It’s Time To Break Some Style Rules

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it's time to break some style rules by Wardrobe Oxygen

I was updating an old article on Wardrobe Oxygen that has been quite popular this season (this one if you're curious) and I had to stop and write this because of what I saw when seeking images of plus size models wearing different kinds of tops to show how what you wear can change how your body looks. I was looking for examples of my suggestions, but what stopped me in my tracks was how dramatically different models on the 11 Honoré site looked depending on what they were wearing. It made me realize how it's time… past time to break some style rules.

I think we can all agree that most models on websites aren't realistic examples of what we look like, especially if you are plus sized. There are so many stories of non-plus models being padded to fit into plus clothing, plus clothing being pinned to fit smaller models, and realizing that a plus model may actually be a 14W but she is also 6'2″ tall.

On top of that, models are notoriously photoshopped on websites; we've seen many a model missing an arm, having a weirdly long or narrow leg, being made smaller, larger, or even a different skintone to fit the desires of the brand.

But on the 11 Honoré site, a retailer that carries high-end fashion in sizes 12-26, the models don't appear to be photoshopped. Instead of contorting their bodies to create the image of an hourglass, they are usually standing relaxed, facing the camera, not doing a lot of posing. The lighting is softer than on a lot of other sites, showing shadows and drape. The effect isn't messy, but luxe. It shows the quality of the clothing, the luster, and texture of the fabrics.

11 Honoré sells apparel from a range of designers and has an in-house collection as well. The clothes are not for one specific personal style aesthetic, and unlike a lot of other plus size retailers, not all silhouettes are created to hide, whittle, elongate, or distract.

Having the same models over and over in a range of different silhouettes, cuts, and styling methods, it shows not only how clothing can alter one's perception of the body but moreso alter one's perception of the person's confidence, sense of style, and even age.

It's Time to Break some Style Rules

The silhouette and styling on 11 Honoré show a lot of the style rules we have been taught to follow if our bodies do not look like a mannequin (AKA slim, tall, leggy, with a subtle hourglass shape) actually do not work. And how even if the choice of silhouette or styling may make a body look more “ideal,” it may not be the most stylish, modern, or chic option.

While larger than typical runway models, these are still women who have firm bodies and conventionally attractive faces and curves. The point of this exercise is not to compare yourself to them, but to see the same body wearing high-quality, well-fitting clothing in a range of colors, silhouettes, and fabrics.

My hope is that activity helps you realize that those dated style rules may not be doing you any favors. And that having more fun with fashion may not whittle your waist or elongate your legs, but it may make you look more fun, modern, youthful, and be a heck of a lot more comfortable.

First, we have Anastasia Furrow, who is 5'4″ and wears a size 14. I don't know her age, but based on her Instagram I am guessing in her mid to late 20's? I chose her because she is shorter than a lot of models at a height I think many of us can relate to.

it's time to break some style rules such as the dated fashion rule that larger bodies shouldn't wear tucked in tops.

The first style rule I'd like you to consider is the one that if you are larger or have a tummy or rear, you should leave your tops untucked. This is one I have discussed many times (for example this article on styling a stomach).

Here we have Anastasia in the same skirt, same hair and makeup, very similar shoes, and the only difference is the top. One tucked in, one left out. Both looks are elegant, but by tucking in her top on the right, the effect feels more modern, and shows she does have some shape under her clothes.


Another popular style rule is that to look slimmer, one should wear black and darker colors. Here is Anastasia wearing a column of one color, three looks in light shades, three looks in black. The cuts and silhouettes aren't exact and I am not asking you to choose which makes her look smaller; that's not the point. It's to see how one can look in a light color instead of dark.

It may better show the curve of her stomach or rear, it may have her stand out a bit more in a crowd, but it feels fresh and modern and not as scary as the in our head alternative to black clothing.


Along with the idea of not tucking in to hide a belly, hips, or a rear we've been told by fashion magazines and so-called style experts that larger bodies should wear looser silhouettes to camouflage curves.

On the top, Anastasia wears three looks that are quite popular for women, especially those who have larger bodies. And below, Anastasia wears three looks appropriate for similar situations, that are more fitted. Neither row is bad or unstylish, this is just to show how breaking some rules may not be so bad.


I mentioned it above, but here is an example of the style rule of wearing a column of color or print to not break up the body line. Dated style rules told us that by breaking up the body line we would make ourselves appear shorter, draw attention to our midsection, look heavier. And while breaking up the body line may achieve those things, I think these examples above show it's not such a drastic change that you can't have a little fun with your wardrobe and break this rule from time to time.

