Thoughts From a Style Blogger Approaching 40

Thoughts from a style blogger approaching 40.

In mid-January, I will turn 40. I can’t quite believe it, mostly because I still feel like I’m far too inexperienced and naive to be that age … but I’m pleased to report that I’m not feeling panicked or upset or sad. It’s disbelief, really. I just can’t believe I’ve been alive that long.

40 is definitely a turning point, and I have a massive party planned and some occasion-marking activities in the coming months to celebrate. But I’ve also taken note of a few attitudes and behaviors specific to style and self-care that have already begun to shift as I enter my fifth decade.

I don’t have time for uncomfortable shoes

I was late to the high heel game, wearing nothing but flats until about age 29. And now I feel pretty done with heels after only a decade! As I shifted my style toward a more casual/edgy look, I found I had little need for my collection of pumps and began selling them off. I hung onto a few pairs, expecting them to come in handy for fancy events. Then I wore a pair to a fancy event that involved walking a block or so, plus a bit of standing around, and MY FEET WERE SO ANGRY. Apparently any heel-related tolerance I’d built up during my 30s had evaporated. And the pain was excruciating – even in a pair of long-trusted Clarks heels. Bah!

After that night, I culled out every pair I knew to be even mildly uncomfortable and sold or donated them all. I will grudgingly keep my black and leopard pumps because I know I’ll need them on occasion, but all other pairs have been banished. Now, nearly all my shoes are either flats or smallish block heels. And I’m much happier.

Pumps are sexy. They make my legs look amazing. There are certain outfits that only look right when worn with pumps. But 99% of the time, I just can’t force myself to care anymore. I refuse to make my feet miserable for the sake of aesthetics. (To be totally honest, I still wear a handful of clothes that aren’t completely comfortable. I can handle a slightly squeeze-y waistband or stiff shoulder construction, but I’ve realized that I absolutely cannot stand foot pain. It turns me into a big baby. A big, complain-y, almost-40-year-old baby.)

I finally see grooming practices as nourishing self-care

I’ve always bought into the idea that “pampering” your body can improve your relationship with it. It’s so easy to take our physical selves for granted, and spending time, money, and energy to show our bodies love is a very direct route to expressing self-respect. So I understood why bubble baths and deep-tissue massages got lumped into the self-care category of activities.

But grooming? Grooming was a chore. Right up there with washing the dishes and cleaning the litterbox. Keeping my body clean and healthy was akin to getting my car’s oil changed: Necessary, but dull. And a bit of a time-suck.

Then I tinkered around with a multi-step skincare routine on a lark, and found that I loved it. Taking half an hour to wash my face every night became a ritual, something to savor instead of dread. Then regular pedicures came into my life, and I saw how good it felt to do things that made my body feel happy, healthy, and cared-for. I mean things beyond drinking lots of water and doing lots of cardio. This body is my home, and everything I do to care for it makes it a more welcoming, enjoyable place to be.

I am totally susceptible to anti-aging propaganda

It hurts to admit this, but it’s true. Although I feel emotionally detached from the idea of turning 40, I must not actually BE completely detached because wrinkle creams and laser procedures keep calling out to me. I haven’t done anything beyond nightly applications of a retinoid … but so many of my girlfriends have already tinkered with Botox, it’s started to seem almost normal. Not quite, but almost. Although I’ve been tempted, I don’t want to go down that path. At least in part because it seems like a never-ending path that drags you into trying more creams, procedures, and surgeries the longer you follow it. This article in Allure – flawed, objectifying, and cliched as it is – offered an alternative perspective on the new generation of women who “don’t age” due to medical/medi-spa advances. And it’s been floating around in my brain ever since, making me think twice about ponying up for anything stronger than ROC. But I must admit I’ve felt the pull. Never thought that would happen, but it certainly has.

I’m wearing things I’ve always secretly wanted to wear

I know that sounds like I’m saying I’ve been holding myself back for decades, masquerading as someone else, denying my authentic self. That is NOT the case, I assure you. I loved wearing loads of embellished Boden stuff. And then I loved dressing in full skirts and cardigans in wild colors. And now I love dressing edgy/casual, aiming for neutral badass and sometimes ending up in post-apocalyptic art gallery owner territory. But my love for my current style runs deep because it’s a style I admired and coveted for myself for years before I finally embraced it.

