12 Rules of Fashion I Wish I Had Known in my 20s

So, I’m there: I’ve made it to my thirties. It wasn’t scary; It wasn’t sad. It just was. Because, really, there’s not much difference between being 29 years and 364 days old and being 30 years old. But, I will admit, there is a major difference between how I dressed throughout my twenties and how I dress now. To help you avoid these same mistakes, I thought I’d compile my (hard-learned) wisdom of age (“age”).

This might be my (sister's) best fashion choice when I was younger.
Possibly the best thing I’ve ever worn was this junior bridesmaid dress. I would have worn it to school if my parents had let me.

1. Don’t buy a size you’re dieting to be someday.

Oh wow, my closet is full (well, half full) of clothes that I fit into for like one really good, super skinny, pretty dehydrated day. I mean, I won’t get rid of them because I still have a goal weight (just like everyone does, right?), but I could have saved a chunk of money if I had just been more realistic about my dieting practices—and bought shoes instead! On this note, don’t try to squeeze into a size you aren’t. It more often than not results in a squeezed sausage effect that no one likes. Or wants to sleep with.

2. Buy less for more and wear it longer.

I, like many women in their twenties, worshipped at the altar of Forever 21 throughout most of the decade (and even Charlotte Russe in high school. Remember that store?). But, what I should have done was put money aside from each paycheck, just a little, and saved up to buy one nice, pricier item every 6-12 months, then filled the rest of my wardrobe with less expensive basics (casual shirts, jeans and flats, always, from Gap or Banana Republic) each season. After a couple of years, you end up with some envious pieces, a killer wardrobe and a distinctive style. Just saying: Put down the floral crop top that will shrink to the size of a onesie after a single wash. It’s not worth your $3.

3. Stand up straight.

There is nothing that bugs me more looking back at pictures of myself from a few years ago, when I was actually wearing a cute outfit (or hell—my WEDDING DRESS) and wished someone had told me to stand up straight. I know I look about 5 pounds heavier than I actually was just because I didn’t notice I was slumping my shoulders. Important advice from my ballet teacher: Pretend like there is a string running up from your spine through the top of your head and pulling you straight up to the sky. It works. Do it, younger me.

4. Be bold.

I spent so long being scared to wear anything that was too brightly colored, or too voluminous, or too structured, or too has-a-crazy-print. I should have just taken the plunge and worn those super fun clothes because, I promise, no one is judging. (OK, some people might judge, but they’re boring anyway so who cares what they think?) It’s not that I was young enough to take fashion risks and I’m too old now that I’m 30; it’s that I feel confident being bold just now, when I should have always been—I could have looked way cuter way earlier.

5. It’s OK to dress up when no one else does.

This one I actually figured out a few years ago, before I was done with my twenties for good, and it’s a useful lesson. People will look at you weird (with the side-eye) for being underdressed, but they will be envious of your confidence if you’re overdressed. Nothing wrong with it.

6. Keep your shoes and purse in top shape.

This is a lesson for which I can thank my mother, who has always been full of fashionable advice. Particularly when you’re going into an important meeting, like a job interview, which will happen often in your first decade out of school—you should be acutely aware that you are being judged on your looks. Obviously, you’re also being judged for other things, like talent and hard work, but you won’t get far if you don’t look polished. Whether or not that’s how it should be doesn’t matter—that’s how it is. So suck it up and buy new heels, whether or not you want to.

7. Shop your budget.

Don’t spend yourself into debt. That handbag you’re in love with now that will cost half your rent won’t be as special next year while you’re struggling to pay off your credit card bill. Seriously, walk away.

8. Don’t wear a jean skirt. EVER.

All of us—ALL OF US—are, at any given point in our twenties and probably most of our teens, too old to be wearing a jean skirt. Especially if it’s a cutoff. Have some self-respect, ladies.