Next up, is Justine LeGault who is 5'9 1/2″ and a size 14; she is 36 years old. I chose Justine because she does appear to be one of the older models used by 11 Honoré, and has a different shape from Anastasia, one that I feel is relatable to many.


I think one of the hardest style rules for many of us to break is showing the belly, and when I saw Justine in that rust-colored off the shoulder dress with her belly showing right after seeing her in that sheer overlay dress I HAD to make this collage. Because I think this is really relatable to so many of us, and so many of us are shopping dresses right now for vacations, weddings, and other special occasions.

Both dresses are beautiful, both appropriate for the same occasion, but they achieve dramatically different effects in regard to style, modernity, and allure.

The second is the same white pants/jeans but one with a tucked-in top and one untucked. Again, this example really hit me hard as someone who often wears tops like that, unbuttoning the last button to make it seem nonchalant, not like I'm strategically hiding my belly but it's not really hidden at all. And the final look is athleisure, and a good example of covering doesn't necessarily whittle that waist.


Whether it's because of age or size, women are often told to cover their arms because they are not appealing. As someone who lives in a humid part of the country that gets over 100 degrees for much of the summer, I have said eff that noise, but this style rule is creeping up on me as I creep up in age and are not as slim or firm as I used to be.

And yes, Justine has slim, toned arms but I think this example shows how little one's arms are truly the focus. How we often over-analyze what we deem our faults while others hardly notice them.


Oh that column of color, it really is a great way, especially on camera, to make the body seem to disappear, especially when under a jacket or long cardigan. We've been told so long that having your top and bottom half be the same or close to the same color is key to look stylish and slimmer.

But sometimes that can be oh so limiting, and by looking at these photos of Justine you see that there is much more than just a column of color that affects how your body looks, and sometimes breaking up color can be the most stylish and fun thing to wear.


This collection of looks from 11 Honoré worn by Justine are a great example of the dated style rule of not tucking in tops if you are in a larger body. On the top, very classic looks for women in spring and summer – floaty interesting tops over slim white pants or jeans. The second row are looks a little more unexpected and surprisingly more, dare I say, flattering?!?!

Flattering usually means slimmer, taller, leaner, more of an hourglass, more fitting of society's ideal of a woman's body. But here I find the bottom row more flattering because the looks just feel more fun, more festive, more modern, more enjoyable to wear. It almost makes it look like the top row is a “before” when she didn't have confidence or didn't have a stylist or didn't have that nudge to let her truly feel comfortable in her clothes.

And finally, Leslie Sidora who is 5'7″ and also a size 14; she is 31 years old. I chose Leslie because the majority of her curves are below her waist. I think many women can relate to finding one size fits the top half and a completely different size for the bottom half.


If you think leaving your tops untucked help minimize your bottom half, let the collage above of Leslie Sidora be your wakeup call. Wear tops untucked because you like how they look, or because it's comfortable, but don't think it's minimizing anything. And as you see from the two all-black looks on the far right, tucking in and playing with proportions can actually make you and your ensemble look more youthful and modern.


Again, an example of the dated style rule that one in a bigger body should wear black and dark colors to help recede into the background and look slimmer. While all six looks Leslie is wearing are fabulous, I don't think she looks as though she is 10 pounds lighter on the top row than on the bottom.


Another example of that famous column of color. Yes, it's chic, but just like the darker colors, it doesn't make such a dramatic difference in her figure that she looks as though she lost weight, or is shaped differently. I am not saying this style rule is wrong, but it is dated to sacrifice wearing what may be fun or interesting because you're worried you may appear larger.


As someone with short, solid legs and even more solid of ankles, I know the power of a nude-to-you heeled delicate sandal or pointed-toe pump. But I also know the power of wearing a pair of shoes that don't have me in pain at the end of the day and let me run to catch the train.

While a shoe that is delicate, elongating, and creating a long line of color can look so chic, don't sacrifice your comfort or safety for style. Luckily, fashion has come a long way where you can rock sneakers, comfort sandals, combat boots, and more and look utterly cool.

The style rules featured above make the most sense if you are taking a photo or being on video. But when you are in real life, breathing and moving and laughing… your body is going to the look the same size whether you're in two layers of Spanx and a black stretch crepe wrap dress with nude-to-you heels or in a pair of black satin joggers with a hot pink sequined t-shirt and white sneakers.

