breaking the rules – how to break free when your internal fashion gestapo is screaming “halt!”

breaking the rules – how to break free when your internal fashion gestapo is screaming “halt!”

i need help. (ok, not like that.)

i need help with this -

a long long time ago, when i was young and naive and trying to make sense of all the terrible fashion choices that buffeted my innocent eyeballs each day as i darted between “ENG102″ and “GOV101,” i made a list of very strict and very mandatory rules regarding appropriate attire.

in hindsight, i understand that the real issue was this: leggings and uggs. it got particularly sticky when the owner of said items was under the impression that these items were actually the same as “pants and boots,” and wore them as such.

like i said though, i was young, and perhaps a bit hasty in my thought process, and so my Number One Rule For Dressing Myself became this:

1. i, diana, will never ever wear brown and black at the same time.

the problem though, is that this just doesn’t really work for me any more.


because then i’d have to rule out things like this:

roseate spoonbill

roseate spoonbill

and this:

kennedy holmes

kennedy holmes

and if we’re going to be totally honest with each other, both of those magnificent photographs were just uploaded from the “HolyShitAwesome!!” folder on my computer.

so what’s the problem?

me. that’s the problem.

as much as now i see the error in my rash ruling against the black-brown combo, i still can’t get comfortable pulling it off myself.

i did it to myself – i know – but please, tell me i’m not the only one who just can’t will themselves to break a stupid self-imposed fashion rule.
and then share with me – oh brave, brave readers that you are – how you whooped that stupid rule’s ass.

41 comments to breaking the rules – how to break free when your internal fashion gestapo is screaming “halt!”

  • As Nike says: Just do it.
    .-= WendyB´s last blog ..Big Sale at Bloomie’s =-.

  • listen (selectively) to your mother.
    she says a color looks good on you. As the person who has seen you in many many colors throughout your life, believe her. (I wouldn’t wear brown at all for a while, as I thought it made me look like poop. Silly girl.)
    but if she swears by football helmet hair, you might want to ignore her cries that you need more hairspray in your life.

  • Yes make uP ur own rules! btw Amber did U get my flickrmail & or email via yahoo?
    .-= Lagelle´s last blog ..Sunday attire =-.

  • Actually, mine’s about the same. I’ve had it burned into my brain never to wear brown with black, black with navy, or navy with brown. Of course, I’ve managed to break this rule through some clever means:
    1. I have a skirt that actually incorporates both black and brown, and one that has all three and a plethora of other colors in it.
    2. I justify to myself that the reason this rule is in place is to keep people from being way too homogenous with their colors. Therefore, if it isn’t DARK brown, it’s okay. I would say to myself, “Well, yeah, that’s brown, or at least it’s in the brown family, but it isn’t BROWN-brown.” The outfits in these photos pass instantly by that standard.

    If you ever want to wear navy with black, though, I totally cannot help you. I’m still stuck.

  • alisha

    there is only one universal fashion rule that exists and it is:
    NEVER EVER EVER wear trainers with jeans
    besides that, forget all the other rules you know, and begin making up your own personal rules.
    i pay no attention to any of the silly fashion don’ts and just dress myself how i feel and if it looks good to me, i’m good to go.

    don’t believe me? i’m known for wearing plaid on plaid and not noticing (ie it doesn’t look appalling).
    i also very recently wore a shrunken denim jacket with a cut off denim skirt (and received many shocked compliments on my attire).

  • I totally have had the same rule for myself! i started to get over it by using a tan/brown-ish bag. Seeing it with my everyday outfits (that include a lot of black) has helped me see how the combo can be actually look fab.

  • SBJ

    I agree with the first commenter – just do it, yo.

    It helps if you’re feeling pissy at your closet and/or life in general to begin with, because then you’ll get started on outfit assembly, feel that tug of being a good little rule follower, but then your mood will be all, “Who the f*** are YOU to tell me what the hell I can and can’t wear, huh? Stop projecting your sad little conformist childhood sob stories on my wardrobe or I’ll cut you, loser.”

    Here are a few of my best black/brown ensembles (at least the recorded ones – hope it’s helpful:

    Summer brown, black and blue:
    High femme black, brown and burgundy:
    Navy + black + brown:
    Insane paprika pants w/ brown & black:
    Sex kitten black & brown:
    .-= SBJ´s last blog ..Hey! Where did FFAF go? =-.

  • I once promised not to wear skinny jeans. But I wear them every day now. You can break your rule by saying to yourself one day, “hmm… let’s be adventurous today.” once you dip your toes in the waters, you will not turn back. :D

  • Sara Lynn

    reaaaalllyyy? black and brown is my favorite color combination to wear! i know it’s look at as a fashion faux-pas but i lovvvvveeeezzzz it!
    and i’m not talking tan.. no way… i’m all about the dark brown and black.

