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30 Things I've Learned About Style in Time to Turn 30

08/24/2015 08:24 EDT | Updated 08/24/2016 05:59 EDT
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Flaming Birthday candles against dark, blue, spot background. Canon 5D MK III

On Saturday, August 29, I turn 30. Three-oh. Twenty plus ten years. A new decade. A new beginning. A new number to preface other numbers with. The age in which you are completely responsible for your own actions and can't, in any way, shape, or form, blame it on your "turbulent twenties" or "being young." (Even though I will for sure try and get back to you as to whether it worked.)

I mean, I am still young. (30 is not old, let's make that very clear right now.) But I'm not baby-faced, can-drink-four-Smirnoff-Ices-in-a-night-and-be-fine, coast-on-being-sure-I'll-"figure it all out at some point"-young. I'm a young grown up. Which explains the kind of shoes I've been buying, and the fact that to stay out past one, I need a nap around five.

In terms of style, even more has changed. Once upon a time, I prided myself on having seven pairs of very similar-looking bellbottom jeans. At another point, I owned a stack of polo shirts I wore underneath the other stack. In grade eight, I wore Adidas pants with a bucket hat, obviously unaware that if I'd just held onto each, I'd be very stylish in 2015. So what I'm saying is that I've learned a lot.

That's why here, in the spirit of turning 30 and basking in life lessons, I present: 30 things I learned about style over the course of the last 30 years.

1. Do not layer your polo shirts. I mean, if it's your favourite thing in the world to do, go for it. But let's be serious: stop it. No more. No more of this. Just wear a shirt like a regular person. One shirt. One shirt and maybe a tank top underneath. One shirt and a jacket overtop. But you don't need three collars, four collars -- five collars. No one needs that. Trust me when I tell you it makes it very hard to move your neck, and even harder to defend your multi-top choice.

2. Do not attempt to wash ketchup stains out with fruit punch. It was third grade, my fruit punch looked clear. Fortunately, I hated the shirt I was wearing, and an enormous pink stain was the only way my Mom would accept that I couldn't wear it anymore. The bad news? I looked like a complete and utter disgrace.

3. Adidas pants and hiking boots (winter boots) do not go together, please never do this. I wanted so much to be cool in grade eight, and the Adidas pants brought me one step closer. The winter boots I wore as hiking boots did not. Especially when I wore them as part of my McDonalds uniform for eight months in grade nine.

4. Choose crop tops carefully. Or: make sure you are wearing an actual crop top, and not just a friend's too-small shirt she let you have because it didn't fit her anymore. Also: do not pair it with Modrobes.

5. Speaking of Modrobes, let them go.Because we are not doctors or nurses and scrubs are not for us. Also, because there are no tops meant to go with Modrobes -- even if you're sure that wool sweater creates "contrast."

6. Do not wear black dress socks with running shoes. Or: words from my mother from 1996-1999.

7. Pleather is not leather -- or at least stay away from the "leather" coat with shoulder pads. It's pretty simple: I wanted to be Julia Roberts in Stepmom, so I made a choice. Thanks to $30 of my babysitting and/or birthday money, I decided to go into the ninth grade wearing a plastic-leather jacket with shoulder pads that rivalled the costume department of Designing Women. Did I look like Julia Roberts? No. Did I look like a grown-ass woman? Hardly. Instead, I looked like I was seconds from intimidating a guy who crossed Tony Soprano a.k.a. my boss, whom I worked for. Even when I paired said pleather jacket with skin-tight pleather pants.

8. This also means that just because you decide to look like a celebrity doesn't mean you will. Because trust me when I tell you that matter how many chain-belts you buy and wear on the regular, you will not look like Jennifer Lopez if you do not look like Jennifer Lopez. I do not look like Jennifer Lopez. But for three months in the winter of 2002, I was absolutely sure I did.

9. But: totally buy pieces you saw your favourite movie characters wear. It is because of Kat Stratford in 10 Things I Hate About You that I at one point owned three camouflage t-shirts. And not a day goes by where I don't wish I had them still.

10. To truly give up, wear the same outfit to work every day. It was winter 2008, I hated my job at the bank, and to prove how much I hated my job at the bank, I wore the same pair of cigarette pants and v-neck sweater almost every day, refusing even to really do my hair, because as far as I was concerned, deserved to feel as upset as I did. (Which also explains why I no longer work at a bank.)

11. To truly give up even more, refuse to wash any articles of clothing that smell like meat. Years before, I'd learned the trick from my hostess job at a restaurant, where, after trying so hard to impress the floor managers, I failed to do so and responded by refusing to wash my work blazer until the smell of meat could never truly be removed from it. (Also, because my blazer was dryclean only, and I was a 17-year-old girl who worked at a steakhouse as my only means of income.) Namaste.

12. If a scarf drapes on the floor when you walk, it is too long. And you will nearly fall down and choke in the mall when somebody steps on it.

13. Super lowrise jeans are not for everyone a.k.a. they will work on maybe five people on this planet. And two of those people are Britney Spears and Christina Aguilera. The others, we've yet to meet or know, and may never actually cross paths with them.

14. Never let a dude tell you what to wear. If a guy feels the need to weigh on your outfit, politely remind him that unless he is directly asked for input (and even then, must have five examples of when he was dressed to impress that you can check up on and confirm), his opinion is null and void, and all your wardrobe choices will now be made to smite him.

Unless he says you look amazing, and then you respond with a simple "Yes, I know."

