4 Fashion Things I Wish I'd Learned Before 30

The first time I ever read about the idea of dressing for your age was in a magazine, and I was probably too young to even make it into the youngest age bracket. I can remember advice like “choose a longer skirt length,” “invest in classic tailoring,” and “embrace a bold accessory” but never quite at whom those remarks were directed. I was interested in the concept—and knowing me, impatient to be old enough to understand it—but didn’t take much of it to heart. Cut to now, at 31, I’m actually pretty pleased to report that hasn’t changed. No, what I’ve learned instead is much more valuable.

I didn’t feel a huge internal shift when I first entered my 30s—maybe relief that I could finally stop taking about it?—but the clichés are true. Getting older allows you time to truly know yourself. It’s this consciousness that makes me very aware of things I probably knew all along, such as the fact that I never liked super-low-rise jeans in high school no matter how much I told my mom I did, or I’m not the person who avoids the elephant in the room. In fact, I’m probably the one pointing to it.

Despite having seen a few decades of fashion trends, going through times where I’ve struggled to feel comfortable in any clothes, and having worked for almost a decade in the fashion industry, I think now I understand dressing for my age better than ever. Not because I’m doing anything drastically different or enforcing any rules, but because at this point in my life, I feel like I’m dressing the truest to who I am.

Here are a few more lessons—learned over time and not from a glossy spread—that I probably could have benefited from before entering my 30s. But who’s counting?


It’s Okay to Pass on the Trend
(Image credit: @ginaalilbit)

As a fashion editor, I am thinking about the trends of the moment every single day. Am I wearing them all? Nope. Perhaps in college—definitely in high school—I was more inclined to jump off the bridge if everyone else did. In the past, that often led me to a limited perspective that just includes those in my most immediate circles or making style choices of out fear I might be left out or seen as weird. The truth is we all have a world of trends and ideas available to us—I know because we write about them!—but it’s more inspiring to widen your perspective and much more empowering to be picky and choose the ones that actually feel worth your time.


Impulse Shopping Isn’t Such a Bad Thing
(Image credit: @ginaalilbit)

Getting older has also meant understanding my finances a bit better, but once in a while, I allow myself the indulgence of an impulse buy. In fact, I condone it. It’s not about spending beyond my means or buying things I don’t need. My impulse is usually to buy things that spark joy instantly—a sweater in a bright neon color, some party shoes with an amazing hint of sparkle, a rare vintage handbag I know I’ll never forgive myself if I walk away from. In my experience, the item the make me happiest have become the most valuable pieces in my closet and the ones I’ll likely keep forever. Make no mistake: Budgeting is important (so is rent); I just happen to think that listening to your gut and occasionally treating yourself are as well.


Comfortable and Sexy Are One and the Same
(Image credit: @ginaalilbit)

I’m not a person who naturally feels comfortable showing a lot of skin, but I’ve definitely worn things in the past that suggested otherwise. Body insecurities aside—those have shifted over time as well but perhaps warrant their own discussion—I’ve grown to realize that whenever I wear something comfortable, it allows me to walk and exist with confidence. So, ultimately, whether that means I’m wearing leggings or a miniskirt, I feel sexy. If I’m distracted by a strapless bra I need to adjust or shoes that are slowing causing a blister, not so much. In fact, I’m probably cranky.


The Best Actually Is Yet to Come
(Image credit: @ginaalilbit)

Pardon my optimism, but my favorite thing I’ve learned about style as I’ve entered my 30s is that I have a lot to look forward to. And that probably has a lot to do with the women I look to for style inspiration. This includes megastars with unapologetically joyful style like Tracee Ellis Ross and Céline Dion; industry insiders who’ve crafted signature looks like Linda Rodin, Véronique Tristram, and Lyn Slater; and my mother. 

I can’t tell you exactly what my style will look like in another five or 10 years, but at this time, I don’t feel pressure to know, because those who inspire me don’t fit any specific box. The only expectation they set is to be happy with how you present yourself o the world. I hope to figure that out as I go. Check in with me when I’m 41—hopefully I’ll have more to share then.

Shop the pieces really speaking to me right now:

In the spirit of trying new things, take a look at the trend I didn’t think I’d be on board with but am: hot pink.

Gina Marinelli
Senior Editor

Who's your style icon?Taylor Tomasi HillWho are your 5 favorite people to follow on Twitter/Instagram? @tamumcpherson @lisasaysgah @therealgracecoddington @everyoutfitonsatc @notmynonni What's the fashion essential you can’t live without? A leather jacket.What's your desert island album? Beyoncé "B'Day." Or pretty much anything Beyoncé.