  • I live by that fashion rule too (aswell as a few others).
    Those two looks are awesome but those browns are almost a mustardy colour so they work well. Its a darker brown, with black that should be feared. Don’t get me wrong, it looks wonderful on some people, just not me.
    .-= Cait´s last blog ..Weekend Recap =-.

  • Claire

    I do agree with the ugg and leggings. I am from Australia and luckly it has mainly died out here. Ugg’s are only for wearing on your own property-Do Not Leave Wearing Them.

  • Oh I am sooooo with you on the whole brown and black thing. It’s incredibly testing when you have to pack to go away as well becasue you have to take brown shoe outfits and black shoe outfits. I don’t know if we’ll ever be able to break out of it.

    Only at 31 am I learning (OR actually remembering through trial and error) what my other fashion rules are ‘The shorter the skirt, the flatter the shoe’, ‘Not arms AND legs out – either or’ but I love the fact that sometimes I get them horrendously wrong and look just plain, deliciously weird..x

  • Laura

    As a rule, tan or light brown, as your lovely dresses are, are perfectly acceptable. But there is no way IN HELL that brown (we’re talking dark smudgy brown now) works with black.
    Yucky :)
    So sorry, the rule is absolute.

  • Because it is 2009, I think it’s safe to say that many self-imposed rules should be done away with. Note: MANY not ALL.. Cough, Birkenstocks with socks? No, no, no.. Trainers with jeans? Never.

    But I don’t think a girl should Never Ever Ever fear mixing neutrals with neutrals. It’s classic. Brown/Black, Brown/Navy, Navy/Black, Creams/Whites etc. Of course, it all depends on the shade of the neutral and what piece it is. It seemed so crazy to me for the longest time (I guess because Brown/Black seemed SO drabby drab to me at 16..) but I’ve learned that with the right pieces/right shades the neutral on neutral look can be streamlined yet superior and chic. My favorite way to pump up a neutral outfit is with metallics! (Also considered neutrals…)

    I like this article a lot:


  • i had the same issue til i started looking at how betty ( put a touch of black, grey, and brown in almost every outfit she puts together. she’s my new inspiration for getting over the fear! no seriously, just went there and she’s done it again! amazing!
    .-= thefashionmaven´s last blog ..announcing my new blog =-.

  • I agree with you – I don’t think brown and black fit together. Even on the pictures – I think white will look better with brown than black…
    .-= myvogue´s last blog ..Trendy and Affordable “bubble” clothes by DH Styles and Charlotte =-.

  • so relieved to know i’m not the only one AGAINST the no-black-with-brown rule. tan is fine but not brown, please. i still abide by it. sorry i can’t help you here. the 2 outfits posted above are quite ok by me although i think i wouldn’t wear black flats with the polkadot dress but a blue for contrast.
    .-= Tom Tuttle from Tacoma´s last blog ..yellow =-.

  • Barrie

    Oh Diana. I love all of your posts. I’ve done the black/brown thing but never black tights with brown shoes. Others have pulled it off and made it look cute, but I’ve never been able to. I agree with the neutral on neutral. Won’t work for me. I’ve never tried truly clashing colors, like pink and red. I can’t wear grey without looking dead.

    I WON’T wear jeans that reveal a tire ring around the waist. Tight, corset-like tank tops were invented for a reason. Or else high-waisted jeans. I’ve seen a few photographs that have made me cringe and have only reinforced my fashion won’t-dos.

  • ok, i’m 42 (almost 43) and a few years back i swore off ever wearing shorts that didn’t touch my knee again. i started thinking about it and last year i decided that at some point later in my life i’d look back to now and think how much i wish that i still looked like i did @ 42. it ain’t gonna get better. so, i gave myself permission to put back on those shorter shorts and to buy more. see here:
    .-= tonya´s last blog ..etsy shopping =-.

  • Rules are for schoolchildren, ladies. That’s what I say.
    I love the conversation this is sparking, but if you ask me, rules are TOTALLY meant for breaking! Just think if the “take one off” rule for accessories was hard and fast? I say a lovely simple outfit with a ton of kickass accessories is the new black. And just look at the Glamourai! She is most divine whilst drowning in beads and hats! And good thing Liebemarlene doesn’t care about the “no tights with peeptoes” rule. She pulls that off beautifully every time.
    Take a hard and fast rule as more of a challenge. That’s where innovation is born!

  • Jesslyn

    Try small touches of brown leather with black outfits- I was formerly a “no brown with black” gal, but after spending some time in France and seeing everyone there look insanely cute with black dresses/leggings and brown leather boots, it grew on me. Just do it in small doses, and then gradually incorporate more and more until you’re comfortable with it!

