10 Style Lessons You Should Learn in Your 30's

Style is About Who You Are  Recently Who What Wear published an article entitled, "The Most Important Style Skills You Should Master by Age 30." I'm a fan of the website and read it on the regular, but this particular article left me....let's say....cold.

The article makes valid points (Learn how to pack for a trip! Ace the office dress code!), but overall it misses the connection between an individual's personality and clothes.

I started thinking: what are the style lessons that I have learned in my 30's (thus far)?

I tried a list of my own....

10 Style Lessons You Should Learn in Your 30's

Note: I wanted to pivot the heading of the article. The lessons below are more about how you feel inside and how that relates to the outside. These things are hard to master by your 30's, but your 30's are a good decade to think and act on these concepts.

10 Style Lessons You Should Learn In Your 30's

1. There is a connection between who you are and how you dress.

Everything is connected. It's okay if fashion isn't your world or you don't follow the industry. But, know that there is a connection between how you dress and how you feel about yourself.

2. Be bold. 

I recently wrote an article about the movie Bill Cunningham New York. In the film Cunningham has a great quote -

"A lot of people have taste, but they don't have the daring to be creative."

Most people err on the side of caution when getting dressed. There is definitely something to be said about understated fashion, but there is a difference between deciding on a classic look and being too afraid to try something new.

We have one shot at this life. One shot.

Experiment with clothing. At the end of the day, it's just clothes. And, if you make a mistake you make a mistake. The great thing about clothing is you can always take things off and try something else.

If your outfit of the day bombs, it bombs.

But, what if it doesn't? What if you open up a door you didn't know you could go through?

Sometimes we set so many limits on ourselves (I can't wear pink / I can't wear skirts / I can't wear stripes) that our authentic selves can be covered up and stifled. If we are limiting ourselves with clothing how else are we constricting our lives?

3. Stop. Being. Mean. To. Yourself.

How many times a day do you have mean thoughts about your body? If you want to take a hard look at negative internal talk, take on this assignment:

Get a jar. Every time you have a negative thought about your body put in a quarter.

At the end of the week how much money do you have?

Take that money and donate it. Give it to an organization that really needs it.

Stop being mean to yourself. Seriously.

4. Getting dressed can be meditative.

Most people begin a day by putting on clothes. It is something that connects us all - an act that is part of the larger human experience.

Putting on clothes in the morning doesn't have to be boring. It doesn't have to be a fight. It can be part of a larger practice of how you frame your day. Take a breath. Think of the day ahead. As you put on clothes decide to be kind to yourself. Know that you have been given a chance to start anew.

5. Image isn't everything. But, it is something.

People make assumptions based on how we dress. It's not always fair or accurate, but it has to do with how our brains are wired. We take in bits of information and categorize people in order to place them in pre-built categories. It's actually an amazing way our brains can shift through information in order to understand the world.

And people do it all the time with clothing.

If we place too much emphasis on image we miss out - we are dressing (and living!) for the approval of other people. If we dismiss image completely we also miss out - we aren't comprehending how our culture operates.

The solution is somewhere in the middle - to dress for ourselves, but to acknowledge the expectations of our daily reality.

6. You do you.

There are lots of fashion rules. Those rules can act as guides and can help us understand how to dress in certain situations / for our body type / for our age, etc.

Sometimes those rules need to be chucked out the window.

Your point of view is valid. Your experience is valid. Bring those things with you when you get dressed in the morning.

Your Life is A Miracle

7. Don't wait to wear your "special" clothes.

The comment, "But, where would I wear this?" might be my #1 pet peeve as a fashion consultant. Pet peeve isn't quite the right term, because it isn't an annoyance exactly. It's more of something that I want to shout at the rooftops because it is SO basic to my personality and outlook on life:


Wear them. That dress, the suit, the shirt that is beautiful. Wear them. All of them. You might spill something on it. Well, you know what? That's the reality of life. Clothing is meant to be worn, and life can be rough and tumble sometimes.

Do not wait. This is your life. Wear it because your life is worth celebrating.

It's worth celebrating on a random Monday in June.

Your life is magnificent. It's a miracle. It's a party. It's a mess and it's confusing and it is so freaking heartbreaking and awful sometimes. But, this is it. It's all yours. Dress for it.

8. Know when to drop money and when to hold back.

This is a more practical lesson, and it's simple: put as much money as you can into basics. Don't put a ton of money into trends.

9. Determine what you believe about your body versus what you have been told.

The things that we think about ourselves are at the core of our own personal narrative. It's what we tell ourselves and others about who we are and where we have been. It's our life story and our truth.

....but what if our truth isn't so true? Meaning, what if the things that are so basic to our understanding of who we are have more nuance or gray area?

You might be thinking, what does this have to do with clothing?

A lot. Because what we think about clothing goes into a larger story of what we think about ourselves and our bodies.

Here's a way to figure things out:

a) Make a list of all the things that you can't wear.

Seriously. Do it.

b) Now, next to each thing you can't wear, list the reason why you can't wear it.

So, your list might have something on it like:

"Can't wear polka dots." Why? "My mom always said I look bad in polka dots."

Now, think through the why. Is that statement true? Do you look bad in polka dots? What if you wore polka dot shoes? What if you wore a polka dot bracelet? Do you think you would still look bad in it? Well, you could always try it.

And, here's the big thing - what if your mom was wrong? What if she was just wrong in her assessment? What if someone told her that she looked bad in polka dots, and so she just told you the same thing? It doesn't make her a bad person, it just is something to examine.

The idea is to fuss out what might be true about a statement and what might be false. Sometimes we accept truths without question. I mean, what's the larger truth about polka dots? That's so silly! Why examine how we feel about polka dots?

It's not about the polka dots. It's about what we have swallowed as our truth without thinking about it. And, if it turns out we can wear polka dots when we thought we couldn't, what else are we accepting as true that might not be?

What if the real truth is you are beautiful? What if the real truth is that you don't need to diet? What if the real truth is you are loved and lovable exactly the way you are? What if the real truth is you need to stop fighting with yourself?

It's about polka dots. But, it isn't about polka dots at all.

10. Clothing isn't everything, but it can add an element of joy to life.

For most people clothing takes up a very small percent of brain space.

That's how it should be. We have busy lives. We need to just throw something on and get out there and do our thing!

But, everyone has to wear clothing. It's just part of our society - as of right now we really can't run around naked in public. (One day? Maybe?) So, if it is something we all have to do in order to function in the world, let's deal with it. Let's make it fun.

How do you feel when you are wearing the right outfit? When you walk out the door feeling like a million bucks? You can actually repeat that feeling every day.

Clothing isn't everything. But, clothing can add some creativity, freedom, and fun in life.

When you get to the point where clothing is part of the larger whole that expresses who you are? That, friends, is style.