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AT 30 – A LETTER TO MY 20 YEAR OLD SELF

Top of the Rock NYC in pink midi skirt and off the shoulder top

Today, I turn 30. So it felt only right that I take a moment to reflect on the past 10 years and offer some words of advice to my younger self. Here – an open, honest and heartfelt letter to my 20 year old self. To note: it’s a long one, and one that felt scary to hit publish on, so if you stay with me through this full letter – thanks. And also thanks in general because this space and all of you reading has been a true highlight of my twenties.

On Expectations:

That life you picture having in 10 years? With the big city and the big career and the marriage and the kids? Some of it you’ll get. And some of it you won’t. You’ll be lucky that way.

On New York:

You’ll move to New York just like you always wanted to and spend the better part of a decade falling even more in love with it. Sometimes it will momentarily knock you to your knees but this city will teach you how to quickly get back up and dust yourself off. You can be anyone you want to here, but keep being yourself. And don’t take a second of your life here for granted.

On Friends & Family:

Those girls you count as your best friends? Claire, Val, Jo… they’ll be the same best friends you have 10 years from now. Some of them will move away or get married, but they’ll still be the ones you can call on when you need them.

You’ll begin to realize on a much deeper level how lucky you are to have the family you do. The sister that has always been your biggest cheerleader. The Mom that taught you what it means to love unconditionally. The Dad that understands you in a way no one else does. They’ll be there through every high and low for the next decade.

But then – you’ll have to say goodbye to your Nanny. Even years later you’ll find yourself missing her voice, her hands, her distinct mixture of strength and softness. Try to be the kind of woman that lives on long after you go.. and remember to visit your other 3 incredible grandparents any chance you get.

On Career:

That unpaid internship you kill yourself commuting to New York for right now? That company will go out of business by the time you graduate. But despite a terrible recession and a degree in Fashion Design that some called ‘frivolous’ you’ll never once be out of a job. You’re parents taught you to work hard and you picked a career path you loved. A decade later you’ll be an Art Director with an intern just like yourself. Eagerly dreaming of the big city and the big career.

Don’t let yourself get comfortable. Don’t let fear dictate your career path. Take big risks, put in the work and see where it takes you.

On Body Image:

That figure you live with now and quietly find fault in? Those ribs you think stick out too far, hips you think are too curvy and calves you think are too big? Stop wasting your time. It will take you years but you’ll stop wanting to look skinny and your only desire will be to feel strong. Right now you can barely run one mile but you’ll learn to love running with a devotion usually reserved for religion. It will save you. You’ll run a half marathon.. and then three more. You’ll learn balance and that you feel best when you’re working out nearly every day of the week. Don’t worry – you’ll still love pizza. 10 years from now you’ll be way more at ease with your body and looks than you are now.

On Love:

That boy you’re with right now? He’s cheating on you with a girl that pretends to be nice to you. I wish it wasn’t going to take you another 2 years to find that out. I wish I could whisper the word ‘run’ to you right now but I can’t. Sometimes life is a slow burn before it finally ignites into a wildfire.

When that day comes it’s going to feel like you can’t possibly sustain the heat of that heartbreak. He’ll spend a year calling you in the middle of the night crying and begging for you back. But he underestimated you and he’ll be pleading with a girl that’s already long gone. Finally, one day he’ll stop calling. He’ll find someone else to hang the weight of his insecurities on. Someone who would carry them better or could love him better or… really it doesn’t matter. He’ll marry her.

But you? Baby, you’ll learn to run. You’ll learn to be the kind of woman that takes what she needs and doesn’t apologize for it. You’ll keep running until one day someone stops you dead in your tracks. Looking into his eyes will feel like home. But they’ll warn you that he’s too young, too careless. And they’ll warn him that you’ve got dreams too big for him. Don’t listen. He’s going to challenge you in ways that you never imagined. You’ll be better for it. Years later you’ll still wake up every morning just happy at the sight of him next to you. Keep doing that.

On the things you don’t have.. and the things you have instead:

You won’t walk down the aisle or spend sleepless nights rocking a baby to sleep. Instead you’ll walk through ancient tea gardens in Shanghai, stroll the alleys of Paris at midnight, dance through the empty Californian desert. You’ll spend late nights among the winding canals of Amsterdam and the neon-lit streets of Nashville. You’ll watch the sun rise over the Manhattan skyline after blurry nights that now feel crystal clear. You’ll drive cross country twice. You’ll run across finish lines. You’ll stack your fingers with rings you got for yourself. And you won’t find yourself wishing there was a diamond there instead.

10 years from now – you’ll be enough for yourself. You’ll be proud of what you’ve got but still hungry for more. Trust me, it’s going to be a good ride.

