When is it all too much? We serve up our head-to-toe guide on what not to wear for the ladies

Fashion Etiquette for Women: What to Wear, How to Dress

Have you ever heard someone proclaim their love for fashion? Wait, we have the exact words: “I love fashion, I eat and breathe fashion.” Well, we have, on numerous occasions. But then you look at them and think, for someone who has devoted their life to Fashion (capital intended), why is that we don’t love your outfit or style? Simply put, it is because style is subjective, not guided by trends or labels. That said, whatever your personal style may be, we feel that if most women adhered to certain wardrobe guidelines, their style-metre would soar.

Take for example, its universally established that nude stockings and heels are a fashion faux pas, or that tucking wide legged trousers in boots is just plain ugly and sloppy. Then there are the newer faux pas that have surfaced in recent years, such as the clear bra straps; crocs and MBTs (a particularly ugly and “sensible” trainers with a thick, curved heel, for those who are unacquainted with the brand); ornate gel nails – our list is endless. Below we present you with our head-to-toe sartorial guidelines for women.

Click here for sartorial etiquette applied to both men and women.


Wear clothes that suit your body shape. If you’re wider around the thighs then avoid tight-fitting trousers; if you have broader shoulders, cap sleeves and shoulder pads are not your friend.

Monograms (unless it’s your own initials) are not fashionable, you look like a walking advertisement.

Dressing too young or too old for your age. Whether your time will come or your time has passed, we suggest you embrace your true age, there is nothing sexier.

Footwear etiquette:

Never buy a pair of shoes too big or too small for you. Not only will you walk funny, you’ll be left scarred with blisters. Also, a shoe too big makes you look like a child borrowing your mother’s shoe, it’s not a professional nor sophisticated look. And don’t even get us started on what poor fitting shoes do to you posture.

Crocs, MBT and Fit Flops. We know that the argument for them is comfort but they are not a fashion statement and should not be mistaken for sandals, as they do not by any means carry the same effect. If you must, wear them in your own home.

Fashion Etiquette for Women: What to Wear, How to Dress

Make sure your toe nails are well-kept if you wear open-toe shoes. When we met Daphne Guinness, her one pet peeve was people who do not get pedicures and insist on wearing open-toe shoes. We’re a little more forgiving, either do your nails or wear closed-toe shoes.

The rise of kitten heels. There’s something very unappealing about this heel, perhaps it is because it is neither here nor there. You’re either wearing heels or you’re not. Again, let us reinforce this: fashion is not about comfort.

Nude stockings and open-toe shoes are not to be worn together. However great a brand of stockings you wear, nude stockings are not nude, and it becomes more apparent when they’re worn over your toes and exposed to the world in your open-toe shoes. You either wear bright coloured stockings and make a statement out of them or you don’t, the nude shade is not fooling anyone.

From the waist down:

Tights are not to be mistaken for leggings, and leggings are not to be mistaken as trousers. Leggings shape the body similar to tights but merely use a thicker material, so a longer shirt (note we said ‘longer’, not ‘long’) is to be worn with leggings.

Fashion Etiquette for Women: What to Wear, How to Dress

Secure the hem. Overly long trousers are terrible as are overly long dresses. Not only is it a hazard to yourself (read: tripping over your train) but it looks sloppy and no one likes a slob.

?From the use of mobile phones to taking photos of food at the dining table, we give you our modern day dining etiquette here.

Nothing too short – strike a balance. If you choose to show some skin, you either flaunt your legs or your chest but never both. There’s a time to be thrifty, but the time is not with your wardrobe, pun-intended.

Do without the ‘hipsters’. We’re very glad the hip-hugging, low-riding trend has gone (and gone far) because there’s nothing more revolting than revealing undergarments, especially racy ones, in public. If you suspect your jeans may ride a little low, you’d be amazed what a belt can do.

Don’t wear shirts that are too long and match them with leggings. We know this is an attempt to conceal, but if a shirt is so long it can be a dress, you do not need to wear leggings under, perhaps stockings in the winter, but never leggings.

The rules from the waist up:

No noise please. Trinkets are great, we are all fans of fashion accessories but as a member of our editorial team memorably pointed out, “Do not wear clothes or accessories that make noise, you are not a house cat”.

Overly low-cut tops are distracting and uncomfortable for others. Frankly speaking, too much chest is rather vulgar, and a pitiful way to seek attention. When trying on a low-cut top, always remember to test it sitting down as well as standing up. What may be a just-acceptable neckline when standing can drop to a chest-revealing level when sitting.

Be gone with transparent bra straps. The problem with this invention is that it is not transparent, the shiny rubber straps are plainly and offensively visible. We would suggest that if you want coverage with the support, wear a strapless bra, or alternatively, opt for a sticker bra.

We've noticed a lot of bad manners in lifts as of late, to educate offenders on how to behave properly read our etiquette guide here.

The time for the navel has sunk. Only a few can flaunt the midriff without kitsch, and currently at this moment, if you’re not by a pool nor a beach, the belly should be concealed. And please, take out the belly ring.

Make a statement with a bra only when appropriate. We’re aware that a brightly coloured or even a neon statement bra worn under a sheer shirt is on trend. That said, in Hong Kong, consider the situation before wearing that trend: some may find it slightly too aggressive, take for example worn in the work place. To you it may seem bold and on trend, to your boss, it may look like you came in to work straight from clubbing, with teenagers.

Hair ties are meant to be discreet. Multi-coloured scrunchies, or ones with disco balls make you look like a child, nor are we still living in the ‘80s.

Fashion Etiquette for Women: What to Wear, How to Dress

Jeggings and leggings are not meant to be loose. They don’t work the same way as trousers, so if you’re going to wear it, choose a size that fits you.

Low-rise trousers are not flattering. Strictly, that is not a rule but we thought we’d add this in as a tip. It’s a very passé almost prehistoric trend, and honestly it makes your legs look short and your butt look flat.

Too many animal prints. We know print on print is on trend this season, but we don’t think the animal print on animal print is ever going to be in style – this multiplication of animals is best seen in a zoo, not your wardrobe. That is, unless you’re auditioning for a guest spot on Cougar Town.

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