THE TEN FASHION COMMANDMENTS
OF MISS MOSES
While I very much enjoy perusing fashion magazines and websites, I don’t buy into all those declarations of ‘five key items you must own this season’ and the like (quite possibly because I can’t afford to buy some of the more expensive ones). I do enjoy reading the fashion articles too as much as I like looking at the pictures, and I like to be aware of the trends and what is available in stores. But as for shopping and actually committing to the latest looks, I prefer to make my own mind up and make purchases that befit my own life and personal style.
However, there are a few things I’ve learned over the years, and while they are just a little tongue-in-cheek, these are universal rules that apply to all (except perhaps some native tribal peoplegroups somewhere that don’t go in for shoes).
Here they are. Print them out, stick ’em on the front of your wardrobe door, memorise them or take them with you when you next go shopping. Whatever it takes. Thou shalt have style.
The Ten Fashion Commandments
- Thou shalt know thy sartorial identity, understand thy figure and garb thyself accordingly
- Thou mayest look sexy, but thou shalt always remain classy
- Thou shalt have fun with accessories
- Thou shalt not own any ugly or dowdy raiment
- When in doubt, thou must throw it out
- Thou shalt shop with the precision of a military campaigner
- Thou shalt throw away worn out shoes when they art beyond redemption
- Launder thy garments respectfully and they wilt serve thee long
- Thou shalt not be afraid of colour, for life is short, and —
- Thou shalt not wear all black all the time, for thou art not an Italian widow.
1: Thou Shalt Know Thy Style
Everyone talks about style. What is it? It is not fashion, which comes and goes, changing fundamentally between generations and eras, influenced by social mores and pervading attitudes; it is not in the successive polar opposite trends that sweep through the seasons as though designers deliberately wish to confound us; or in the week to week harassment of chain stores and online purveyors of goods and eager bloggers that bombard us with newsletters, urging us to enter the lists and race the clock with ever increasing speed, to be more fashionable and up-to-the-minute than anyone else. Fashion is driven by mass consumerism touting a desperate theology of looking younger, cooler, thinner, sexier, faster – and, inevitably, just like anyone else.
2: Thou Shalt Stay Classy
Once upon a time (say, back in the unemancipated sartorial dark ages of the 1950s) women dressed to please their menfolk. Thank goodness we’ve moved on from those days … Instead, we dress to impress our friends and peers; our work colleagues or rivals; our bosses. Sometimes it’s the object of our desire – and, cue dramatic Psycho-style music – our FUTURE MOTHER-IN-LAW.
Much less pressure indeed. Thank goodness.
More importantly, today most women are free to dress to please themselves, and if we do wear something to make ourselves feel sexy, it might be hidden – a whisper of vintage silk lingerie, or a tuxedo worn with just a racy, lacy bra underneath. When you see a girl on the street going the whole shebang – thigh-high skirt with fishnets and stilettos, a tight animal-print skirt with eye-popping cleavage, and makeup slathered on – we all know what we’re thinking: Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman – before the transformation.
But what is classy anyway? It is certainly not about a cookie-cutter style of elegance in fashion; rather it is an elegance of dress that is defined by elegance of mind. A classy woman has good manners and discretion in all things; she is considerate of others, generous, and she is not mean-spirited. She has a good sense of what should be kept private, and what should be made public. She has confidence and faith in herself, and does not need to ‘prove’ herself to others.
As far as fashion is concerned however, the question is: in this day and age when absolutely anything goes, how does one manage to look sexy, and still stay classy?
It’s as easy as A-B-C …
3: THOU SHALT HAVE FUN WITH ACCESSORIES
I am not a basics kinda girl. I have said it before, and I’ll say it again: I believe in accessories. I believe in the power of a single awesome accessory; maybe even two. But even just one stunning accessory has the power to make an ordinary outfit extraordinary.
Whether your style is minimalist or maximalist, there are some accessories you will need if only out of sheer necessity. We all need shoes certainly, and a bag of some sort is useful, unless you like to carry everything in your hands. Once, I saw a young girl actually doing this. She dropped her credit card in the middle of a pedestrian crossing, and then nearly had an accident while retrieving it. This is not a good look.
A well-chosen accessory, whatever it’s function, can lift the spirit.