Yeah, But…

My husband jokes that I always have a “yeah, but” to anything he says. I can always find a counter-argument, and I know right now many of you have a few “yeah, buts” you want to say. Well these women are proportional, they're younger, they're smaller, they're firmer, they're this, they're that. And to all of those, I say you're right. And it's an example of how we still need more representation of the range of bodies we all live in.

But this exercise isn't to compare yourself to these models (they are models, for goodness sake). It is to see a body that isn't rail-thin wearing a range of cuts and styles and silhouettes and to see how some of the style rules that have been ingrained in us are a bunch of horseshit and incredibly dated and dating.

Since 9/11, fashion has been changing quickly. We realized that our leg-lengthening heels and pencil skirts were literally risking our safety. And the generations behind us saw all our self-hatred and anguish over our bodies, the diets that were sacrificing our health for a number on a scale, how our need to fit society's ideal was holding us down and decided to go about life differently.

Fashion may still cater to the young and slim, but you don't have to follow suit if you don't want to. Not anymore. Essentially any cut, wash, and style of denim is in style. Comfortable shoes have become chic. And bodies are allowed to be bodies, curves and bumps and all. Focusing on the dated style rules only leaves you clinging to the past… and that past wasn't all that kind.

Wear what makes you feel good. If style rules make you feel good, then rock them, you are fabulous. But if you feel that your wardrobe is a bit like a gilded cage, it's time to break through and give yourself some fashion freedom, You may be surprised by how good you feel and look!

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Very dear Alison, it’s a long time since I left a comment and so please allow me to gush! You are just THE BEST. This is an absolutely incredible post and, as others have already said, is a definite bookmark for future consultation.
    I am giving you a massive round of applause all the way from Spain for blowing apart these conventions that hold so many of us back from not just looking but, more importantly, FEELING our best on a day-to-day basis. and frankly, that’s huge.
    I know what a lot of work you put in to create this content generally, and this post was probably much longer than average: I hope the whole of the interweb links to it and you get the extra exposure you most certainly deserve. In the meantime,thank you so much and have a warm hug from Andalucía.

  2. Super duper post, with so much love in it. Thank you. I hope 11 Honore notices what a bump you’ve given them!

  3. Thanks so much for these ideas and words of wisdom. Jodie Filogomo recommended this and I’m so glad she did! I’ve also signed up for your newsletter. Eager to read more.

  4. This is amazing. However as a plus size woman with a big belly I wonder how they look from the side because this is the challenge for me.

  5. I have tried the french tuck, but only at home! I feel pretentious doing it, like I’m trying too hard. Anyone else feel this?

    1. Yeah. It feels try-hard to me every time I do it, possibly because I’ve never seen it on a human in real life where I live, only on the internet.

  6. I can’t add anything that hasn’t already been said so will just say thank you for the work you’re putting out into the world. It is revolutionary and has had such a positive impact on my life over the last decade or so.

  7. Thank you for this, it is really interesting to have all these examples of the same model in different styles. I’m close in size to the taller model so this gave me something to think about.

  8. Great post Alison. I’m a non-tucker in pants and short but love the look in skirts. These are some great examples of showing different breaks across the body. Going to follow up on FB for some advice for lower tummies, not apples, not a flat pear.

  9. I can’t tell you how much I LOVED reading this. I was just talking about the myths of dark denim on my blog and one of my readers has the best comment about how she looked the same in a photo with her dark denim as her light denim.
    I am totally sharing this in one of my emails next week with my readers. You did a great job explaining it and showcasing the women. (Let’s just say I have writing envy. I want to say these things, but they never come out as good, haha)
    I have been trying to push that idea of being happy with our bodies as is, and just yesterday my 84-year-old mother walked around with a sleeveless top on….I was SO proud of her. Because that’s not her norm. I hope everyone is as excited by this post as I am!!

  10. Wow. WOW. Thank you, Alison! This was the gift I didn’t know I needed today. I’m a 5’3″ 41 year old with Anastasia’s shape (14/16W) and can’t wait to scroll back to the top and read this all again. What a thoughtful, inspiring, and practical article, with the perfect accompanying images. I commonly start the day with a tucked top and then second guess myself into oblivion, so it’s safe to say I’m a true believer now! At any rate, I’m so glad to have this opportunity to look at my closet anew and find new life in garments I’ve often felt I couldn’t or shouldn’t wear.

