It’s Finally Time to Debunk These 10 Old-School Fashion Myths

Fashion

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Once upon a time, there were rules in fashion—like, say, giving white clothing a full stop after Labor Day. Our attitudes have since changed into a new modus operandi: anything goes. Henceforth, the new style manifesto—in both the fashion industry and social media—is an open call for everyone to wear whatever, whenever.

Birkenstocks, once viewed as a slovenly shoe, collaborated with Manolo Blahnik. We wear our pajamas in public. Bella Hadid is the poster child of “weird girl” style. The viral sartorial hack “wrong shoe theory” begs the question: What if dressing “wrong” by pairing one’s outfit with a “slightly off” shoe—sweeping gowns with flats instead of an expected heel or balletcore with bulky trodding boots—is right? “Bad” taste (i.e. the Von Dutch trucker hat, velour tracksuits, and neon) can be “good” taste, and vice versa.

These days, the fashion faux pas has become unqualifiable. Could a style slip even exist now, in a time when anything could—in the name of fashion—become a new trending “-core” aesthetic? Even taboo styling trends themselves—like underwear as outerwear, when once a visible bra strap was a blunder—are part of the zeitgeist. We follow no regulations; the rulebook has been thrown out, and the fashion police is no more.

Here’s how today’s fashion—born out of a new era of designers, models, and creatives—has stopped groupthink and since broken every major fashion rule we were ever told.


Wear White After Labor Day

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Once—many trend cycles ago—white was only a summer color. Some historians think the hue was simply worn to beat the heat, the Gilded Age version of today’s T-shirt and shorts. It made sense, then, that it was put away after Labor Day before colder climates returned. Others, however, theorize that the seasonal shade was just conspicuous consumption—while the rich could afford airy play clothes for stays at beachy vistas, the working class in the city had to slog through the summer in their darker wardrobes. The latter seems more likely: “Very rarely is there actually a functional reason for a fashion rule,” Valerie Steele, director of the Museum at the Fashion Institute of Technology, told Time.

Today, long past Labor Day, the color has become a staple, as seen in various fall/winter 2023 collections, from a snowy whiteout at Dior to Jacquemus’ mélange of milky lace. Celebrities wear white throughout the seasons, too. Julia Fox, who led the charge as a Wiederhoeft bride last New York Fashion Week, proved that this “rule” is one we haven’t cared to follow in a long time.

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Underwear Is Outerwear

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Tights—and leggings—are not pants! At least, that’s what we were told. Then, Miuccia Prada turned the tables and debuted a Miu Miu fall/winter 2023 collection wherein pants were passed over for briefs. As the brand’s LIVE! ad campaign put it,“The normally hidden–the waistbands of stockings, signature panties worn without skirts and delicate petticoats–is now revealed.”

At one point, even a visible bra strap was an embarrassment. From this “faux pas” sprang everything from sticky bras and boob tape to strap hacks via YouTube tutorials. Now, baring it all is a trend. Hailey Bieber wore a G-string whale-tail gown to the Met Gala; bras are tops; naked dressing—letting your lingerie peer subtly through clothing—has run rampant; and going pantsless, whether in knit briefs or men’s boxers, has been seen on the likes of Bella Hadid and Kendall Jenner. No need to worry about panty lines here.

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We Make Old Clothes New Again

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Looking “dated” before was unthinkable to those who stayed on top of trends. Were you even a fashion girl if you weren’t seen in the current collections? Today’s marketplace is thriftier. We want archival Tom Ford-era Gucci. Phoebe Philo’s Celine has a cult following. Vintage Chanel—with ’90s design details, and in particular the chunky, CC chain belt—is highly coveted.

Today’s fashion houses have taken note. For spring/summer 2024, Prada showed beaded and chiffon flapper dresses, while Versace, Fendi, and Tory Burch looked to ’60s mod as inspiration, and Saint Laurent took the wide-shouldered stance of an ’80s blazer. Meanwhile, Sami Miró Vintage, a newcomer on the NYFW calendar, debuted a collection made entirely from reworked vintage fabrics and deadstock.

On TikTok, there’s a subculture for every era. “Stop Dressing Like My Grandma” is superimposed over reels of vintage fit-checks. Plus, peplums came back this year. As we all know, fashion is cyclical that way.

