Introduction MY MOTHER WAS FORTY the day the photographer came to our house on Cherry Court and lined us kids up behind my parents, who were sitting shoulder to shoulder on the piano bench. I’ve never forgotten how she looked. She was in her mint-green knit suit. Her brooch and earrings were the same gold tone as the buttons on her closed jacket. Her soft strawberry-blond hair was in tamed curls framing her bespectacled, confident face. I was a teenager looking through a different lens that day, but what I captured was just as permanent an image as the portrait that hung for years on our dining room wall. While the photographer was setting up his tripod, I was looking into the future. In that moment, watching my mom settle onto the piano bench, I saw how profound it was to be a woman at forty. Forty meant freedom. When you were forty, you could be yourself, you didn’t have to live up to other’s expectations. Forty meant you could wear whatever you wanted to, because by then you were your full, radiant self, not a copy of someone else. I could hardly wait to be just like my mom, an original, in her mint-green suit on that fall day in North Dakota. Now, twenty-some years later, it could be me sitting on that piano bench with my teenaged daughters and my son posing behind me. I’ve grown up. Not only am I in my forties myself, but it’s also my good fortune to be working every day with women in their forties, dressing them to look their beautiful selves. I wonder if it really was easier back then, or did my mom just make it look easy? Life seems so complicated today. Women have been crazy busy. Look around. We’ve climbed the corporate ladder, survived a divorce or two or three, been to therapy. If you’re forty, you may have earned a black belt in juggling careers and family. I know you. While you’re making time to mentor a coworker, you’re also closely following the basketball or soccer seasons of your kids, consoling one friend through a breakup, or helping another one plan her wedding. Chances are you’re the most likely one to be neglected. While you’re chasing life down the fast lane, you’re not sure how to dress yourself anymore. Your wardrobe’s been slogging along in the slow lane for a decade or maybe two. Where does a real woman go for relevant advice on style and clothes? Fashion magazines? They’re filled with pages of twenty-year-olds weighing less than a hundred pounds. Do you take the advice of your teenaged daughter—in orange hair and skimpy T-shirt, with a pierced tongue and belly-button ring? No. When you manage to grab a minute to shop for yourself, what do you find on the racks? Retro fashions in Day-Glo colors, showing up again like a bad dream. Aaaugh! This is hard work! Everything’s stopped making sense. To confuse the issue even more, you’re living in a different body. Your shape is changing, and your hair and attitudes are too. Where do you fit in? I’ve heard the lamenting. If you could make it all go away, you would. You may be older and wiser, but opening your closet door still brings you to your knees. You could have written the Roy Lichtenstein caption on the T-shirt that says, “I feel like such a failure! I’ve been shopping for over twenty years, and I still don’t have anything to wear!” Should you just give up? Hold everything! Amidst the world’s clatter, it’s time to do the unthinkable—to slow down, turn the focus on yourself, and do a major check-in. Who are you right now? Get current. Take a good long look, discover yourself anew. It’s the right time to take a look in the mirror and make peace with this body, these arms, these thighs, these gorgeous lips, and this hair flecked with gray. This precious body of yours has made it through one million comparisons and has defied the look of the Kate Moss print ads on the sides of city buses. It’s time to invite a new love affair into your life—a love affair with your every line, every tooth, every toenail, every facial expression, every whim and desire. Passionate, wild, crazy, frivolous, impulsive—make it a love affair with yourself. You’ve earned it. There are no more excuses. There’s no time to waste, nothing’s more important. You have collected half a lifetime of laughs, wisdom, accomplishments, mistakes, integrity, and experience. You’ve kept getting better and better. Now it’s time to express that on the outside—confidently, boldly. There is freedom at forty, the freedom I saw in my mother’s eyes, in her sure smile. With a little excavating and renovating of attitudes, you’ll be wearing that freedom too. It’s under the surface, waiting to reveal itself. You’ll find it in these forty chapters of fashion advice. You’ll learn how to combine looks, passion, personality, and preferences into the perfect recipe for wearing clothes and accessories—while having delicious fun. Forget about problem areas! Go somewhere else to hear about camouflage tricks. You’ll be too busy falling in love with yourself when you put the focus on what works (a great smile, pretty skin, shapely calves). Other body parts will quiet down and assume their proper proportion. You’ll find the correlation between your personality and preferences and discover how to wear them proudly. You’ll learn how to shop for a bathing suit with dignity and courage, what to wear while going through a divorce, what to do instead of (or until) plastic surgery, and how to walk away from clothing with “potential” and only buy what works. I won’t ask you to do anything I haven’t already done in my forties. I’ve been the mom who frantically shopped for school lunch ingredients at 7 A.M. in my accessorized jammies. Following my own advice on dressing for a high school reunion, I snagged a sweetheart at mine. I’ve given in to friends who insisted I’d lost ten pounds when all I’d really done was lift up my bra straps and loosen my belt. It’s all doable. My clients in my style and wardrobe consulting business prove it to me every single day. I invite you to zero in on the ordinary thing that you do everyday—
getting dressed— and turn it into an opportunity
for personal expression, peace, and joy
beyond words. After you’ve done your homework, it’ll be so much easier to turn off the screaming consumer ads, ignore questionable advice from teenaged daughters or well-meaning friends, and trust yourself. You can and will love how you look in clothes. Come on, I’m going to show you how.
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