  • Oh c’mon, brown and black look great together! I think the real key to mixing hard-to-mix colors is to include more than one piece of each. The other thing I like to do is to mix a couple different shades of brown with some black accent pieces. This makes the whole thing look intentional, not like you got dressed in the dark. Here are a couple of recent posts where I thought the brown/black combo worked particularly well:

    And if you just need an excuse to break your own rule, then make it, “Rules are for suckers!”
    .-= Audi´s last blog ..A Case for Keeping Seldom-Worn Items =-.

  • Now look, dearie. That very adorable feather headband you were seen rocking a few posts back…is it or is it not both black AND brown? Maybe the dose was just small enough that you didn’t notice, but it’s already not like you neeeeeeeeever wear that combo. Now you just need to kick it up a notch.
    .-= caroline´s last blog ..gratuitous family photo post =-.

  • Ari

    I totally feel you on the whole brown and black thing! I still feel wierd whenever I where them together. I feel like someone is always internally shaking their head at my fashion choice. But I say break the rules, fashion is about fun.
    .-= Ari´s last blog ..It is done =-.

  • I was entirely anti-Ugg. Then I moved to NYC and realized it was freezing cold and Uggs were really warm. Out went that rule.

    The other rule I had was also the leggings-aren’t-pants rule. However, I bought this great pair of warm gray leggings that were so thick that they could pretty much be pants. But I do impose a rule that if I wear leggings/pants, the shirt I wear must go past my butt. That’s one rule I’m pretty sure I won’t disregard.

    No one wants to see that much of your butt.
    .-= Ania´s last blog ..Please Answer When I Knock. I Really Don’t Want to See You Naked. =-.

  • ok, i think i’ve been convinced… and i agree very strongly with all of the comments about it really depending on the SHADE of brown in question. lighter/warmer tones seem to be the most appealing.

    and caroline – you are RIGHT! that one totally went over my head… i guess i just didn’t think of it in terms of “color” colored, but more along the lined of FEATHER colored. (ha! yes! i just typed that!) so that leads me to this: nature mixes ‘em, so it’s gotta be ok. thank you for that :)

  • One of my most important rules, having grown up in, and now returned to post-BA, a farm town in Vermont, USA, has for years stood unchallenged. But a few weeks ago I had my perfectly snug, dark high-waisted jeans on, and couldn’t find a jacket that felt quite right. Until! I rediscovered my boyfriend-style, light wash, legitimately broken in since the 7th grade, denim jacket. With the sleeves pushed back and a few bracelets and some high High heels, I looked fantastic. I couldn’t believe it: somehow, some way, I had made denim-on-denim (my Number 1 No-no) work.

    Also, love the first outfit. Brown on black is undoubtedly tricky, but by no means outlawed. Keep experimenting!

  • I love black and brown – it looks great and it’s classic. Here’s a black and brown look we put together if you need more inspiration to brave it yourself:

  • Mel

    You are a girl after my own heart… unfortunately. I had the same problem. I have to say though, I totally overcame it. It just happened to me that I also came across to some fashion wonders that were combining the neutrals with no shame and to my surprise they looked fabulous to the point that I was coveting those looks really badly. One day, I just did it. Everything flowed naturally after that. You might want to try a very light shade of brown to start with. It is easier to combine with black (think on how well leopard print shoes and lbds go together).
    Good luck! :-)

  • Nancy

    My universe was turned upside down when my roommate told me that you CANNOT under any circumstances where NAVY/GRAY/BROWN with BLACK.
    To spite her, and myself, I often will wear all of those colors at once.

    What I cannot do, however, is wear a tank top with shorts. Even when it is really hot. My strange little mantra is “slutty on top, no slutty on the bottom. and the opposite.” Ah, the cute outfits I have missed out on! The exposed skin!

  • [...] think they’re a tube dress.  you know what else is awesome?  i’m totally rocking the brown-and-black look this trip.  i’m breaking all my Rules.  you know what else is aweome?  these [...]

  • i just looked at the title “fashion gestapo screaming “halt” – smiled and readed the post and really liked it – and you are so right you have some rules what you never should wear or wear together. it´s time to break them
    .-= Fashion Blog´s last blog ..Off & Co. Outletsale in München =-.

  • Занятно! Вообще, забавно видеть , когда в считанные часы совершенно без малейшего повода из пальца высасывается этакий “новостной сюжет” и начинает широко гулять по всем блогам. :)

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  • Natalie Silva

    This girl is so beautiful. The second dress I have almost the same in blue and my husband goes nuts over me in it.The first picture is so sweet and attractive the way she poses. Jessica’s comment about Birkenstocks with socks I have to object to though, hahaha

  • Natalie Silva

    This girl is so beautiful. The second dress I have almost the same in blue and my husband goes nuts over me in it.The first picture is so sweet and attractive the way she poses. Jessica’s comment about Birkenstocks with socks I have to object to though, hahaha

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  • the first one is neat it reminds me of my favorite aunt who dresses so nicely…

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