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Wearing White After Labor Day and Other Fashion Rules to Break

As women over 50, we may feel young in heart and body, but for many who grew up during the baby boom, there are tons of unspoken and unwritten fashion rules that govern what clothing, shoe, and accessory items are deemed appropriate for women of our age and when we can wear things. But designers, celebrities, and ordinary street folks prove that rules are meant to be broken, and women should be allowed to wear what they want, whenever they want to do so – regardless of the season, the occasion, or more importantly, their age.

Rule #1 – You Aren’t Supposed to Wear White After Labor Day

We may never know who came up with the “fashion” rule that stipulates if you wear white after Labor Day, you’re making a faux pas. The thought that white isn’t acceptable after Labor Day is utter hogwash. White can be elegant and stylish in winter. The key to making white appropriate in fall, winter, or spring is choosing season-appropriate fabrics. Cashmere, merino, or mohair are wools that offer warmth and comfort during cold winter weather. White silk, leather, and flannel are also good choices.

Open Front Cardigan

Michael Kors Open Front Cardigan, $35-$52

Cotton Sweater

Ralph Lauren Lace-Up Cotton Sweater, $125

Lord & Taylor Roundneck Cashmere Sweater, $149.99

Crewneck Sweater

3.1 Phillip Lim Alpaca Embellished Crewneck Sweater, $450

Expected ship date no later than November 2, 2018

Rule #2 – No White Shoes After Labor Day

Maybe this rule is something that evolved as an extension of the “No White After Labor Day” idea. Regardless of the source, it is another rule that can be broken. White leather booties, stilettos, and high boots are showing up in stores as proof that white leather shoes (or boots) are chic at any time of year.

Heel Booties

Sam Edelman Kinzey Leather Kitten Heel Booties, $140

 Slip-On Booties

Vince Hamilton Slip-On Booties, $350

Leather Booties

Aquazzura Touche White Leather Booties, $850

(available in sizes 35-40 European sizes or US women’s sizes 5-10)

Boot 100 Booties

Christian Louboutin Love Is A Boot 100 Leather Booties, $1,295

(available in sizes 35-41 or US sizes 5-11)

Rule #3 – Older Women (Women Over 40 in particular) Shouldn’t Wear Long Hair

Who knows where this unwritten rule originated? Maybe it’s something that hairstylists sought to promote decades ago to encourage women to update their hairstyles as they aged. In any case, a lot of women still subscribe to this rule. Others like 75-year old actress Blythe Danner aren’t afraid to keep their locks long.

The picture below was taken at an event at the Beverly Wilshire Hotel in January of 2018.

Rule #4 – Never Mix Metals When Wearing Jewelry

The idea that you can’t wear jewelry that mixes metals or metal colors was probably an unwritten rule that women obeyed religiously – perhaps 60 or 70 years ago. The 21st century has challenged those traditions, and women shouldn’t be afraid to experiment with accessories to find a look they like.

Collins Watch

Tory Burch Collins Chronograph Bracelet Watch – 42mm, $187.49

This elegant large watch features a two-tone bracelet band in gold and silver. The watch bezel is also gold. Some women think of watches as fashion accessories. If that description speaks to you, the two-tone band gives you permission to mix metals or wear any piece of jewelry you want to wear.

Tri Tone Earrings

Lord & Taylor 14K Tri Tone Gold Polished Earrings, $250

Cable Bracelet

David Yurman Cable Classics Bracelet With 18k Gold – 4 MM, $395

This bracelet mixes sterling silver with the 18k gold narrow accent band. It is proof that mixing metals or metal colors can look sophisticated and elegant.

Rule #5 – Your Bag, Belt, and Shoes Must Always Match

You may remember how stylish Jackie Kennedy looked during JFK’s rise to fame in the early 1960s. She was a style icon for many, and her matched outfits – complete with shoes and a handbag that coordinated with the color of her hat and coat, or dress were all the rage back then. But in 2018, women who go for that “matchy-matchy” look tend to date themselves in an unsavory way.

When you choose to vary the color of your shoes and purse, you add interest to an otherwise drab and dull outfit. You showcase your individuality, and that’s a good thing. But beyond the interest that varying your shoe and handbag color adds to your look, you’re approaching your wardrobe in a practical way, and one that allows you to use the things you have in as many ways as possible.

Labor Day Fashion

Rule #6 – Never Mix Black and Brown or Black and Navy, or Navy and Brown

We may not know the origin of this rule or why our mothers repeated it so often that it’s ingrained in our brains to such an extent that we have to push ourselves to break the mold. It may be rooted in the idea that black, brown and navy are neutral colors (because they work well with almost any color.)

If you still have your doubts about mixing navy and black, black and brown, or navy and brown, let the examples of some high-end houses of fashion and well-known brands convince you to change your mind.

You might be surprised how elegant a Max Mara navy velvet and sheer blouse looks with a pair of equally classic black dress pants.

Velvet Top

Max Mara Studio Alfeo Sheer Long-Sleeve Velvet Top, $525

Button-Down Shirt

Eileen Fisher Button-Down Shirt, $278

(made of silk and spandex, and the color is nutmeg)

Longchamps, the French accessories company that built its reputation on the exquisite leather pieces the company made began in 1948 when the Jean Cassegrain transformed his Parisian tobacco store where he sold leather-covered pipes, into an accessories store. The company takes its name from the famous horse race track of the same name that is located on the outskirts of Paris.

Expandable Tote

Longchamp ‘Le Pliage’ Expandable Tote, $195

(Nordstrom Exclusive and water-resistant)

Rule #7 – Never Mix Patterns, Prints and Textures

This may be one of the hardest of those unspoken fashion (and general design) rules to break because the idea of mixing prints and patterns or prints or patterns and texture seems contrary to everything we were ever taught about good taste and stylish dressing. You’ve undoubtedly been conditioned to believe that it’s not appropriate to combine a leopard print with a zebra stripe print, but if you look at a swatch of each fabric next to one another, the combination might not look as hideous as you thought it would be.

British Prime Minister, Theresa May is well known for her bold approach to fashion, especially when it comes to shoes. And while she’s toned things down a bit since moving into #10 Downing Street, she sill bucks tradition by wearing animal print shoes with a classic suit.

Take, for example, traditional West African clothing. It’s known for embracing bold colors and creative designs while mixing unpredictable color and pattern combinations to create a distinctive fashion style.

West African Clothing

At one time, mature women wouldn’t have dared to break these rules. They undoubtedly feared that they’d incur the wrath of the fashion police (even if those officers were their mothers, grandmothers, or great grandmothers.) Take your cue from the things you see in stores or online when you shop for new clothing items to add to your existing wardrobe, or when you shop for replacements for tired old pieces you’ve hung onto for years – allowing them to take up space in your closet.

If you decide that it’s okay to break one or more of these rules, you should embrace your new-found sense of fashion freedom. But to succeed at breaking these rules, you’ll have to be confident in whatever you’re wearing. Women can and should break these rules – and think about their fashion style as an expression of who they are. The freedom you’ll discover is empowering.

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