Back when I was a teenager and trying to figure out my own style, my mother took me by the hand and offered some guidelines on dressing. Spoken in a strong voice and accompanied by a wagging finger, I took her words, “Never wear (list to follow)” to be etched in stone.

Until I started modeling, that is.

Ever stood in front of someone you worked for and told them they didn’t know what they were talking about? I did. Once. When I was teenager. I was then told in no uncertain terms that as a high school senior, I did NOT, in fact, know it all. I learned that day that when you’re the fashion editor, you’re paid to render an opinion. When you’re the mannequin, you’re paid to stand there and be quiet. You can think whatever you want. But if you have a criticism, either couch it nicely or keep your mouth shut. The pay is much better that way.

Fortunately, that tense scene was actually a blessing in disguise. I discovered that you can learn a lot more with your mind open and your mouth closed than the other way around, and that those rules I thought were etched in stone were merely guidelines written in sand. They depend on the person, body type, and circumstance; not on some arbitrary set of rules. Thus, one woman’s “never” could be another woman’s “always.”

So remember that next time you hear:

“Never Wear Horizontal Stripes”

Horizontal stripes visually widen whatever they’re against. So if you have wide areas on your body (large breasts, a thick waist, ample hips), putting a horizontal stripe there will only make it look wider. So don’t do it. NEVER wear horizontals – against the widest parts of your body.

But if you have narrow shoulders, tiny breasts, or no hips, adding horizontal lines can visually widen those areas, making them look larger and curvier. So DO wear horizontals if you want to enhance an area and get your clothes to make you look like you have a better figure than you do.

Horizontal strips adds curves to a boyish figure

“Never Wear Large Prints”

Prints can be fun and flirty, but there are some dangers in wearing prints that are too big – or too small, for that matter. You have to start with your own body and consider the proportions:

  • If you’re small and wear large prints, they’ll over-power you and make you look smaller. So NEVER wear large prints if you’re small.

  • But if you’re large and wear a small print, it will dwarf the print details and make you look bigger. So NEVER wear small prints of you’re big.

  • Instead, opt for prints that are in proportion to your body size.  That way you can wear them with ease.

Never Mix Plaids And Prints”

Okay, this one’s tricky and not for the faint of heart. The key is in keeping with the same color or design.

  • If the colors are different, the design should be the same.

  • If the designs are different, the colors should be the same.

  • Vary the scale. If one print has large shapes, the second should be smaller. Make one subordinate so they’re not fighting it out to be the dominant pattern.

Men do this all the time with their shirts, suits, and ties, as do interior designers with their wallpapers and borders. Study different combinations, and then try a few of your own. As with everything in life, it gets easier with practice.

Patterns and Prints

“Never Wear Bulky Textures”

Like horizontal stripes, bulky textures tend to make whatever they’re against look bigger. Sequins, fur, cable knit sweaters-all add mass to the body. So if you’re big or have large features (like big breasts or hips) don’t wear bulky textures there.

But if you WANT to visually add a little bulk to a small chest or flat bottom, by all means, try some bulky textures. They’ll visually give you some curves.

Textures add bulk - be careful!

“Never Wear White from the Waist Down”

Just as dark, muted colors visually slenderize, light, bright colors tend to make you look bigger. Since many women with large hips and thighs want them to look smaller, not larger, they usually shy away from dressing from the waist down in white.

But there are some easy ways around this:

  • Dress in white from head to toe. Monochromatic ensembles make you look thinner and taller than tops and bottoms in different colors.

  • Use a vertical line to distract. Add a duster, a long scarf, or a long chain to focus attention up-and-down instead of from side-to-side.

White Suit

But what if you’re an average or small size or have a large top but small bottom? Then you have more leeway with light colors on your lower half. You can wear white from the waist down, either in a monochromatic ensemble or with a colored or print top. It’s cool and crisp in warm weather, and a small bottom encased in white will draw attention away from a large chest.

See how this works?

No rule is “one size fits all” – unless, perhaps, it’s “Never wear anything Britney Spears wears.” If you follow that one, you’ll be safe. But seriously, you’re an individual, and what works for a thousand others many not be right for you. So take that into consideration before you automatically dismiss items because of “rules” you learned long ago. Those rules may not apply to you. Be thoughtful and discerning as you dress. Your image will be the better for it.

Need more help in finding the right styles for your body, personality, and lifestyle? Download a copy of WARDROBE MAGIC to see how easy dressing well can be.

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    1 Response to "What Should You NEVER Wear?"

    • janet

      I always have problems finding that right dress.

      i am 1.56,tall and 62 kilos and i carry the weight around my middle, although over 40 ,i suit above the knee lenght.
      Any help ,i would be thankful

      Best Regards Janet

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