My style evolution is directly linked to my tendency to be a slow learner. First, I had to learn that I wasn’t bound by law to wear what everyone else was wearing. Then I had to learn what looked good on my body. Then I had to figure out how to create a wardrobe of things that looked good on my body and aligned with my taste. Then I had to understand enough about clothes in general and my figure in particular to retro-fit certain clothing styles that weren’t supposed to look good on me so that they did. I’m there now. And I stumble and I experiment and I end up trying outfits and garments that my heart yearns to wear even though some of them look horrendous. But I’m getting closer. And I’m feeling happier.

Partially because my look is aligned with my current state of mind, with this iteration of my inner self. Partially because I am excited to have a wardrobe of pieces that all work together. (Almost.) Partially because I’ve always wanted to be braver and stronger, and dressing tough and edgy helps me feel braver and stronger. Not run-into-a-burning-building braver or lift-a-small-car stronger. But speak up when people are being racist assholes braver and go back to doing Tae Kwon Do after a 20-year break stronger.

None of my realizations are groundbreaking, but they feel new to me. I’m looking forward to seeing how living through my 40s shapes and shifts my self-image and personal style. Here’s hoping it’ll be as transformative and rewarding as the 30s I’m leaving behind!

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11 Responses to “Thoughts From a Style Blogger Approaching 40”

  1. poodletail

    It’s been a delightful trip, watching your personal style develop over the years. I feel like a proud mum these days as this is the Sal I recognized in your Badger soul all along. Brava!

  2. Jodie Filogomo

    I do think that wearing heels is something that you get used to or maybe we should say “train” for. Even though I’m a bit older than you—I hope to never give up my heels!
    I love having the variety!! But I do think if you don’t wear them often, it does make them harder when you do want to wear them. Our bodies are funny that way!
    It’s great to hear you wearing what you always wanted to!! Life is definitely too short to wear boring clothing!
    Happy Monday!

  3. Rebekah Jaunty

    Sing it, Sal! I’m 31 and relate to all of the above, though you’re miles ahead of me in terms of nailing your personal style.

    The last time I wore heels to a party, my toes hurt for the next two days. No thanks. I’m down to my last pair of heels and plan to donate those as soon as I can find a replacement pair the same color.

    Congratulations on years of growth and progress, and thanks for taking us along for the ride.

  4. Amy G.

    I’m 46 now and love this decade! You obviously share the sense of freedom I have felt more and more as I get older. I, for one, am with you on the heels issue. I used to wear them when I was younger, but I find them really hard and painful to wear, so I stopped a long time ago and have no regrets. I am all about comfort first when it comes to my feet, especially since I started running a couple years ago! 🙂 I love your evolved style. I am still working on mine in practice, but love the Pinterest board I’ve built – I’ve been losing weight and hope to be able to dress to match how I envision myself more and more. 🙂

  5. marsha_calhoun

    I’ve been reading this blog for a long time, appreciating your personal style evolution and your thoughtful reflections thereon. I smile at this charming analysis of where you are at (nearly) 40, and look forward to reading about all the twists and turns and discoveries on your path at you approach what I tend to think of as real adulthood (50 and above; of course, me being 65 probably has something to do with that). Because I have learned through self-observation that clothes really don’t matter that much to me, I particularly enjoy your insights because I can live vicariously through them, and because they give me much-needed tips about how to achieve some sort of presentability without having to go through the learning curve myself!

  6. bq

    I love reading your blog; your thoughtful comments [meaning you have thought about them a great deal] get me thinking, too. I turn 70 at the end of this month and am experiencing a style revolution of my own. Skirts and dresses have been packed away [not ready to donate just yet] in favor of well-fitting jeans and black pants. I gave up heels about 15 years ago [YAY!]. But deciding what to wear, accepting how I look—-putting on my daily armor and self—are still so enjoyable. What I have learned so far is: wherever your current transition takes you, there will be others to follow.

  7. Fat White Cat

    Lovely depth to your thoughts as usual. I’ve always enjoyed reading your blog, in part because your growth and exploration always feels honest. Thank you, and pre-happy birthday!

  8. Nebraskim

    I joined the “no time for hurt feet” parade long ago. I pretty much live in danskos, clarks, borns and so-called “comfort” brands. I was never much of a heels person, and suffered a pretty devastating ankle injury in college when a pair of Candie’s mules broke on me at a wedding. That led to a series of ankle sprains and culminated in ligament repair surgery in 2011. I finally decided that my ability to run without fear of falling was more important than anything. I’m 61, feel 31. I love your blog.

  9. Texas Aggie Mom

    It has been such a joy to follow your journey to your current style over the past few years! It has led me to many discoveries of my own, and given me not only some practical tools but also the encouragement to tackle my wardrobe challenges. Keep shining, Sally! You’re going to rock forty!