I just scrolled through one of those "10 things every woman should have by the time she turns 30" lists and it bored me rigid. Red lipstick: check. Black Manolos: check. Beige Italian handbag that costs as much as a Vespa: check. And so on. LBD, pearl earrings, trench coat. All expensive, all timeless, all completely indistinguishable from their fellows.

I get that there's a particular joy that comes with saving up for something special, something that will last you forever, but what is the point if the item in question is so entirely anonymous it borders on generic? Who drops three grand on a bag specifically designed to draw no attention to itself whatsoever? A piece so completely unremarkable that only your fellow handbag snobs will recognise it? Perhaps there is a perverse pleasure that comes from flying under the radar with your big-ticket purchases, but I've never felt it. I've bought two Marc Jacobs bags in my life, and damned if I didn't send out a press release every time I wore either of them.

I dislike these lists on principle - it's not just about the stuff they put into them. Thirty was the year I started going to therapy every week; it's a stressful enough milestone to reach without having to worry about not having a wardrobe full of classic trenches. (That whole trench thing is a have, by the way. I spent $350 on an A.P.C. one once. It made me look like Inspector Gadget.) And there's always a watch on the list that's ruinously expensive, a discreet little Cartier number with a crocodile strap and a face full of Roman numerals. There's something wrong with you if you're saving up for one of those in your 20s. Get your priorities straight. Your 20s are for spending money on vodka and taxis.

It isn't that I have a problem with expensive watches per se. Nor do I object to expensive shoes, dresses or jewellery. Beautiful things cost money, yes, but they serve their purpose in making you feel lovely. The simple truth is, lists like this are rubbish.


There's nothing, really, a woman needs to have by the time she turns 30, except a spare pair of knickers and a good sense of humour. It's a joke, this whole notion of "timeless essentials", so you might as well have fun with it. Forget the pearls, the trenchcoat, the Cartier. They'll still be there when you've got more disposable income. The whole point of your 20s is to find the style that's yours and fall in love with it. Go and try on all the sparkly jumpsuits you can get your hands on. Likewise kaftans, rompers, wide pants, clogs and anything crocheted. Try it all, however dodgy. That's how you find your style, in the sweet roulette of trial and error. There's only one way to find what works for you, and it isn't by following some prescription.

Unless you really suit beige handbags, in which case, I hope you're saving.