  11. Wonderful information and examples, Alison! Thank you for this post, including visuals. I’m almost 63, 5’3″ heavy all over and a 14W or 16W in most clothes. Wish I could print out this whole post with visuals to keep reminding me what I’m missing by continually searching for that elusive dress or outfit that will make me look and feel much thinner. Thank you!

  12. This article certainly gives me some food for thought. I am closest to Anastasia in size, but my body type is closer to Justine’s—thinner arms and legs, lots of tummy. I’ve never considered letting the tummy line show, and I think the taller a woman is, the more she might be able to pull that look off. But I actually got the sweater dress Leslie is in and it shows a bit of tummy, but it is a cozy yet chic and upscale piece. Will have to try it on again and see if the total package works.

  13. As many others have said, this is a fantastic article. Being able to compare the same model in different styles side by side is a revelation. I need to pull out some things in my closet and see how they look with new eyes. Thank you!

  14. LOVE THIS POST! I’m new to your blog and love your take on fashion. It feels like a revolution. More of this, please!

    I also love how the “better looks” all involve colors that make each woman glow, in shades that embrace her skin’s undertones and features.

  15. Great article! Really helps my visualization of styles., and modernizing looks. I’m in the middle of shopping for multiple weddings and I think I will pause and reconsider !

  16. I loved this post! Your analysis of fashion and finding just the right examples to illustrate your points is one of the things I love best about your blog. I am a GenXer and brought up with the style rules; that said, while I enjoy fashion I’m pretty lazy when it comes to styling outfits or thinking about how they are worn. I have almost no accessories. Your post makes me want to try this exercise on myself, to try wearing clothes in different ways and photograph them to compare how they look. Or maybe you could do it and do a follow up post! Get some women from the community with real real bodies in a range of shapes and sizes and do it?

    1. Oh, and following up with my ingrained style rule: as a 47 year old 5′ 5″ size 12 bottom and size 14 top, I am very large breasted. I was always told to wear a v-neck or scoop neck to flatter/ minimize / and as I age, make my breasts look “less matronly.” But what if I wanna wear that turtleneck or mock neck? I want to see a rundown/takedown of this rule!

      1. As someone whose top half is also a size larger than her hips, (I guess I’m an inverted triangle, technically, since I also have broad shoulders), I second this!

      2. I third this! I always wear a larger top than bottom and I think it’s the rarest figure to see represented, even among plus size models. The bodies are still usually not large busted, proportionately. I actually don’t worry as much about my belly in terms of styling, but my boobs always disappoint me! LOL. Like, just get out of the way!

  17. Of course, I am reading this on the day that Fed Ex will be delivering my black Wren Wide-Leg Jumpsuit from 11 Honoré but I’m sure I’ll wear it with great joy anyway
    Seriously, excellent and instructive article. The visual lessons are unmistakable. At 22/24 and 5’9” and in mid-60s every single one of the old “rules” you listed are now habits. I’ve tried and failed to embrace the tucking idea but now I’m determined to persevere.
    Thank you!

  18. My God. This post is a public service.

    5’8″/size 14/forever self-conscious about my very pear-shaped lower half.

  19. Breathtaking article, Alison! Really – left me gasping with its spot on, eye opening, evolved way to look at our bodies, our clothes & styling! With confidence & celebration! Thank you from the bottom of my heart for making such a difference in our lives! ❤️

  20. So helpful Allison. As an almost 75 year old and pear-shaped woman, you opened my eyes yet again and in such a great way. Thank you!

  21. This is a fantastic post! Being able to see these bodies (and my own) in a different way is freeing. Thanks for this.

  22. These were great! The very first thing I thought from the first picture was how much more put together and classy the model looked with the French-tucked shirt in the skirt. It gave her a figure instead of hiding it.

  23. For those of us who learn visually, THANK YOU! I cannot imagine how long it takes to do a post like this, but know you have helped a lot of women today.

  24. Bravo and way to go Alison!!! This was a revelation to me and a total game changer for how I will dress this body (a voluptuous 5’4 size 14) going forward. I seriously can’t thank you enough for this post. I’m feeling excited about putting together outfits!

  25. This was incredible. So so eye opening to see the same model over and over again, but all at the same time in different looks. I’ve never really seen something laid out like this. I’m going to bookmark this post and come back to it again and again because I feel like it’s the kind of post that has a lot of good ideas/lessons and where I’ll pick up different things on different days depending on where my mindset is that day.

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