Fashion Rules vs. Fashion Boundaries: The Evolution of Fashion

Written by Janell McPhail


Posted on April 23 2024

As women, we have a lot of rules. Rules about being a lady, about how to raise children, how to be a good wife, AND rules about fashion. 

Or so we thought. Lately, when you ask your girlfriends, "Hey, can I do this.." the response is more than likely, "Sure. Do whatever you want. It's 2024. There are no more rules."

We find this to be so interesting at Sweet Elaine Boutique, especially as it relates to fashion. The rules that Emily Post set years ago are just not as relevant today.

BUT then, there was a question posed to me a few days ago about the rules of wearing white dresses to a wedding as a guest. My first reaction was, "Sure. You do you. There are no rules in 2024."

However, after some more thought and research, I learned it really is still a rule wedding guests need to follow. What I discovered is it is a rule you need to be close enough to the bride to ask if you can wear white. The reason is simple. The Bride wants to be the one person who stands out at the reception party. White naturally pops in a room more than some other colors. When the bride looks back at her wedding photos, she wants to be that person who stands out. In this case, that stand out person is wearing white.

Here's a fantastic white dress you MAY think you could wear to your next outdoor wedding. BUT, before you do, make sure the bride is okay with you wearing white. Otherwise, save this beauty for your next vacation to Mexico. This dress is available in select sizes here. Shop the purse here


So, I went back to my friend and told her what I discovered. I was a little surprised about how the rule still applies because so many fashion rules just don't apply any more.

My mom was in the boutique a few weeks ago and we did a little chat on the subject. In short, we determined, there are more boundaries for fashion today than rules.

Then it had me thinking. What other rules in fashion no longer apply? And what rules are not really rules, but rather are just boundaries.

Here are some old fashion Fashion Rules, that no longer apply.

Fashion Rules

1. Only wear white after Easter and Before Labor Day. This is one of the oldest rules in the fashion book, and it just doesn't apply. In general, it is more about dressing for the season, but there is no reason you cannot wear a pair of white jeans and change out the top that would be seasonally appropriate.  

2. Wearing shorts is only for summer. This is a strange rule to me as we live in the South and it's just hot here all the time. BUT, there is absolutely no reason you can't wear a style of shorts all year long. If it's winter, then wear opaque tights. In the Fall, pair a great pair with stockings. You do you.

3. Horizontal stripes make you look bigger than you are. URGH, if this fake rule doesn't drive us insane in the store. Stripes are so stinken cute and so many ladies shy away from them. Why? Because they have been raised with this rule that is simply not true. There are times where the width of the stripe or the color blocking matters, but in general horizontal stripes DO NOT make anyone look fat. 

4. You can't wear brown and black together. This is another one where ladies get all stuck in the rule and it's simply not true. There are so many beautiful combinations even in nature of brown and black combinations. There are easy ways to wear these two colors together and look fantastic. So quit telling yourself that!

5. Women need to start wearing loose clothing when they start gaining weight, and this clothing needs to be worn untucked. If you follow the boutique long enough, you'll quickly learn how much we think this is an old rule this is meant to just go away. It's not true. At all. In fact, adding loose garments most of the time makes women look 10 pounds heavier. Covering curves isn't doing anything for your body. We can still see curves underneath those clothes. It is a much better idea to work with those curves and learn how to style for your particular body shape than it is to cover it all up. Promise.

There are a ton more rules and we can go over and over them, but in reality, there are so many that are just ludicrous, we'd rather highlight these top 5. If women would relax and stop worrying about these old fashioned rules, they would be so much happier in their own skin.

Having said all of that, we firmly believe there are fashion boundaries that should be known and followed. We're all for you doing you and living your best life in that body of yours, but do so with some boundaries.

Fashion Boundaries

1. Wear the correct bra for the garment choice. There is nothing worse than having a beautiful blouse and having it ruined by a bra strap. If the blouse is a halter, then make sure you have a halter bra on. If the dress calls for a strapless bra, then find ways to be able to wear the dress and keep the girls up. You can do this with a combination of strapless bras and bandeaus. We recommend layering the undergarment pieces when you need more lift.

2. If the dress isn't lined, make sure you either wear a slip or some sort of undergarment to cover the "goods". Above all else, being confident in what you're wearing often means feeling like a beautiful lady. Properly having things covered is the best way to be a lady in your clothes. Be mindful of panty lines and dresses that go in the bootay and wear the proper garments underneath to make the clothing smooth. That way we see you and not a bunch of lines that don't belong.

3. Find the correct shoe for what you are wearing. If the dress is a midi and it needs a heel, then find a great heel to finish off the outfit. So often ladies will shop for the most beautiful clothing, but fall short of the right shoes to own. The shoes can make or break a style, so definitely make sure that is on point and helps with the overall proportion of the outfit.

4. Follow the Rule of Thirds when you're getting dressed. Stop worrying about your weight and what mom pooch you have. Instead, learn how to dress for your body shape and how to break your specific body into three parts so you can dress with balance and within the Rule of Thirds.

5. Follow the sandwich method when finishing off your style.  That means have the top of your outfit coordinate with the bottom of your outfit. You can do this with jewelry, bags, other accessories and shoes. But whatever you do, make sure the color is balanced like a sandwich. 


Alright ladies, I think that is it. In general, there really are no more rules. It's so much more important to be comfortable in your own skin. Instead of worrying about rules, focus your energy on determining your style and then learn how to dress for your body shape. It is so much more rewarding when your clothes start to tell the world who you are. When you dress for your shape, and in your defined style, you just walk with more confidence. THAT confidence, is absolutely everything.




  • Comment author

    Very important insights to update our thinking! And so well stated. I live in the Northeast, ( read-still very chilly) so shoes are problem, with ankle pants. Flats w/closed toes look dumb. Sneakers = too casual. Too warm for boots. Any ideas?

    Posted by Sylvia | April 25, 2024
  • Comment author

    Yes, to all the above, although I struggle with the thirds. I’m a stocky 5’2". I have shot arms and legs. Sometimes I need to use 2 elbow crutches. I end up looking like a hippopotamus. Don’t get me wrong, I love hippopotamuses, I just don’t want to look like one. I avoid brown …….

    Posted by Libby | April 24, 2024
  • Comment author

    I love this! I agree with all points.

    Posted by Lisa Volkmer | April 23, 2024
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