Charlotte's Web

Blogging my world since 2006

The Fashion Commandments


I am not a fashion victim or slave. Since I was bashed with the blogging mallet, I have almost completely given up my fashion magazine habit – unless I receive them as a gift, in which case, I hyperventilate with excitement. I now tend to get my fashion advice from two online newspapers – The Guardian/Observer and The Times – and those brilliant stylistas at Go Fug Yourself. With forty looming like an overly mascaraed false eyelash, I occasionally give some thought to my own style. Am I showing too much flesh, like a rosemary-scented Easter lamb, or is there a hint of tough-skinned old mutton about me? I recently read the following tips from The Times, which I thought would be important to share with those of you who care. Those of you who couldn’t give a lamb damn, then flick away fast to something less superficial.

Ten commandments, apparently, for mothers with daughters (and all women over 40):

1. Thou shalt resist Abercrombie & Fitch. It’s soft, it’s comfortable. It’s designed for teenagers.

Luckily this is not a problem for me. No A&F in my ‘hood. However there are large sections of H&M I have to avoid.

2. Thou shalt be seen only at the most casual events in hoodies.

Early morning walk? Talking the kids to kindergarten? Apres-ski? Methinks these are all suitable hoody occasions. Otherwise I leave the hood well alone. Of course, the hood on my green boiled wool winter coat doesn’t count here.

3. Thou shalt wear high-tech trainers only in the gym.

Well, what’s a high-tech trainer when it’s home. One that flashes? Or calculates your BMI? I do wear trainers – see above for when.

4. Thou shalt not show thy political awareness by wearing slogan T-shirts. Thou hast the vote. Use it.

I have voted, and I do forswear slogan T-shirts, but I wouldn’t mind a T-shirt that said “Mother. Blogger. Goddess”. That would be good.

5. Thou shalt wear jeans, but not the identical cut and brands as thy teenage daughter.

I do avoid teenage jeans, usually because I can’t get them over my knees. While my jeans do rest slightly below my navel, they also rest quite far above my coccyx, so that I keep my antler tattoo hidden from public view. Some things just have to be kept private.

6. Thou shalt not wear sparkly body powder even in jest. It settles in the wrinkles.

Sparkly body powder, no. Sparkly Dream Mousse Shimmer Porcelain Face Illuminator for special occasions, yes. I am a natural born princess.

7. Thou shalt not wear leggings. Period.

I have lived through two leggings fashion eras. This is not mine. I leave the leggings to the twiglets. Chicken drumstick legs are only for boot-cut pants. Period.

8. Thou shalt not suddenly decide to be edgy, although if one has always been an eccentric dresser, carry on as normal.

Disagree! While I am not edgy, I am cutting-edge for my town (I wear lipstick! and mascara! to kindergarten! with jewellery!) I refuse to stop entertaining the crowds.

9. Thou shalt never do mixy-matchy or themed outfits with one’s daughters.

Absolutely. Too, too tacky.

10. Thou shalt treat thyself to expensive classics. And lock them away.

I’m not good at tailored. Tailored, expensive classics make me feel like an over-upholstered sofa, all puffed-up and full of self-importance. However I have made two investment purchases this year – a beautiful pair of brown leather boots and my Party Dress. Worn together, they are very slightly edgy.

Do any of these rules speak to you? Or do I drop The Times of London as my fashion bible and head elsewhere for tips?

Author: charlotteotter

Novelist, feminist, crime writer

17 thoughts on “The Fashion Commandments

  1. I would totally wear a “Mother. Blogger. Goddess” tshirt! My tshirts normally must be only solid colors (with a few tie-dyes thrown in for extra variety), but for this I’d make an exception.

    But otherwise these commandments simply seem to be warning mothers away from resembling their daughters, and for being overly casual. Overall, that seems wise, but I think there should be exceptions.

    My mother always asserted that “grown-up” women should never have long hair. I just hate that rule.

    I am often sparkly, but that’s just from hugging my kids who seem to always be coated in some form of face paint or glittery stuff.

    I cannot stand to wear hip-huggers. They just do not work with my shape and feel like they’re going to fall off at any moment. However, recently I have accepted that I can wear bootcut jeans, varying from a lifetime of straight legs. No flares, mind you. There are limits.

  2. Henitserk, if I get around to making that T-shirt, I’ll do one for you! As for your mother’s rules, I’m breaking them. Rather long hair on this grown-up.