Accessories can change your look from night to day, and they can make or break an outfit. They express your personality. They can be practical or utterly frivolous and in both be cases utterly necessary – one fills a need, the other feeds the soul. A well-chosen item, whatever it’s function, can lift the spirit. And make a short girl tall too.
Gone are the days when your shoes, bag and gloves had to match however. This is a look that is so far past passé it’s old fashioned. But when this simple and easy-to-follow rule is thrown out, how does one choose the perfect accessories to complement an outfit?
There are quite a few things to ponder: size, occasion, season, age appropriateness, colour, and quantity as well as quality. Read on to find out more!
4: THOU SHALT NOT OWN ANY UGLY OR DOWDY CLOTHING
Ugliness, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder. It is entirely subjective: one woman’s sartorial treasure is another’s fash trash. But with the irony prevalent today and the endemic fondness for kitsch, you may be forgiven for wondering if ‘ugly’ exists any more. We are not even safe from the decade that style forgot: the 1980s – designers have plundered that era and wrung every hideous nuance out of it, regurgitating it for the dubious pleasure of the Teensies generation.
WHAT ARE UGLY CLOTHES ANYWAY?
Before I wander any further into a denunciation on the taste of modern arbiters of style, let me define exactly what I mean by the Fourth Commandment.
As already stated, notions of ugliness and dowdiness – or to use an antipodean colloquialism, dagginess – are relatively subjective. In regard to personal fashion choices, this refers to garments that makeyou feel wholly unattractive, as opposed to someone else’s opinion of what is chic.
Read on to find out just when ugly happens to good people, what are the Seven Ugly Sins, and how to avoid committing them …
5: IF IN DOUBT, THOU SHALT THROW IT OUT
To keep, or not to keep – that is the question. Or perhaps, as it is in my case, the question is rather: how much closet space do I have?
I have reached a point where mine is bursting at the seams. I have long ago passed the point where it became necessary to divide my wardrobe into summer and winter, and store the out-of-season garments in my storage room in the garage. Now I have come to the inescapable conclusion that I must actually throw things out.
What a frightening prospect! The last time I did a major overhaul of my wardrobe was when I switched from bohemian eccentricity to extreme minimalism, and I got rid of virtually every single vintage garment I owned.
The memory still makes me wince slightly, although there are really only a few items that I truly regret: the watermelon 20s-style velvet coat with the large, ruched collar; the swingy 40s black lace dress, and the 40s black crepe tie-back short sleeved tailored top; the darling little red linen 60s jacket trimmed in black and white polka-dotted ruffles; the black satin diamanté buckled Ferragamo square-toed 60s heels; the 70s Morticia black dress trimmed in pleated organza ruffles … WHAT WAS I THINKING? If I could shake myself, I would. Please excuse me while I shed a few bitter tears. (Interestingly, there is a lot of black in that list.)
Now, although I know I need to thin the ranks, I’m apprehensive. What if I throw out the wrong thing?
6: THOU SHALT SHOP WITH THE PRECISION OF A MILITARY CAMPAIGNER
There is an art to good shopping. It does not involve going off half-cocked and buying any old rag out of desperation. It requires the strategic planning of a seasoned military campaigner. The lay of the land must be studied minutely; no stick or stone should be unturned; the enemy within must be found out and utterly routed. A strategy is formed, tactics formulated. Timing is of the essence. The fine art of military shopping heeds the danger of deploying precious funds when under the influence of intense emotion or acute tiredness. Just as one should not go grocery shopping when one is hungry, so should one not go swimsuit shopping the very day before a beach holiday.
Once, years ago, I was forced to buy a swimsuit at extreme short notice while on holiday in Sydney. It took a veritable whirlwind shopping tour and an hour to make my choice: a minimalist CK-style tankini in olive (olive!) by Seafolly. The boyfriend whined that an hour was a ridiculous length of time to spend on the choice of one garment, and I quickly disabused him of this ignorant notion. He was clearly inexperienced, for you and I recognise it for what it was: a true fashion miracle. (The choice of a despised colour was a minor error of judgment, excusable in this instance I believe in view of the ultimate shopping feat – only equalled in valour to finding a pair of jeans within an hour.)
Of course it’s possible to employ the services of an in-store stylist or personal shopper, but where would be the fun in that? Today we don’t have to go hunt and gather supplies for food, but that instinct is inborn and can be satisfied through the gathering of frills and furbelows to decorate ourselves, if not our nests.
