Not everything I want to say to you lends itself to a narrative-style letter format. Actually, a lot of the wisdom and advice I hope to impart is more snippet in nature. Hence this new riff on the Letters to Eleanor series.
Below are just a few truths I’ve learned through oh so much trial and error. I’m sharing it to help you hopefully make fewer fashion missteps than I did, and to save you a lot of money and grief in the process.
1. There is no such thing as a comfortable strapless bra.
That spaghetti strap tank may look like a million bucks on you in the dressing room, but don’t talk yourself into thinking you’ll wear it enough to get your money’s worth, unless it’s in your gene pool to go braless, which for darn sure is not the case for the women in our family.
2. Don’t ask too much of your shapewear, because those suckers lie!
If you invest in cellulite redistribution corsets – I mean Spanx – plan your outfit accordingly (to camouflage the squish squeezing out of unnatural places). I learned this one the hard way, thanks to an unfortunately angled pic (since burned) of moi during once upon a time bridesmaid duty. Psst! You don’t need high-end, expensive brands either. Skinny Girl undies from TJ Maxx save me on the daily.
3. Comfort and style can coexist.
If it isn’t comfy in every which way (standing, bending, sitting, etc.) when you first try it on, do not pass go, do not collect $200, and do not buy it. Ditto if it’s full-on frumpy. There are too many fabrics, accessories, patterns, prints and ensembles out there to ever settle for a look that doesn’t do your body all kinds of good.
4. A well-structured camisole can be the superhero of your closet.
Lots of cute tops have this very un-cute trait in common – they are sheer-ish enough to show the outline of a bra, and that’s not what you want people looking at (especially in a professional setting). All hail the wide-strapped camisole. As bonus, these little Lycra wonders smooth your silhouette without creating weird rolls of back fat (oh, just you wait – middle age comes with many “gifts”).
5. Athleisure has its limits.
Jesus loves us all just the same, but I’m totally down with the absence of yoga pants at in-person worship.
6. High heels can be haute – and miserable.
Resist the temptation to fork over a small fortune for flirty heels that you’ll never wear. Yes, they can be a killer exclamation point to your ensemble for that one fancy occasion, but then they’ll just be sitting there in your closet all glamorous and useless, watching as you pass them over for your Hokas.
7. If statement jewelry is a game changer, then matching statement jewelry is where style goes to die.
Show your spark and personality with unique pieces you collect over time. Bonus points for anything tastefully two-toned. It’ll go with more of your shoes.
8. Pretty is as pretty does.
An old expression from the Georgia side of our family. Spoiler alert – classy looks good on everyone. You can dress the part and look the part and even act the part, but to truly be a class act, it all comes down to how you treat other people (especially when they make it hard and you’d rather throttle them).
9. Dress for the occasion.
Low-cut, figure-hugging styles can be jaw-droppingly gorgeous, but not at a job interview. Or when meeting your boyfriend’s grandma.
10. Age with grace.
Fewer things are more awkward than being in the company of someone fruitlessly clutching at the last remaining traces of their youth, a la Magda from There’s Something About Mary. But growing older also doesn’t mean that we auto-default to wearing Sag Harbor tracksuits and sporting blue-tinted hair. There is a vast in-between these two extremes – let your individual style guide you. Just don’t think you’re fooling anyone if you’re a card-carrying member of the AARP and you dress like a coed.