Book from editors of Glamour magazine features a collection of advice from stars on what they wish they had known by the age 30 and offers wise words for women approaching their third decade. Here's the preface and 12 things women should have from Anne Christensen, executive fashion director of Glamour magazine.
Everyone loves lists. Our human history, in fact, has been shaped by them—from the Ten Commandments and the Ninety-Five Theses to the 282 tenets of Hammurabi’s Code and the thirteen Articles of Confederation. Lists give shape to a sprawling, messy world; in modern life, there’s the A-list, top-ten lists, blacklists, best-dressed lists, Craigslist, bucket lists, wish lists, and that albatross of daily existence, your to-do list.
But until 1997, there was no list specifically for women (unless you count the fifteen rules for serving your husband in The Good Wife’s Guide, which I don’t). That’s when a Glamour columnist named Pam Satran sat down at her keyboard to write “30 Things Every Woman Should Have and Should Know by the Time She’s 30.” The List became a phenomenon, and while it may not have started a religious movement or founded a country, it actually might change your life, or at least the way you look at it.
I know it has changed mine. The month The List came out, I was a juniorish editor at Glamour, age, yes, thirty, and I remember reading the column while standing up in my office, holding the advance copy of the magazine and fully absorbed in Pam’s catalog of essential items. (Something to wear if the employer of my dreams wanted to see me in an hour? Had that. But how did I feel about kids? And where should I go when my soul needed soothing?) Although I could not have predicted the reader response The List would generate, I knew it spoke to me—and I promptly xeroxed it for my oldest childhood friend, yet to turn thirty. I must not have remembered to send her the page, though, because a few months later, she sent The List to me in the form of a chain-mail forward, stripped of any attribution — but Pam’s list word for word. “I love this!” my friend wrote. “I need a black lace bra.”
More in books
I recently had the privilege of sitting in Carnegie Hall and watching the fabulous seventy-seven-year-old Gloria Steinem, an icon of the women’s movement, receive a Lifetime Achievement honor at Glamour’s Women of the Year Awards. “In my generation, people thought that if you weren’t married before you were thirty, you were a failure,” she told the audience. “And now a lot of young women think that if they aren’t seriously successful before thirty, they’re a failure. So I want to say to you that there is life and dreams and surprises after thirty — and forty, and fifty, and sixty, and seventy-seven! Believe me, life is one long surprise. And you can’t plan it, but you can prepare.”
The List helps us all prepare. You might be turning thirty, as I was when I read it; you might be well past that birthday, or nowhere near. Either way, I hope the book it has spawned, full of rich observations by some of the most gifted women writers out there (including Maya Angelou herself), feeds your brain and your heart just as the original list fed mine, and then some.
Being a woman may be more complicated than ever, but DVRs and Diet Coke help. So will this book.
By 30 you should have ...
Something perfect to wear if the employer or man of your dreams wants to see you in an hour. By Anne Christensen
Of all the items on this list, this has always been my very favorite. Possibly because it’s one I know I’ve got down! And you should, too, because life is a lot easier when you’re not dashing around in a panic over what you’re going to wear to some hugely important thing that’s happening seven and a half minutes from now. Allow me to give you my list of twelve wardrobe staples every woman should own. It’s like CliffsNotes for your closet!
1. Skinny black jeans. You need a pair. Dress them up for the office or down for day.
2. A crisp, white button-down shirt. It suggests clean, cool confidence in the workplace, but unbutton two buttons and it’s the ultimate in sex appeal for night.
3. A go-to dress. It doesn’t have to be a little black dress. It’s even better sometimes if it’s not, because color makes a bolder statement. But it should fit perfectly and make you feel beautiful.
4. A classic black pump. It has to have at least a four-inch heel to boost your height and confidence. (Okay, fine. A three-inch heel if you must.)
5. A bright mini. My own favorite is red with a flared hem. It’s great to have one that’s a really bright color because it makes you stand out in a crowd. You can wear it for day—just pair it with an oversize men’s white sweater—or nighttime, with a silk camisole.
6. A bold piece of jewelry. Think: necklace, bangle, large ring, large earrings. I have a big necklace that I keep in my drawer at work, and it dresses up any outfit. A statement piece allows your personal style to shine, especially if the rest of your outfit is conservative.
7. A fitted blazer. A great-fitting blazer is a girl’s most invaluable staple. Pop the collar, roll the sleeves, or add a cool brooch to make it your own.
8. A colorful clutch. This one’s especially crucial if you have a closet full of blacks or neutrals. A splash of color will liven up the simplest outfit—not to mention your mood.
9. Black opaque tights. They’re so warm and practical, and they instantly make a dress look professional.
10. A lace tank. Wear it underneath your V-neck during the day or peeking out from under a jacket in the evening.
11. Ballet flats. They’re feminine and comfortable, and you can wear them anywhere and always look pulled together. I personally love a blue ballet flat.
12. A soft, luxurious white T-shirt. It has to be a great-quality one that feels good on your skin. You can wear it with everything else in your wardrobe. And if you find one you really love, buy three.
Anne Christensen, forty-five, is the executive fashion director of Glamour. She has also served as fashion director of The New York Times’ T Magazine, and her styling has been featured in the American, Italian, and Chinese editions of Vogue.
© 2012 MSNBC Interactive