The substance of style: Clothing etiquette

Talking about looking good, meaning: Healthy, well-groomed, appropriate, intentional, comfortable, and expressively, uniquely, you continues today with more encouragement and some helpful guidelines.

I’d like to think like all art, fashion is one that isn’t always about convention or rules.  That said, some things work and others just don’t.

Here are some rules to follow when it comes to fashion, and why:

No apathy:  Who says, “Well no one’s going to see me anyway, why worry about what I have on?”  You will see you.  Skipping showers isn’t healthy, nor is refusing to think about what you wear.  Plus, fashion is like a wearable toy.  You can play with the texture of the fabric, the flash of jewelry, the curl of hair, sheen of a wrap.

For my 30th birthday party, I chose a dress that was comfortable to dance in, and would look stunning through the night: A wrinkle-proof metallic fabric, with lots of fun design detail… Like pockets!

Speaking of toys, I have to be careful wearing certain shoes lest I stare down at my feet, distracted.  Anyway.  No need to overdress all the time.  But certainly don’t make the mistake of devaluing yourself in the process.  Fashion and style is a very healthy celebration of you.  Why bother grooming and caring for your body and spirit if you’re going to clothe yourself in garments of anything other than love?

No knees on stage:  I began singing at an early age and my dear friend and longtime choir conductor told me to wear something onstage that didn’t show my knees.  It maketh the sense:  Stages are typically at or above eye level, which means the odds of you showing more than a knee cap are pretty high.  No wonder the advice stuck.

I first wore this dress during a high school performance: No knees on stage.

Yes, a lot of pop stars currently perform in their underwear.  The rule stands.

Audience:  Most of us don’t just talk to anyone we see without a basic attempt to know who we’re addressing.  Why? Because it’s impossible to communicate with a void.  Fashion is an expression.  Consider not only what you are saying in what you wear, but also who you’re expressing it to, and how they might receive it.

Wearing a mini-dress with skirt, flat loafers and layered wraps for a casual workday into evening dinner in Italy with colleagues.

Are the sweat pants the best choice for your interview with the law firm?  Is the flowy salsa dress the best choice for feeding the homeless?  The low cut top and short shorts ideal for church? Mini dress and heels best for the grassy picnic?  Each of these choices says something.  Be aware, and choose what best suits your purpose.

Matching:  I say, there are only two times to think about matching.  With monochromatic outfits.  And shoes.  Always awkward when those don’t pair up properly, I think.

Red, white, black, denim, and flip flops: It works.

Don’t wear five different blacks.  Or whites.  Or greens.  Five different textures maybe.  But colors should be consistent.   Otherwise, choose bold and different colors.  Like red and turquoise.  Purple and lime green.  Brown and orange.   When you wear a mix of colors, consider anchoring them by pairing them up.  Blue shoes with a red dress?  Add a blue ring so it seems intentional.

Highlights:  As in life, anything you give attention to or feed grows, appears bigger.  Don’t waste time worrying about hiding perceived flaws real or imagined.  Instead, highlight the great things you love about yourself, whether that’s your right eyeball, legs, kneecaps (not on stage), left toe, arms, or earlobes.

This mini-dress with a flowing, draped bodice highlights the legs without calling attention to tummy, arms, or back.

Celebrate that.  If you’re purposeful about growing and developing as a person, you’ll address the flaw when you’re meant to, by fixing it or accepting it.

Selective exposure: When it is appropriate to be less covered up based on your audience, you can help curb an overwhelming eye-assault by carefully choosing what will or won’t be exposed.

Wearing a miniskirt with sweater to a karaoke bar (stage-free.)

For example, if you highlight your shape in something form-fitting, you might choose a higher neckline, or lower hemline.  Fashion is a dance of the eyes and senses for the wearer and observer:  You wouldn’t Argentine tango with any old stranger.

Yes, the dress was racy being both backless and short. Balance: A neckline that came clear up to my collarbone.

Keep that in mind when choosing what you expose.

Comfort:  Style is about love and self-care.  Willful discomfort Does. Not. Com. Pute.  To be comfortable, consider your environment and activity.    Will it be hot, cold, or unpredictable?  Will you be standing, sitting, walking or dancing for long periods?  Will you need to be physically active and get a little dirty?

Jeans and a dark, alluring top meant I was ready to help setup for a party, and to enjoy the event in style through the night.

I honestly used to be the stilettos everywhere girl.  No more.  Thanks to a football injury (rather heroically sustained might I say), I can’t punish my extremities like I used to.

Carry stilettos if you must.

Above all else, the number one fashion rule to follow:

Aim to express who you are and how you feel, in your own style.  Every day.

Are you feeling somber and focused?  Wear a dark-toned, fitted outfit with angular or metallic accessories.

Fun, and high-spirited?  Wear bright printed colors in fabrics that move.  Accent with colorful accessories.


Shopping tips and wardrobe basics coming up next.

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