Breaking The Rules

Written by Chelsea Francis

I didn’t realize that every action and reaction and reaction to anyone else’s actions in my life were governed by an invisible set of rules until a therapy session about a year and a half ago.

I was discussing the possibility of traveling alone and expressing how terrified I’d be of doing something like that with my therapist, and she asked me what I was afraid of. I looked up at her and told her with the blind certainty of someone who has believed something false her whole life that something bad would happen to my husband if I went somewhere alone.

I don’t think I knew that I believed it until I said it out loud. But turns out I believed it somewhere deep within me, somewhere I didn’t know existed until I accidentally put it on display in my therapist’s office as I was turning my proverbial costume inside out. I worked on that issue for about a year, and now I’m sitting on the brink of a mostly solo trip abroad, my third or fourth solo trip since my revelation.

I learned that you can’t know how to break a rule or subvert it until you know you’re keeping the rule in the first place.

Around the same time I was learning that lesson, I sat down to have coffee with a new friend, the very talented stylist Beth Hitchcock. We were talking about this concept of these invisible rules and we realized there was another area governed by an invisible democracy: our closets.

Over the years I’ve made a list of things I can't or shouldn’t wear. My size 22 body has been governed by rules that I didn’t make for it, based on beauty standards that I didn’t choose. Beth’s body was living under similar regulations. She’s plus sized too, and she had a list of “cant’s” that she decided to break one day when she posted a photo of her in a bra and cutoff shorts to Instagram that received a ton of support. Shortly after that, she started modeling and has since been in international campaigns. This whole experience started her down a path, and she began questioning why we keep rules like these in the first place.

We talked that day about what it would look like to set ourselves free from the rules that limited our personal style. What if we wore the high waisted pants with no shapewear? What if we made peace with the lines you can see through our clothes sometimes? What would that be like? What if we encouraged other people to do the same thing?

A little while later, Beth and I set out to ask some people to break their fashion rules with us. Beth styled them in that thing they “could never wear”, and I shot photos of them to prove that they can totally wear it and look incredible, and our project Living Above the Rules was born.

Living Above The Rules is a body positive project where we ask participants to tell us their rule and then we break them together. I can’t wear shorts because my legs are too long becomes look at how great my legs look! We’re asking people to trust us and find freedom in expressing themselves without boundaries. We’re asking people to be vulnerable so that other people can find their freedom as well.

Here’s a write up about the project in Austin Monthly. We’re having a big launch party next week and I’d love it if you could join us. In the meantime, I want to encourage you to examine the rules that are holding you back. What keeps you from exploring your personal style? What keeps you from taking that trip? What keeps you from living your life just the way you want to?


Chelsea Francis is a photographer, editor, connector, and creative director out of Austin, TX. She's most passionate about helping people see the beauty in their own lives, a good cup of coffee, and a great slice of pizza. When she's not answering emails, she's editing pieces for Pass/Fail, hosting networking events, and shooting photographs for incredible companies both in Austin and elsewhere.

Chelsea Francis