  3. Charlotte, thou shall not take any of this seriously and thou absolutely shall love yourself whatever you wear. I also wear lipstick and mascara to fetch my child from school, and high heels too, although I mostly swop these for wellies if I am walking over the fields. I may be something of an anomoly, but as you say, it is entertaining for the crowds and my oh so conservative English friends have almost stopped rolling their eyes when Iwear my lime green bomber jacket. I’m African, things are generally brighter out there. Nobody has ever accused me of dressing appropriately for the occasion, they just introduce me as my eccentric neighbour, but the secret is, I really don’t mind. I dress for me and no one else. (Although I have to agree, sparkles do settle in the wrinkles)

  4. My number one rule of fashion – dress however the hell you want, and you will never be out of style. You will never be IN style either, but that’s a small price to pay to avoid having highly embarrassing photos from 10 years ago floating around the house (or the Internet).

    I am fast approaching the age where a nice suit starts to seem more and more appealing…

  5. hmmmm … do these rules speak to me? well, i’m not over 40 yet, i’m not mother to a teenage daughter, and i’m not sure if i would give a damn about these rules if i were. except maybe that i wouldn’t want to embarrass my daughter in front of her schoolmates.

    i don’t know abercrombie & fitch, but i have no problems avoiding the teenager section of H&M – i shop in the “big is beautiful” department. i wear hoodies but avoid slogan t-shirts – i think the slogans lose some of their bite on a D cup bust. no gym, no high-tech trainers. no sparkly body powder. positively no leggins. i refuse to wear mixy-matchy or themed outfits even with my partner. and i can’t afford expensive classics.

    i believe you look good in what you feel comfortable in. but people should be aware that they might be regarded eccentric when they chose to dress like their teenage kids – and those kids might take offense.

  6. I love H&M. I’m so sad there isn’t one in Australia, and I stock up when I go to UK. Although I put on a H&M dress to go out yesterday and Kiko’s Daddy wouldn’t let me because he said it made me look TOO OLD!! Hmmmm, still not sure if he’s in trouble or not. I also have the urge to dress me and Kiko in matching outfits, heh heh, now that would be eccentric but I have to make the most of him not being able to argue properly.

    Eeh, the other day I saw a young maiden who was wearing a pair of jeans so tight they could have been a second skin. She looked good in them but I couldn’t help thinking: “Type of jeans that when you have a baby will never, ever fit you again.” That was probably carved on the Mount Sinai tablets!

  7. I’m neither mother nor over 40. I avoid fashion commandments because, to my mind, they aim at instilling a lack of self-confidence in the reader/wearer’s mind. I dress to suit myself and the occasion — as long as it is comfortable and suits my body shape. That said, I’ve followed at least one of those rules, slavishly, for years.

    No leggings, ever. Again, that is. I wore them — once — first time around and I now know that billiard table legs are not a good look on me.

    I’d also agree with the expensive classic but I wouldn’t lock it away. Having just bought a jacket that cost more than my wedding dress (before you run screaming in horror, I bought the fabric for under $200 and my mother made the dress), I couldn’t believe how good it felt on or how confident I felt while I was wearing it. I’m going to dress it up, dress it down and feel fabulous every time I wear it. I’d definitely recommend at least one expensive item in everyone’s wardrobe!

  8. I agree with most of those rules. A&F doesn’t fit my curves anyway. I like hoodies but then *everything* is casual where I live. I only recently started wearing heels. I wish I could be “edgy” but the best I can do is vaguely funky. Leggings: ACK! No can do. Wide-leg yoga pants, yes. Still can’t bring myself to buy expensive clothing.

    Put me down for a “Mother. Blogger. Goddess.” shirt!

  9. As long as you’re never mutton dressed up as lamb, you’ll do OK.
    Your tattoo reference reminded me of a song in German: Bye-Bye Arschgeweih by Ina Müller.

  10. My sister and I were having a long conversation about this very thing yesterday. Think – Trinny & Susanna meet The Grumpy Old Women – and you’ll just about get the gist of it.

    I get a lot of my fashion advice from tv. They do some good stuff about taking the shape or theme of the season and adjusting it as appropriate to age and shape.

    It’s strange but I’m getting less sceptical about fashion as I get older. Could this be a last ditch attempt to hold onto some vestige of youth?

    Still, as far as I’m concerned there are three categories of clothes – gardening, comfy and getting-dressed-up-once-in-a-blue-moon.

