Burn the fashion rule book: 20 style tips for the individual

Chloe Thomas, better known as Hattie Carrol, is someone with a distinctly original sense of style. This woman oozes confidence. But, like everyone, Chloe developed her apparent self-assurance and style over time. Here, she shares the observations she’d share with her younger self, knowing what she knows now about dressing. Read along closely; it’s valuable advice at any age.

Here’s why Chloe recommends you burn the fashion rule book and write your own:

You know that kid in fourth grade who would kindly remind you of the Monopoly rules just when you were about to pull a swifty? That’s the voice I hear when I read fashion articles doling out advice to the masses. Being told to ‘dress for my body type’ by a stranger with fictional power is like hearing that booming voice of ‘reason’ when you’re about to acquire Mayfair from the money you definitely did not steal from the bank.

Chloe Thomas

Sure, rules have their place in the game of life; but when navigating the Monopoly board of personal style I find it helpful not to invite the kid who calls out your cheating. Actually, the most enjoyable game nights have been the one’s when we’ve written our own rule sheet entirely. And that’s really the only style advice I have…

My number one tip is: burn the rule book and make your own.

Blimey. How original. What I can offer is a list of observations; observations I’ve made about what helped build my personal style.

Here is some style advice aimed at my younger self:

Chloe Thomas

  1. Listen here, stop apologising for the way you dress. Some people will get it and some won’t. You can’t be everything for everyone.
  2. It’s okay to not like what you wore in the past. It served a purpose and you enjoyed it at the time.
  3. Trends last as long as you want them to, not when your high school BFF’s teen mag dictates. You do you, babe. Wear your midriff-baring flares as long as you like.
  4. You have a hard time knowing if something is very amazing or very hideous. And sometimes (often) you get it wrong. That’s okay. You just need space to work out the difference so permit yourself the time to think about expensive purchases. Your $5 thrift store gambles usually pay off though, so assess risk according to budget.
  5. Don’t pass judgement on others for how much/little they show off their body. You don’t know what makes them feel good or how it will change for you in the future.
  6. Clothes are a large part of your style, but it extends beyond fabric – the way you talk, the notebook you write in, the music you listen to. These small things remind you of who you are when you’re feeling anxious. You’ll feel vulnerable without your favourite perfume so keep a bottle in your bag. Same deal with your rings from the Portobello Road markets. Keep those beside your bed.
  7. You’re going to find inspiration in all kinds of places. Art, design, history, sub-culture, music, nature and conversation are great starting points.
  8. Okay girl, there is nothing wrong with asking for a second opinion before locking in that date outfit, but learn to trust your instincts over someone else’s. In rarely ever wanting an external opinion, by the time you’re in a state to seek approval from your darling housemate, you probably have the answer you seek. You’ll be the one wearing it all night and another person’s validation will never provide the comfort of your own.
  9. Not everyone will treat fashion as an artistic medium. It’s frustrating, but not the end of the world so keep doing what you do and remember how long it took other underrated art practices to find their place in the world.
  10. You’ll struggle to see outfits clearly unless captured on camera. Photos are helpful, but seeing the movement of garments and how they interact with your body will determine whether they work as a whole. It becomes a great tool to remember how to piece things together and understand why outfits work/don’t. It also serves as a tangible measure of your style evolution. Why didn’t you think of this sooner?!
  11. The moment you start thinking of outfits as whole entities rather than individual statement pieces is a revolutionary one. Look forward to this day. You’ll understand more about colour and proportion, as well as building a strong wardrobe with many interchangeable pieces.
  12. Identifying internalised rules, however subtle, will help you desensitise and break down personal barriers. Double denim for example? So fun – regardless of what the man in the street told you that time. Socks and sandals? Genius. That Jesus fellow had it right. Working out which rules are yours (I don’t enjoy leggings as pants for example) and which come from society/media/friends etc. (I’ve no interest in owning the ‘perfect’ little black dress) is important, but it’s also important to allow your opinion to change.
  13. Don’t ever forget to look beyond the intended use of a garment. You’re wardrobe effectively doubles in size the day you start wearing skirts as tops, giant scarves as dresses, bras as outer wear. Also – you’ll feel judgement for dressing in men’s clothing as a teen, but by 2016 gender fluidity makes you feel empowered.
  14. Not that you would ever set out to be insensitive but please learn everything you can about cultural appropriation. Your friends will have valuable advice, ask them.
  15. Surprise yourself by wearing something you thought was impossible the week before. Re-establishing those boundaries and stepping outside your comfort zone eventually leads to the comfort of greater self-acceptance and overall confidence. You’ll learn to understand the difference between someone telling you they prefer to look at your body in ‘flattering’ vertical stripes, and knowing what’s going to make you feel good on the inside. A good outfit will make you feel warm and confident on the inside like an evening’s first glass of whisky.
  16. When the compliment is genuine, tell strangers when you like their style. Sometimes you’ll feel silly but it could be just what they need to hear.
  17. Do not leave the house when in doubt. If you feel strange or unsure about any particular feature of an outfit, remove it and replace it with something you know works better until you can workshop it properly. There’s a difference between being uncomfortable and unprepared. Planning an outfit that scares you will promote growth, but you need to face the day with tools to overcome the mental hurdles that come with that. An ill-considered/rushed/unplanned outfit can unravel your confidence.
  18. Don’t be afraid to contradict yourself. It takes courage and people will respect you for it. It’s also the way you learn to open your mind to differences. Refusing to dress in street wear only hurts yourself.
  19. Opting for a tried and tested ensemble is not taking the easy road, it’s caring for your mental health. Doubts and insecurities you had about it at home will only amplify once you’re trapped on public transport, unable to change. Trust me on this – it’s what lead to your second arrest. Jokes! Just seeing who’s still reading.
  20. Life is a fashion show if you want it to be. Don’t listen to your teachers.

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Sonya Gellert

Sonya Gellert is a contributing writer and associate editor for Khoollect. She lives in Sydney....

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