We all have sets of fashion rules imprinted in our heads that we carry with us every day, whether we know it or not. They’ve come from the media, magazines, our friends and family - passed down through the years and generations like sniggering little urban legends. Yet no matter how hard we work on ourselves, where we’re at in our lives, those fashion rules live on, quietly negging us, telling us what to wear and how to be.
Well, today I say ENOUGH! It’s time to cancel, mute and forget those fashion rules once and for all - and in doing so, you might just open up a whole new world when it comes to your future knitting projects and how you see yourself!
I grew up in the age of Trinny and Susannah. Nothing was safe from them and their ‘rules’ - sleeve length, upper arms, knees, colors, patterns, make up, necklines. Everything had a rule. And if you disobeyed those rules then get ready for a shaming and to be told you’re a bit crap.
Those rules have stayed with us. No matter how much we work on our self-esteem and confidence, or how old we are, they are constant whispers in our ears. Whether we’re out shopping, catch a glimpse of ourselves in a shop window, or are choosing what project to knit next - that voice is always, quietly there, getting at us:
Me: Oh that top looks great - I’d like to knit that
Rules Voice: You can’t. Sorry.
Me: But I love the pattern! It’s so fun!
Rules Voice: It’s horizontal stripes. You know the rules. NO STRIPES EVER.
Me: But if I want to wear stripes, I should be able to! It’s my body!
Rules: Your boobs are too large for stripes. You’ll look big. I’m looking out for you. IT’S THE RULES.
Me: But I am big! People can see that already. I don’t think stripes will change that.
Rules: No no no. People have no idea. Put on stripes and you’ll be exposed for the body shape that you truly are. Don’t break the illusion! YOU DON’T MESS WITH THE RULES.
We got told that the rules are there to protect us. By exposing a fleshy upper arm, wearing stripes, a bold pattern, anything too loud, a high neck, or wearing a cool blue when we’re WARM TONES ONLY, we’re at risk for being seen for the bodies we have, and *gasp* who we really are. As if by wearing the correct magical formula of garments then we can fool the world into thinking we’re three sizes smaller, 10cm taller, or 20 years younger. The rules are there to minimise, to reduce, to flatter, to hide.
Trinny and Susannah - Fashion Police Gone Bad
Well guess what - people CAN see you. They see you for who you are and no amount of black, stacked heels or well placed highlighter is going to change that. And whilst that might feel confronting its bluntness, once you come to peace with that idea, it’s actually very liberating. When you give up on ‘the rules’, throw them in the bin, and start filling your wardrobe with what you like, what catches your eye, what makes you smile - you start feeling much more like yourself. The most authentic version of yourself. The you that has always been there, waiting to come out - but may have been too shy, too nervous, too trodden down by rules to show themselves.
I talk about this today, in relation to knitting and me-made garments - as I’ve been thinking a lot about my recently completed Kingston Sweater, which I talked about last week. The sweater breaks so many of the so-called fashion rules that a fat body, like mine, is traditionally expected to follow:
And yet my Kingston Sweater has all of these things in abundance. Why? Because I fell in love with the colours and because I felt like it!
According to Trinny and Susannah, I’ve committed so many sins by daring to make and wear this garment - it’s attention grabbing, bulky, loud, and does absolutely nothing to minimise or ‘flatter’ me - that if they could see this jumper, I've no doubt they'd throw me in fashion jail for being a big old style law breaker!
Do I look thin? No. Do I reduce my shape or presence? No. Is it all a bit much? Yes. Because that’s who I am!
Someone told me that I was ‘brave’ for wearing this combination. Well I say I’m just being me. I'm simply following what my heart desired!
On my journey to becoming a knitter, I’ve been talking to every knitter I meet out in the world. I'm fascinated by their journeys, what they make, why, and what they enjoy about knitting. And it suprises me how often I hear that people don’t make garments for themselves due to fears around their bodies, nervousness regarding fit, or they aren't making what they really want to wear, in the colours, or style that they love, out of fear of the rules, out of fear of their bodies.
It’s something I talk about daily with my clients and in my work as a personal stylist and confidence coach at New Boots and Panties. These limitations we impose on ourselves. The times we say “I wish I could wear that” or “I wish I could pull that off”. Because, you can! It's all there waiting for you.
So how about we all start making what we actually want to, when we decide to knit a new project?
I urge you to go onto Ravelry, Pinterest, Instagram or wherever you get your knitting inspiration from and look at knitted garments and patterns based on what you LIKE. Try your best to silence those pesky little voices and nagging rules, and cast your eye over these images with a fresh eye. One that is free from rules and limitations. One that asks 'what would I really like to wear?'.
Take a note of the things that make your heart-a flutter - collect them up. And then make one. In colours, shapes and styles that bring you joy. Don't worry about clashing. Don't worry about how you might look.
Why not mix colours? Put a yellow with a blue. A pink with a red. Or why not three, four or five colours?! Explore and enjoy the Lissy Cole Auaha Haukura range with the wonder and freeness of a child! Like the look of tassels or pom poms, a jaunty houndstooth pattern, or big red buttons? Pop them on! Follow your joy! Wear something ridiculous!
Because here's the secret to it all: when you're wearing what brings you joy, everyone around you catches the bug - they can't see your self-perceived flaws. All they see is your epic energy and how mightily you're feeling your beans!
Knitting means so many things to so many people - a creative outlet, a mode of mindfulness and relaxation - but it’s also your fashion and style secret weapon. In your talented hands, you possess the power to craft for yourself your own dream garments, in custom fits, colours and styles. You can make anything you want! You are your own couture house! You possess an amazing talent and skill - embrace it!
So why limit yourself and restrict your creativity with insulting, outdated and artibitary fashion rules?
I urge you to knit with the goal of JOY - create what makes you happy. If you fancy the look of it, then use that neon orange, knit that technicolour jacket out of it, make it floor length, puff up the sleeves then add tassels all over. Tassels are universal!
Make your next project one for you. One that you can take out into the world and proudly say ‘THIS IS ME. AS I AM. SEE ME NOW.’
Break those fashion rules, set yourself free, knit what brings you joy, and get down to Outlaw Yarn where you can ask the lovely team for their advice on how to start creating the fabulous, ridiculous, completely rebellious projects of your dreams!
Until next time,
Pattern - The Kingston Sweater by Tara-Lynn Morrison
Yarn - Lissy Cole Auaha Haukura collection - available from Outlaw Yarn
in Taumata (red), Harikoa (pink), E Te Tau (orange) and Paki (blue)
I'm Lou, an Ōtautahi based personal stylist and craft-lover, and this is Never Been Knit - my journey from complete knitting virgin to...well, let's find out together!