9. Wash off your makeup every day and use a face lotion with sunscreen.

It only takes a few extra minutes at the end of the night, and you can even do it while wasted on a Saturday evening! You won’t see the effects of your good habits for a few years, but I promise, the time spent is worth it. Oh, and while I’m here, another piece of beauty advice: Quit smoking. Yes, being a “social smoker” is still terrible for your health. And maybe go to yoga once in a while.

10. You don’t have to look perfect all the time.

You don’t. You really, really don’t. This is a huge perk of living in Los Angeles, that most people are casual and the uniform de rigueur seems to be nice sweats. I especially take advantage this on Sunday mornings at brunch: yoga pants, sunglasses and a hat. Can’t miss.

11. Choose a signature piece.

Oh, this is my favorite. Each year, I put some extra cash into a nice, noticeable necklace. The last two years have been big and chunky and have come with endless compliments.

12. It’s OK to make fashion mistakes.

Because, the worst thing that happens is in 10 years (or sometimes two), you look back and laugh. Seriously, the fashion police aren’t an actual thing—no one will send you to jail.

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How to Shop Online (And Not Get Screwed)

(PRNewsFoto/Gilt Groupe, Inc.)

Gilt, Rue La La, ideeli, HauteLook — we’ve all been there. What else have we all been? Completely excited and anxious, anticipating our latest purchase, an amazing deal we found online and just couldn’t resist. Seven for All Mankind jeans for $40 … yes, please! Then our pretty package arrives and we rip through the tape and bubble wrap only to find something we did not want. I mean, yes, it’s exactly what we ordered, but maybe the fabric is shiny or stretchy, the wrong color, the wrong fit, on and on. So many pitfalls, so little money for re-stocking fees. But fear not: You can learn from my mistakes. So, how do you make sure you’re making quality clothing purchases online?

1. Make Google Images your best friend.

Those pictures of super skinny models can’t always be relied on to give you an accurate picture of how clothes will fit, and the same goes for the lighting. Once you’ve narrowed your shopping choices, double check them by running the name through a search engine to see what pops up. Sometimes it can make or break a purchase. I was on the fence about a fairly expensive Rachel Zoe skirt, and I was tipped toward “add to cart” when I saw how the print and its neon/neutral color combo popped. Gorgeous!

2. Don’t look at the original price.

It’s so tantalizing. You think, “Wowzers … I could buy this $300 shirt for only $39! Thanks, Gilt, my new bestie!” Stop right there. Yes, that shirt was once worth $300, but that doesn’t mean you should buy it. Concentrate on the sale price. If you walked into a store and saw that shirt, not on sale, for $39, would you still be as interested? That heavily marked down price makes quite the intoxicating shopping cocktail. Don’t fall for it! Unless you would be willing to put down the money without knowing the markdown, then keep away from “add to cart.”

3. Measure carefully.

Like really, really carefully. But first, look at the size chart for the specific brand you’re shopping. Each designer and each designer size will fit differently from another. So though you may be a size 27 (god willing) in 7 For All Mankind, it might be a tight fit in your AGs. Next, get out a piece of string and wrap it around your wait, chest, bust, etc. Then take the string and measure the length you just wrapped around your body. Now you have a true size to compare to the chart.

4. Or find it in the store, then buy online.

We shop online deals, not necessarily for speed, but for the low, low prices on designers. If you take your measurements and still aren’t sure the clothes will fit, then head to Macy’s. Or Bloomingdale’s or anywhere that carries the same brand you’re stalking and try on similar clothes in similar cuts. You’ll get a sense of what will fit and what won’t, what will look fabulous and what will be all wrong. This works especially well with shoes.

5. Buy from familiar brands.

I love Seven jeans. I know exactly what size I am in three different cuts (because I’m a different size in each), but I know that what I buy online will be well worth the money spent. So when I need jeans, I specifically look online for Seven sales with deep discounts. The same goes for Robert Rodriguez, Jay Godfrey and L.A.M.B.

Add your own online shopping suggestions in the comments below. More importantly, let me know of any online-deal clothing websites that I might be missing out on.