The Fashion Rule Book: The Rule Of Irony

Welcome back to The Rule Book, the feature in which our Senior Fashion Editor talks through a rule to follow for better style. This month she’s explaining how to breathe new life into old classics…

Today’s dressing mantra, ‘The Rule Of Irony’, is an official beginners’ guide to pulling off classic pieces. Specifically, we have Tibi founder Amy Smilovic to thank for this one. If you don’t already follow the designer on Instagram, you should – no one gives constructive, intelligent fashion advice quite like her. It was her guidance that also inspired our piece on the ‘Three Word Rule’, the easy dressing hack which encourages you never to stray from the three key descriptive words attributed to your style. 

Irony, in the sartorial sense, means styling a piece that, on its own, would be a real classic. But when added to more modern separates or shapes, it becomes a statement – and there are myriad recent trends to follow as an example. Think of the Chanel slingback, the Gucci loafer, the top handle bag – all classics that work best when they’re worn ironically. The slingback looks dated with an LBD, the loafer looks dreadful with skinny jeans, the top handle bag looks stuffy with heels – irony is the key to the success of all these reinvented trends.

Lamenting the fact that you can no longer wear skinny jeans, or that single breasted, cinch-waist blazer? Well, ‘The Rule Of Irony’ can help you make those pieces feel relevant – not like you got dressed in 2002. Novices may find it easier to forget the word ‘irony’, and instead consider this ‘opposite dressing’ –however a piece was designed to be worn, do the opposite. The Gucci loafer is the perfect example – everyone knows the classic way to wear them is to add a tailored black trouser – but that hardly puts a fashionable spin on the look. By doing the expected, you’re just succumbing to the average – it’s why you’ll look in the mirror and just feel…meh. Instead, do the unexpected – add oversized grey joggers, or straight leg leathers, or a denim midi skirt – anything that doesn’t conventionally ‘go’ with the loafer. Style these days is all about forgetting conservative fashion rules.

UGG boots are another great example. Pair them with trackies and you’ll look like you belong in the early noughties. Wear them with a pretty dress or a dose of leather and they’re cooler. German influencer Rabea Schif is an expert at this – and in fact, all ironic dressing – whether it’s a chunky pair of UGGs or a pretty Mary Jane shoe, a floral short sleeve shirt or a tweed mini skirt, her Insta feed is a masterclass in subverting convention and making fashion of a bygone era cool again.

Soraya Bakhtiar is another Irony Icon. Look at how she pairs a Bottega bag with the most unexpected of colourful, casual outfits – so much cooler than wearing it with a monochrome, smart look. She also pulls off a tweed Chanel jacket like no one else by adding clashing prints, relaxed denim and boxy white tees – another classic that’s in danger of looking frumpy. Her predecessor, of course, is Leandra Medine, the original Manrepeller – for a true lesson in ironic dressing, visit @OldManRepeller or give her a Pinterest search. No one makes classics cool like her. 

So, next time you struggle to wear those wardrobe classics in a cool and modern way, just remember – it is possible. Be a little rebellious and you’ll be surprised just how stylish you’ll look. 

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