary in FL

    I don’t pay any attention to the so-called rules. As a short person, I wear long skirts and flats almost every day.

  53. Tracey

    When I first started reading your post I was all ready to argue with you. But then I thought about a bit more. I like to dress with what complements my shape and my style best. And I feel that since I understand what works best for me, it gives me the “space” to break those rules when I really want to. Kind of like how I feel about people who take short cuts at work. When you understand the process and why it exists you can sometimes take short cuts without damaging your final project outcome.

    I started wearing skinny trousers last fall – even though that should make me burst into flames. But paired with the right items I feel and look great.

    I’ve been oogling those great striped sailor shirts. And now you’ve nudged me to go ahead and break some rules to get me one.

  54. hurricanekerrie

    I’m short and because of that “rule” about petites not wearing maxi dresses, I never even tried it. But I did so last weekend and dare I say, it looked good! I wore some heels with but it didn’t look half bad, I don’t think. And even if it did, I really don’t quite care anymore. I’m dressing for me and if it makes me feel good, I’ll be sure to wear a maxi dress sometime soon. πŸ™‚

  55. Angeline

    You tell ’em, Sal! All of those “rules” are a bunch of hooey. Women (and men) should wear what they want, although I’d prefer it be appropriate to the occasion (no bikinis in the office, stuff like that).

  56. Zoe Danger Awesome

    So much love for this post!
    Fashion rules are ridiculous. If you have a small bust you are supposed to maximize it. If you have a big bust you are meant to minimize it.

    I break all the fat girl fashion rules. I wear leggings as pants, horizontal stripes and frilly tops. The fashion police having shot me yet so I think I am doing okay. πŸ™‚

    nothing is every gonna make me look not fat, so I may as well stop hiding my body.

  57. Lydia

    Hear, hear — I threw out the ‘rules’ years ago. Instead, I keep my eyes peeled for things that I know will work & flatter me, while at the same time, I try to remain open to trying new things. I almost turned away from ever wearing striped tops (but I could never really give them up, despite rule naysayers…)– until the day last summer when I found the ‘right’ one for me. The fabric wasn’t too stretchy over my big bust, and the stripes retained their ‘shape’ when I wore them. I bought it, and haven’t looked back. In fact, I think I will wear it again soon, now that the weather is better. Thanks for reminding us to keep trying new things, and to think beyond rules.

  58. Anonymous

    The one about the horizontal stripes is paticularly criminal. If you actually stop and look at people, vertical stripes are the ones that make you look fatter. But there go many women who would have been helped by the way horizontal stripes can create a defined waist while vertical stripes bulge outward, rejecting them without even thinking about it.

    I’ve had a fair bit of fun with blue and green.

    However there are some items you can just look a bit ridiculous in. I tried skinny jeans when I had wide hips, and it was disastrous. But I encourage people to do just that and TRY the garment and see how it looks on them personally rather than taking these “rules” at face value.

  59. Davinia

    I used to subscribe to the whole ‘curvy girls can’t wear stripes or skinny jeans thing’. Then I did the unthinkable: I bought a black-and-white striped v-neck and a pair of dark skinny jeans.

    Now I wear them together, with flat pumps and a beret.


  60. Angie

    I totally agree. Iwear my slim jeans because I found out the y fit me better than my straight leg jeans I was supposed to wear for my body type.This was a revelation and got me thinking that I might have to break a few rules to find what really suits me.

  61. Starfire

    Remember how I said a few weeks ago that I couldn’t wear short (as in, not-maxi) skirts because of my thick, balloony legs? This weekend, I achieved my goal of walking 100km for charity, and I’m now living up to my promise to my legs show them off proudly – balloony, or otherwise.

    I’m starting slowly – I have a lot of mid-thigh length tunics that I have been wearing over jeans, and I’m just changing that to wearing them over leggings at the moment. Once I’m sure I’m comfortable with that, I’m going to swap to wearing them over tights… and eventually, hopefully, come summertime, I’ll be ready to make the transition to actually wearing shorts and shorter skirts with bare legs in public.

    My new mantra is “If I can walk 100km in <36 hours, I can x, y, or z" – so if I can walk 100km in <36 hours, I can DEFINITELY bloody well be proud of the legsI walked it on, and show them off!

  62. beccah

    gaahhh I hate those o.0 esp b/c I lurve stripes and am on the thicker side you just have to be aware of how it looks on you and alter it how you like,I say flaunt it with confience while you still can while having self respect aka that post lol and not being trashy πŸ˜› I love your blog btw never stop!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!I like your style.

  63. Coco

    Hi, I’m 5’0″ I am a size 16 misses and I wear the heck out of some skinny jeans with peep toe pumps and just regular pumps..I love wearing my skinny jeans with stillettos. Although in the fashion industry it states that I would look bigger in them because of my height, but I absolutely love them on me. I am tired of listening at people tell me how I should and shouldn’t dress. i dress accordingly to how I feel, not the way others want me to. Sometimes you have haters that wish they could look as good as you in whatever you’re wearing. So chunk them the deuce and keep it moving…..I love these type of positive blogs. Absolutely love positiveness and no negativeness!!

  64. Deanna

    I am a bigger girl. and I am over 6 foot tall as well. I love to dress up. Not always in heels but in cute clothes. I sometimes feel like I can’t “pull off certain things” because it’s all about what you read online and in the magazines. But lately I have been dressing up and wearing confidence on my sleeve for everyone to see. I am trying to figure out what I compliment best with a pencil skirt because I have a mixture of an hourglass figure but leaning toward the pear shape. There are certain things that I don’t particularly care for. but I think EVERY woman is beautiful in their own way and if people don’t like it, tell them not to look cause they are jealous and you know deep down you look good. They are just part of the hipocritical superficial wannabe crowd. πŸ™‚ So ALWAYS think positive. whether you are chunky like I am, or skinny like a pole. WORK IT GIRLS πŸ™‚

  65. Morgan

    Ladies, please don’t let some fashionista tell you what looks good. Put it on, and look in the mirror. If YOU like it, wear it.

    And please don’t shy away from sweaters that look so nice and soft or silky, satiny blouses. They look so feminine. No matter your height weight or figure, wear what you like and feel better about your self.