In my experience, even people who say they don’t know or care much about fashion have very definite opinions about levels of fiber formality and how they can contribute to fiber clashes. In other words, there are folks who feel that a cotton tee shirt looks utterly preposterous with a silk skirt, that fluid jersey knit and robust wool do not belong in the same outfit, and that cashmere looks awfully odd with twill. When pressed, many people cite their moms. Previous generations had VIEWS on which fibers were dressy and which we casual, and many of us have those views printed on the backs of our brains. Because when we were little and tried wearing favorite graphic tees with Sunday School skirts, we heard a few things about outfit assembly, fibers, and appropriateness.
Interestingly, jeans are the great equalizer here. Although some of my clients would never dream of wearing a charmeuse pussy-bow blouse with distressed boyfriend jeans, they get that it works. To many people, jeans are the ultimate symbol of casual dress, so pairing them with formal tops makes a clear and distinct juxtaposition, even to people who often feel unsure where those lines might be drawn in other scenarios. Denim jackets are still a bit dicey, and some folks can’t imagine wearing them with poplin sundresses or pencil skirts. But jeans get a pass. They can go anywhere they’d like, when it comes to fiber partners.
I shock the daylights out of many of my clients when I nudge them to push beyond their fiber-pairing hesitations. That structured twill blazer and that jersey knit dress? Most people will be focused on cut and color and give nary a thought to the fact that one fiber is considered more casual than the other. That cotton tank and wool skirt? Throw a cardigan into the mix and it’ll feel fabulous. I agree that sweaters and wovens are generally more formal than tees, I know that silk will always feel a little dressy, I get that heavy fibers like wool carry a certain gravitas that makes them seem like a poor partner for lighter, more casual materials. But I also feel like fiber rules and guidelines are being slowly eroded by wave after wave of street style choices, runway decisions, and fashion mavens who just plain want to wear everything all the time. That doesn’t mean you have to ignore your instincts or cast aside your preferences. It just means that you might want to think twice before you judge someone who is wearing a cashmere sweater with cotton cargo pants. That combination might not be pleasing to your eye – not yet – but in an era that shuns style rules, there’s nothing inherently wrong with it.
That’s my take, anyway. And my guess is that many of you will feel quite strongly that I’m 17 kinds of wrong! So, tell me: If you are a stickler for fiber formality and fiber clashes, what are your guidelines? Where did they come from? Do you ever bend or break them? Why are they important? If you don’t feel bound by fiber formality rules, were you aware that they existed? Any that you’ve been following without realizing it?
Originally posted 2014-06-23 06:15:53.