so not interested in your judgment

A few weeks ago, a lovely reader reached out to me over e-mail. She said many kind and supportive things, but one stood out in my mind and is still rattling around in there. She’d just finished my book, and said she was so grateful that I hadn’t forced her to donate the contents of her closet or make drastic changes to her dressing behaviors. She loves neutrals and muted colors, and had been toting around an inferiority complex for AGES, convinced that her disinterest in bold, bright colors constituted a shortcoming. It was such a relief to her to read that she could wear those neutrals and muted colors forever if she wanted. I was thrilled to hear that my book had been helpful to her on her personal style journey, but also dismayed to hear that she’d felt pressured to dress in ways that didn’t resonate with her personally.

We’ve talked about fashion and permission before, but allow me to repeat myself: Most style rules give you permission to wear some things and forbid you to wear others based on your shape, size, age, and other factors. But you should feel free to ignore those rules and make up your own. You will always feel best about your body and self if you dress in ways that make you happy. And that means you will always look your best if you dress in ways that make you happy, because happiness radiates outward. For some of you, that will mean abiding existing rules about figure flattery, proportion, color, scale, and such. For some of you, that will mean picking which rules to follow and which ones to bend or break. For some of you, that will mean pretending there are no “rules” at all. Ever.

DON’T wear color if you don’t want to. DON’T wear fitted clothes if you don’t want to. DON’T worry about “stumpy” legs or a balanced silhouette or elongating your neck if you don’t want to. You are the boss. You make the calls. Wearing clothing that aligns with your personality and aesthetic preferences and inner desires might not give you a socially sanctioned set of curves or proportions that align with the current beauty ideal. But wearing clothing that resonates with you as a unique individual will help you feel centered, confident, powerful, and real. And that has value.

Follow the rules that work for you, discard the others. And never let anyone convince you that you’re doing it wrong. There is no one right way to be stylish.

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