Home STREET STYLE Breaking a few style rules can bring a spark of life to...

Breaking a few style rules can bring a spark of life to an outfit | Jess Cartner-Morley


New year’s resolutions are a goodie-goodie business. Sobriety. Budgeting. This time of year is all batch-cooking healthy root vegetable dishes and rinsing the plates before they go in the dishwasher, then flossing before bed. It is diligent and well behaved, but not, you will be pleased to hear, in fashion. This is the perfect moment to break a few rules.

I actually believe that breaking one so-called style rule every day is key to looking modern. I don’t mean scruffy. I mean including one thing in your look that brings an element of surprise. We follow rules without even realising we are doing it: which colours go together, what’s appropriate for your age, what hemline is expected in the office, which earrings are a bit fancy for the supermarket.

Deliberately flouting just one law when you get dressed is a visual wink, a sideways-look-to-camera that functions like a friendly email sign-off. It brings a spark of life and humanity to the figure you cut as you walk down the street, and is cheering for all of us.

It’s especially important at this time of year, when the practicalities of keeping warm have a tendency to make our outfits samey and banal. Summer is naturally a bit more fancy – sunglasses in your hair, flimsy dresses, brightly painted toenails in sandals – but January is a sea of black puffer jackets and sturdy, blocky boots or trainers and endless dark jeans, all with the exact same phone bulge in the back right pocket.

A tiny bit of conscious effort can make a big difference. Take socks. Sensible trousers with a sturdy brogue or trainer is an appealing, practical winter combination, but it doesn’t make your heart sing. An unexpected pair of socks – bright red or glittery wool – will lift everything. The key is to make sure it looks deliberate, not as though you didn’t realise your socks were visible: choose a good-quality pair, and think about shining your shoes and/or rolling up your trouser hem an inch. Tiny thing, huge difference. Unexpected socks are fun for evening wear too. At a Chanel show in Paris last year, the models were wearing thick nubbly hiking socks with slingback sandals, and it looked excellent.

Breaking style rules doesn’t mean looking garish. Combining navy with black is traditionally a no-no, but in fact is very chic: a navy knit under a black suit, or a navy dress with black tights, looks minimalist but not boring. I also feel navy with black is a bit French, although I couldn’t give you any evidence for this. Grey with camel – a camel knit sweater with grey tailored trousers, for instance – is chic and professional and a little bit Italian.

I am always amazed by the hold the rule against mixing gold and silver jewellery has over apparently free-thinking women. (Fun fact: Kate Moss once told me that it’s the one style rule she sticks to.) But there’s no reason not to break it – in fact, because few people do, wearing gold and silver together is an easy way to look maverick without, you know, going all-out in a purple hat or brightly coloured tights.

The opportunities to bend the rules can be adapted to your personal tastes. Amplifying those tastes is exactly the point you want to make, after all. So if you enjoy wearing stripes, try wearing two stripes together: a stripy jumper knotted around your shoulders over a striped shirt, say. If leopard print makes you happy, treat it as a neutral and wear it every day.

Pick a rule – any rule – and break it. The choice is yours. And you can change your mind tomorrow. If only all new year’s resolutions were this much fun.

Photography assistant: Bruce Horak. Model: Eliana at Body London. Hair and makeup: Sophie Higginson using Bumble & Bumble and Laura Mercier. Dress: Aligne. Socks: whistles. Heels: Dune London

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