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Navy Plays Well With Others—Especially Black

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Some have said navy and black don’t go together, perhaps due to the similar shades not cutting a high color contrast when next to each other. Still, navy and black are tonal, complementary neutrals—and when worn monochrome, the effect is largely chic. This past September, it seemed the controversial combination debate was settled once and for all on the runway when a model wore a black tuxedo shirt underneath an oversized navy blazer at Loewe’s spring/summer 2024 show, and navy suiting paired with tall black boots was a mainstay at Bally.

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Our Shoes and Bags Can Match…or Not

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This particular fashion law is perhaps one we can’t quite kick. At one point, this type of matching was perhaps a way to signify you looked put-together. And sure, if you can break up a one-color look with red heels and a red bag, the result is good—great, even. This isn’t a rule to break, per se, as much as it is simply a concept we no longer need to cling to.

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You Can Wear Socks With Sandals

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While this particular pairing might bring to mind the garb of dads on vacation with socked feet in sensible shoes, fashion has since elevated the game. The look isn’t out of place on Justin Bieber, nor Hailey for that matter—while off-duty she’s been spotted in fisherman sandals with tube socks, during a night out, she often opts for sheer stockings with opened-toed shoes. Elsewhere, for spring/summer 2024, Jil Sander showed trouser socks with T-strap sandals and MGSM mixed knee-highs with flat footwear.

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The Canadian Tuxedo Remains Iconic

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No, Britney and Justin didn’t corner the denim-on-denim market in 2001. Over time, it’s only become increasingly chic—with the likes of powerhouse fashion icon Rihanna regularly making headlines for her approach, whether in Matthew Adams Dolan or post-pregnancy in a chambray shirt and slouchy jeans.

The Canadian tuxedo’s origins are in the working class—much like Victoria Beckham on the way to school in a Rolls-Royce—but today, it’s high-fashion. Seen in a variety of washes for spring/summer 2024, many brands have transformed the uniform: Dries Van Noten showed a denim suit, pairing a blazer with jorts, and Louis Vuitton made the case for patchwork.

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Miniskirts Can Never Be Too Short

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As Paris Hilton once wisely imparted, “Skirts should be the size of a belt.” Since then, we’ve done away with the fingertip rule—once harping hemlines past said fingertips—and, because “life’s short,” we’ve decided our skirts should be too. There’s perhaps no greater emblem of the micro-mini than the stiff velcro Diesel number—read: an actual, literal belt—that has made the rounds on social media.

It didn’t take long for the industry to take note: For its spring/summer 2024 collection, Acne Studios sent high hemlines down the runway, styled with utilitarian T-shirts and henleys. Meanwhile, Gucci went for a patent leather take, while a Molly Goddard micro-mini was seen with a frilly, tufted petticoat à la a modern-day Marie Antoinette.

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Menswear Is Meant for Everyone

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In today’s fashion world, it’s all about pants. We love skirts, but there’s nothing quite like the two-legged alternative—be it jeans or sleek, tailored trousers. It’s almost impossible to think that women like Katherine Hepburn were really bending gender norms by wearing the wide-legged pants she’s become known for. Since then, womenswear designers have infiltrated the boy’s club—with Ralph Lauren at the head of the sartorial pack—taking cues from traditional tailoring in their collections.

From this blurred overlap of the masculine-coded and feminine mores comes perhaps an even further breakdown of gendered clothing into the androgynous. This can be seen in J.W. Anderson’s spring/summer 2024 epicene house codes—particularly in the designer’s use of a white button-down under a long, grandpa-esque cardigan. Over at Ami, genderless suiting was shown in black pinstripes and dove grey, while big, boxy unisex overcoats loomed large. Ms. Hepburn would be proud.

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Our Left Hands Aren’t Just for Wedding Bands

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Once, while in conversation with a coworker, I idly looked down at her left hand and noticed a ring on what I’d always deemed that finger. It wasn’t a wedding band—rather, a chunky Ring Pop-sized moonstone. Still, I—among many—had grown up with the assumption that a ring, any ring, on that finger meant marriage. Confused, as we’d debriefed on our dating lives at a recent happy hour, I asked if she was engaged, to which she arched an eyebrow as if to say, don’t be so puritanical.

Then, I realized that nearly everyone did this: Unattached friends and acquaintances with a ring on every finger, stacking bands, mixing metals. Consider it a final, flouting middle finger to the rules.

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