But how do we avoid costly errors and wasting time in desperate forays on shopping malls that only result in panic purchases and anxiety attacks?
Shopping with the military precision requires research, patience, an objective eye, a good understanding of one’s style and figure, gut instinct, time, and the willingness to walk the extra mile to the other end of the mall again to compare garments just one more time.
7: THOU SHALT THROW AWAY WORN OUT SHOES WHEN THEY ART BEYOND REDEMPTION
You might think shoes, because they are so far away from your face, or are covered by long hems, won’t be noticed. Wrong. Or perhaps you just aren’t into shoes, fashionable or otherwise – all you care about is comfort, and regardless of the occasion or the shoes’ condition, you might think they will bypass people’s attention. They will not, and beware: like it or not, fair or not, you will be judged.
The fashion-aware will consciously do so, and not even necessarily in a condemnatory way; those not so interested in such frivolities as clothing may only subliminally notice – but in both cases sloppiness or inappropriate footwear will be noted and will affect others’ perception of you. It only takes seven seconds to make a first impression.
8: LAUNDER THY GARMENTS RESPECTFULLY AND THEY WILT SERVE THEE LONG
So you’ve feng shui-ed your over-crowded wardrobe, you’ve gone shopping to fill the gaps, and you can now step back and feel a little glow of satisfaction as you admire the results. But just how long will your closet remain in this pristine state? Will you be able to locate any given garment when you are in a rush in the morning, and will it be in a condition suitable for wear? Quite apart from these practical considerations, it’s impossible to look truly chic if your clothing is dirty, torn or crumpled because you’d just picked up from the floor that morning (after treading on it a few times with your spiky heels).
The most important aspects of maintaining your wardrobe are storing and laundering garments correctly, especially if you have invested in high quality labels and delicate items – you can’t simply chuck these into the washing machine at the end of the week.
This doesn’t mean however you need to send everything to the dry cleaners. Too much exposure to dry cleaning chemicals can be damaging to fabric, not to mention hard on your wallet too. Very often clothing manufacturers suggest dry cleaning a garment to cover themselves from damages claims, but most fabrics can be hand washed gently – read the label and use your common sense. This is something you need to consider before you make a purchase – factor in the cost of dry-cleaning in the future, or the time you will need to invest in hand washing. Are you still willing to make the purchase?
Read on to learn how to maintain your wardrobe through appropriate storage and careful laundering …
9: THOU SHALT NOT BE AFRAID OF COLOUR, FOR LIFE IS SHORT
I love to wear colour. Not only because, as I’ve shared on numerous other occasions, I wish to confound Melburniuns’ infernal reputation for wearing funereal black summer and winter, but because wearing colours – especially vivid shades – simply makes me happy.
Colour Theory and Symbolism
Colour can have a huge emotional impact in our lives, whether we are aware of it or not. While I don’t buy into theories of universal colour psychology (eg, magenta being ‘spiritual yet practical, encouraging common sense and a balanced outlook on life’), I do believe we respond differently to colours depending on our individual experiences. For whatever reason we will have our favourites, and we will have those we loathe. Personally, I dislike pedestrian pastels as I find them insipid (although I do like the ‘icy’ versions of these shades that suit me), and I am not fond of brown (except, for some strange reason, in coats and jackets, especially winter outerwear). I love robins egg blue, red, bright pink and yellow, many shades of purple, and I also have a passion for grey.
Read on for the secrets to discovering the Expressionist in you …
10: THOU SHALT NOT WEAR ALL BLACK, ALL THE TIME
I live in Melbourne, a city of which its denizens have a reputation for wearing funereal black all the time, because we are much chicer and cooler and more European than our cousins north of the border. Or perhaps we all go to more funerals, and we are awash with Italian widows? Or maybe we are all fatter down south, so we believe we must wear slimming black all the time?
Winter is particularly depressing on the city streets: it is a sea of black, grey and navy Normcore. I don’t understand this fanatical adherence to such a dull palette. Not even the New Zealand All Blacks were all black all the time! Colour, apparently, is outré in my hometown, but in Princess Tatiana mathematics, BLACK = Boring + LACK of colour.
Let us examine the reasons why people like to wear all black, all the time. I know quite a few people of this mindset, and I have often asked them why. Following are the four main reasons they cite; the fifth is one most won’t admit to for themselves, but it has been pointed out.