    After my experience yesterday, I’d say: start with the very best haircut you can afford and watch everything else fall into place behind that.
    And if something you wear makes you feel fabulous, it’ll show in your face and in your confidence.

  11. I’m not over 40, although I have to admit sometimes I feel like it. I have that ‘Dutch mom’ uniform. Jeans, bootcut, or tailored trousers, boots (of course), long sleeved t-shirts, or shirts, smart coat.

    I’ve recently started wearing makeup again and apparently I looked ‘like a movie star’ with my sunglasses and lipstick waiting outside school the other day. I wonder if this was a veiled ‘thou shalt not wear red lipstick to school’ commandment. Hah.

    Summer is much harder to dress for I think. It’s when all the mistakes come out of the closet. I can’t wait ’til I’m thin enough for the summer dress with boots look (quick, before I’m 40!)

    My winter treat, two pairs of boots from Duoboots, who actually have boots that will fit around my generous calves.

  12. And by the way: For “Mother Blogger Goddess” t-shirts, just go here ( and make your own!

  13. Welcome, Ms African Vanielje! I think as foreigners it is our obligation, nay, our duty to entertain and perplex the natives. Hence your lime green bomber jacket (sounds fabulous) and my over-excessive combination of jewellery and make-up worn together ON THE SAME DAY. I am so OTT.

    Paddy, I have to say that men of a certain age do look wonderful in a well-cut suit. Whether it’s a statement or a refuge, it still looks good.

    Bine, you make a good point. It’s probably offensive to kids if their parents try to dress like them. I have a friend who’s recently decided to stop shopping in TopShop because her teenage son now buys his clothes there. She’s moving on – still looking good, mind you – but moving on gracefully and letting him have the TopShop space.

    Helen, I have to admit that while I never consciously dress like my kids, I have suddenly realised sometimes halfway through the day that by putting Ollie and I both into jeans and a green T-shirt we do look a teeny bit matchy-matchy. Note to self: avoid in future.

    I agree with you Kerryn that if you own an expensive classic that you love, then wear it. I put on my Party Dress the other night just to go out for dinner with my girlfriends, and even though it was a little too much, I felt great. Commandment number one then: if it feels good, wear it.

    YogaMum: you are on the list! Do you have a colour preference?

    Hi Letters! I haven’t heard the song, but am addicted to the concept of butt antlers.

    Teuchter, I can relate! I dressed more conservatively in my twenties (I was working for a big corporation; wore far too much navy) than I am now. I think fashion can be for fun and play. And I like the tip about the haircut – that’s a great place to start.

    Ash, keep on the with red lipstick and sunglasses – it sounds wonderful! And I agree that winter and its uniform of coat and boot is easier than summer, when far more flesh needs to be on display.

    Thanks Paddy! Will go and check it out forthwith.

  14. I’m just a shade over 30 with no kids, but I take a lot of these to heart as well. The jeans get me the most, but then again that could be because in Italy what I’d consider “teenager jeans” are actually the norm. Lots and lots of sparkles, sequins, and butt-cracks anyone?

    Like others have said, I wear whatever I want, but sometimes you wish that others would have mercy on our eyes 😉 (even though, of course they have the right to wear what *they* want too).

    Fun post 🙂

  15. I’m ashamed to admit that since I’ve come to South Africa, I pretty much dress exclusively from Woolies. I haven’t got into the shopping scene here – still miss Monsoon for summer dresses and Gap for useful tops. Luckily my once cutting-edge Gap chunky rib cotton jumpers have lasted a good eleven years and though I’m sure the edge is now terminally blunt they are my winter uniform and very comfortable.

    I am a bit worried that leggings and tight drainpipes are going to oust bootlegs from the rails at Woolies..maybe I’d better go and lay in a few years supply until they are back in fashion again!

    I’m also in a quandary about what to buy, just in case I ever have to have a face to face work meeting, now I’m dabbling my toes back into the working world. I haven’t worn smart clothes since I was twenty two and temping and am not going to splash out on a suit now. Perhaps some bootlegs that aren’t jeans and a shirt with a collar that you actually have to iron…?!

  16. Thanks for sharing those with us Charlotte. Well worth the read and a good laugh. The sparkly body paint veto goes without saying. (Unless you are below the age of fifteen and/or heading off to a fairy party).

    But there are always exceptions to the rule, and whatever makes you feel good should be ok. A little bit of eccentricity here and there is what makes life spicy and fun.

  17. Well, I do wear political slogans now and then. But other than that, I am a devout follower of those commandments.

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