 

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30 WARDROBE STAPLES TO OWN BEFORE YOU’RE 30

As I get ready to head into my thirties on Saturday (eek) – I’ve been doing a lot of reflecting on the past decade. On the big things but also the more subtle things, like how my personal style has evolved. I think one of the best lessons I’ve learned is to fill your closet with classics that can be worn for the most occasions and then fill in from there with more personal touches – a vintage bag, a trendy top, a fun pair of shoes. And those classics? They don’t have to be necessarily the most expensive option out there – but they do need to be good quality and fit you impeccably. The above are what I consider to be my own 30 wardrobe staples that I’m happy to be armed with as I head into this next chapter of style (and life).

Hover over the above image to shop or scroll below.

Clothes: You’ll want to fill in with more season-specific pieces – but start with a trench coat, great fitting pair of jeans, slim sweater and confidence boosting lingerie underneath and you really can’t go wrong.

Shoes: Walkable, stylish and clean are the shoe requirements for a woman that looks like she has her life together. A pair of suede ankle boots, leather ballet flats or d’orsay heels get you through a week with ease.

Accessories: A classic watch, small stud earrings, and face flattering sunglasses – they’re the polished finishing touches to almost any outfit. I added a structured wide brim hat and a scarf that can be worn on your neck, dress up a bag handle or cover a bad hair day in a pinch.

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CASUAL SPRING STYLE: OVERALLS AND LEOPARD SLIDES

The Steele Maiden: Casual Spring Style - Denim Overalls and Leopard Slides

I’ve been sharing more of my everyday outfits in real time over on Instagram Stories (do you watch these? I think they’re such a fun way to instantly connect with you all) and last week I took a quick snap of this exact outfit and was blown away by how many of you sent me direct messages saying you loved it! So I figured I’d take a few more photos and share them here.

ps. As always – I love to hear what you guys are loving or want to see more of! Reach out via email (jessicaATthesteelemaiden.com) in the comment section here or on Instagram.

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MOTHER’S DAY GIFT IDEAS

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

I can’t believe that it’s May already?! But here is is, the first week gone and if you’re playing catch-up like me then that means you’re looking for a last minute Mother’s Day gift. Hint, that’s May 14th. Here – a few options to put a smile on your Momma’s face. No judgement if you buy one for yourself and one for her.

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A TRAVEL GUIDE TO PALM SPRINGS, CALIFORNIA

The Steele Maiden: A Travel Guide to Palm Springs, California

A desert oasis. A modernist paradise. A tastemaker’s escape. However you want to categorize Palm Springs, after years of having it on my travel bucket list, I couldn’t wait to get there and find out what all the fuss was about for myself. The verdict? All of the above. If you plan it right.

For instance, as a destination getaway from gloomy New York in the month of March? Perfect. But a visit in July and you’re going to be scorched with temps regularly nearing 120 degrees. And then there’s the matter of getting there. We flew to LA and rented a car for the 2-3 hour drive southeast towards the Mojave Desert. However, if you’re short on time there are more and more direct flights into Palm Springs that will save you from that often traffic-jammed road trip.

Now that you’re there – you want to pick a home base. We stayed at the Ace Hotel & Swim Club and have nothing but great things to say. While I can definitely see it getting overrun later in the season (hello Coachella madness), it felt like an Adult summer camp when we were there in the best possible way. The rooms had everything we needed and nothing we didn’t, live music at the Amigo Room on Friday night, endless drinks by the pool during the day, fire places and a hot tub for getting cozy when the desert temps dip at night and King’s Highway restaurant for elevated diner food. Fun fact: King’s used to be a Denny’s before they renovated it into the hipster haven it is now. And the Ace Hotel & Swim Club was born.

The Ace sits on the southern end of the main strip that runs through Palm Springs, along with The Parker (which I’ve also heard great things about) and The Saguaro (we’ve stayed at the Scottsdale, AZ outpost of this colorful hotel and loved it too). Even if you don’t stay at one of these higher end places, I highly suggest stopping by to grab a drink and see the grounds. Instagram heaven my friends.

Aside from sipping cocktails by the pool, you’ll want to do a bit of exploring in town. While I seriously wish we had more time to explore the vintage shopping scene – there’s a return trip in our future for sure – we did have time to eat the best cone of ice cream I’ve had since… maybe ever.. and visit Moorten Botanical Garden, a succulent lover’s dream. From there – rent a bicycle or take a drive and go house hunting. The desert boho meets mid-century modern rancher’s are unlike any homes I’ve seen anywhere else in the country and while you may not be able to see the inside, the gates and well-manicured lawns are enough to gape at.

While this may not be the vacation of choice for adventure lover’s (unless you trek out for some desert camping), it’s certainly a picturesque paradise that feels both infinitely cool and seriously relaxing. Which after a long, hectic winter in New York is exactly what we were craving. Have you been to Palm Springs? Tell me what I missed so that I can catch it next time!

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Fashion, Travel & Lifestyle. Based in NYC.