I have a confession to make… I have spent my whole entire life caring way too much about other people’s opinions of me. At 34, I still feel the need to put forth a good image when I meet new people. I realize that by conventional wisdom, I’m not “old,” but I will admit that inching closer to middle age has made me quite confused about my own personal style. At this age, I no longer feel comfortable in the carefree looks of my youth, but I am not ready to walk around wearing Aunt Jackie from Roseanne hand-me-downs either. Thankfully, the forward thinkers of Gen X and Y who now run buying departments have thought about this conundrum, and the options that we have at this age are way better than they were 20 years ago.
I feel like I am beginning to successfully navigate the ins and outs of fashion in my early/mid 30s without looking like a tool (you know, Carrie Bradshaw in a tutu. Just No.). Although fashion is personal, so you should always follow your own rules, here are some things that I have found to be true along the way.
1. Less is more. When you’re in your 20s, sexy is showing as much skin as possible. I was in my early 20s during the X-Tina Dirrty years, and many young ladies in my generation showed up to the club in bikini tops and assless chaps. To which I say, you only get a finite amount of time in your life to rock that look without looking ridiculous, so why the hell not? However, when you get older, you realize that putting it all on the table doesn’t convey sexy the way a strategically placed slit can. If you truly want to own your sexy, choose a little to showcase, and let the imagination fill in the rest. Also, by your mid-30s, you learn the proper balance of accessories. Don’t wear every piece of jewelry. Choose a few key pieces and build your outfit around them.
2. Cheap is cheap. When you’re young and living on a Ramen budget, shopping for clothes at fast fashion stores make sense. When you’re older, they can still be fun places to shop, but you need to be more selective. Stores like Forever 21, Charlotte Russe, H&M and the like are perfect for basics, layering pieces and trends that you aren’t ready to commit to, but in your mid 30s, it’s time to start investing. Having a crisp, polished business suit, a tailored trench, a perfect LBD and more in your wardrobe helps you look more sophisticated. Invest in pieces that are classics and won’t go out of style.
3. Hand me downs are cool. The Great Recession coupled with Macklemore have made thrift shopping cool. But those of us in the know have been shopping there forever. If you don’t feel like forking over the equivalent of two car payments for a handbag, check out the selection at consignment stores. You can save considerably on gently used merchandise and nobody will know you didn’t pay top dollar for your new stuff. These stores will help you look great and still be able to make your student loan payments.
4. It’s okay not to be trendy. By this stage in life, you should have a pretty good idea about your body and what does and doesn’t look good on you. This is the age at which you start getting more comfortable in your own skin, so if something isn’t flattering, skip it. It is possible to wear clothes that fit you well without looking dated. Take some time to shop around, and consult a personal shopper or a stylist if you truly need help.
We all need to wear clothes, and some of us choose to use ours as a representation of our personalities. Transitioning in between life stages is tough for a lot of people, but clinging to youth ends up making us look older and more inane. If you find the transition frustrating, try replacing things one item at a time.