15. Never let anyone tell you what to wear, actually. If you go shopping with friends and you ask their opinion, it is their job to say yay/nay/let's forget this ever happened. But if you wear something to school or to work and somebody who has #opinions feels like introducing you to theirs, you channel your inner Cher Horowitz and retort with a solid, "As if!" Your style is your own, and don't let anybody make you forget it.

16. But trucker hats, though, let's keep those...away Because I have been there, I have done that, and I have spent $50 on a Von Dutch piece I was convinced made me look just like Paris Hilton. It didn't, and then I left it at somebody's house. Which, as we've now come to understand, was a gift to both myself and my peers.

17. There is a difference between "overpriced" and "investment." And the easiest way to differentiate between the two are "is this something you will wear every day for the next two years of your life at least?" and "is this something you saw a cool person and/or famous wear, and now you would like it because they have it?" If it's the latter, find something you like, actually want. Mainly because you work for your money and deserve things that last.

18. None of us need trends that look bad on us. Here is a list of the things I cannot wear: capri pants, pedal-pushers, flared jeans, baggy jeans, Bermuda shorts, short-shorts, military vests, most military jackets, cargo anything, overalls, kitten heels, turtlenecks -- and that's just off the top of my head. This means that if any of the aforementioned "come back," I will ignore their presences and carry on in my life. Why? Because style does not depend on what's hip and/or cool. It depends on what you look good and feel powerful in. Take it from someone who once wore a turtleneck with flared jeans . . . with kitten heels (on the first day of college).

19. Funny t-shirts are so dangerous please be careful. Like, I worked at a store that once stocked a t-shirt that said "random" above a picture of a chicken. And I though "random chicken" was a very hilarious joke. However, the second word was not "chicken." It meant something else entirely. Which is why I will never, ever buy a t-shirt with writing on it that isn't either a logo or a quote from a movie and/or TV series.

20. Try on things, please for the love of all that is good, try on things. Or: lessons I've learned from ordering online and, out of sheer laziness, have convinced myself it fits so I don't have to be bothered sending it back.

21. Do not get hung up on size REPEAT: DO NOT GET HUNG UP ON SIZE. Every store sizes all of their pieces wrong a.k.a. they're either too big or too small, and they're all 100% designed solely to ruin your self-confidence. Don't let them: these are just pieces of fabric with tags sewn in. The tags indicate size according to the store. This means that being a medium at one place, might mean you're a small someplace else. And it doesn't matter. Fit matters. Also: good quality. Everything else? It's a waste of your precious time.

22. Also, if something feels terrible, then burn it to the ground (a.k.a. don't buy it). Do you think I wanted to wear those layerable henleys during the fall, winter, and spring of 2006-2008? Of course not. But there I was, trapped, and forced to surrender my personal tastes because I worked in a clothing store and needed to look the part. (Also, I got a discount.) Did I look good? No. I have no idea why those shirts were so long nor why they were so thin. Was I happy? I mean, I guess -- I was 22 with a discount at my favourite clothing store. Would I do it again? I would rather be buried in sand. I will never wear what feels terrible ever, ever again.

23. If you do not live on the beach, do not dress like you're going to the beach. AKA the title of my memoir if I ever write about the years after I watched Blue Crush and convinced myself I looked just like Kate Bosworth because I wore Billabong every day.

24. Flip-flops are horrible. And even if you're wearing them now, you'll agree because your feet are dirty just from walking around your office, I'm sure of it.

25. Sunglasses are not (not horrible, I mean). Seriously -- almost every kind of sunglasses style in the world is fine. Even the ones with the small, square lenses could work if you were rocking some serious Y2K vibes. I mean, the greatest trick the devil ever played was convincing the world you could only wear a certain type of sunglasses. Also: that goatees were okay. (So just in case: no more goatees.)

26. Don't wear tube tops or halters if you know you can't wear tube tops or halters. And I say "tube tops" knowing that "strapless" is our new grown-up term for it. Well guess what: some of us look terrible in tube and/or strapless things. We just don't have it. We look weird. I look weird. And I look weird for the same reason I would rather weep into silk than wear a lace-up halter: they look awful on me. Even when they're layered over top of a bathing suit and/or tank top, which I tried to make work back in 2001 . . . by wearing said look to a semi-formal school dance. (It didn't go well.) Sometimes pieces just don't fit. And it's also why I hate the summer.

27. Sockettes will save you. I know none of us are going to wear socks with our summer shoes because we're not vying for heat stroke, but you can 100% buy those tiny socks that no one can see that will make your shoes less tiny torture chambers and more, well, shoes.

28. Be careful with capes. It takes a bold person to wear a cape. Are you bold? Wear a cape. Are you me, who tried to wear a cape? Then maybe don't wear the cape. I mean, look: we all tried our best. But at the end of the day, some of us can wear capes, and others cannot, and yes, I regret pairing mine with a Robin Hood hat, in an attempt to "look forties," thanks.

29. Be even more careful with hats. And again, I say this because for a beautiful albeit faithful year, I was not. And I looked like I was an extra in a period film set in England about hats.

30. Accept that your style will be changing, constantly. This fall is the first time I'm buying pieces over outfits. Why? Because I don't want my closet to look, be, or feel the same. I don't want to confine myself to a uniform or to a specific way of dressing. Some days I want to channel Cher Horowitz at the mall with Christian, others I want to channel Mary Crawley throwing Matthew shade in season one. Getting dressed should be fun, and buying clothes, more so. (Especially if you're hung up on finding sales and/or discounts -- hello.) I mean, hello: you're a grown-ass woman. You get to dress however you want.

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