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ON LIFE: THE BEST THINGS I LEARNED IN SCHOOL

My niece started first grade yesterday and it got me thinking about the 14 years I spent on my own formal education. Besides the obvious fundamental learnings, what were the biggest lessons? In my career and life today, what learnings from my school years do I return to again and again to help guide me? It’s sure as hell not Calculus. Below – some of the best things I learned while in school. A couple of which were not from a teacher at all.

From my High School French Teacher: Commit.

  • You really can’t just muddle your way through proper pronunciation and while most of us 16 year olds felt shy or silly giving those verbs gusto – it actually sounded far better when you did. If you’re going to do something – commit and go all in. You won’t look silly, you’ll look brave.

From my college Art Professor: Don’t be precious with your work.

  • This man would take a fully finished project – that he had said good things about! – and literally crumple it up in front of you. Effectively ruining something you’d just spent hours on. The lesson – if you’re a creative, you should have an endless well of ideas. The finished work became almost irrelevant, the skills of how to create work is what we were learning. To this day, if 5 of my ideas at work are rejected, I don’t spend any time lamenting it. I pivot and come up with 5 more. I’m confident in the creative muscles that he helped shape.

From my Dad in High School.. when the girls were not always kind: People are always going to find a reason to dislike you. Let them dislike you for being great.

  • There are a lot of things that came relatively easy to me in school and – for now obvious reasons – that meant that sometimes girls would find other ways to make things difficult for me. I think he instinctively could see this and didn’t want me to end up shrinking myself in order to make my social life easier. It’s not always an easy path (and maintaining humility goes without saying here) – but since then I’ve never once tried to downplay my talents in order to appease the insecurity in others. If you didn’t hate me for being good at something, I suspect you’d find a different reason.

From my college Fashion Design Professor: Present first.

  • Fashion design critiques could be absolutely brutal in college. Raise your hand and volunteer to present first. You’ll be nervous as hell but those doing the critique are often softer because they have nothing to judge you against and it shows a particular confidence in your own work that often influences them to feel the same way. To this day, I’m not shy about putting my ideas out to a group first. You might still get criticism – and that’s fine – but at least no one can say you didn’t have something to offer.

From my High School History Teacher: Our experiences outside of the classroom, help shape what we learn inside the classroom.

  • This particular teacher used to be a long haul truck driver before pivoting to small town history teacher. So many of his stories connected a life experience of his outside the classroom back to something we were learning. It made me realize that as far as traditional education will take you – that real world, on the ground learning is what really brings it all to life. Later, when I studied abroad, I would think of him. Another lesson? It’s never too late to start again.

From my Dad on the day he dropped me off at college: Sometimes it’s better to ask for forgiveness instead of permission.

  • He said it offhandedly when he circumvented a parking attendee in order to get a better spot to unload my things. It wasn’t meant to be some big life lesson – but it’s honestly the only thing I remember about that day. And something I’ve repeated to myself many times since. Sometimes, you need to just go for it – if you wait for someone to grant you permission, you could be waiting a long time.
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FALL SHOE CRUSH: FLATS + HEELS

In my humble opinion, there is no better shopping than Fall shoe shopping. While boots are arguably their own category entirely – I particularly love Fall flats and heels. Suede, croc, plaid… bows, pearls, feathers! All you need is a great pair of shoes + jeans and a sweater and you’ve got a fall look. While a truly can’t pick a favorite out of this line-up.. a few highlights below:
  1. These blue croc slingbacks feel both classic and modern at the same time. Code STEELE15 gets you 15% off your order. I have another pair of heels from this brand and they’re truly comfortable.
  2. Plaid is always a win for fall, even better in the form of loafers.
  3. Ballet flats are back in a big way this fall (although I never think they’re out of style) – but this true “ballet” look with the elastic strap is particularly on trend. I love this velvet option.
  4. Last year I coveted these Mary Jane heels and then missed them when they sold-out. They’re back this year and I’m scooping them up.
  5. Chunky loafers are having a moment but if you’re looking for a pair that feels on trend but still wearable and classic – these would be my top pick, in chic black patent with tassels and horsebit hardware.
  6. Emerald green moiré silk. Need I say more?
  7. This brand is definitely an investment, but if you’re adding a staple to your wardrobe I can’t recommend the ‘perfect pumps’ enough. Impeccable quality and truly built for comfort. I have the black suede version, but this chocolate croc pair would be my next pick. Code: SARAHFLINT-BASTEELE gets you $50 off your first order.
  8. I love this brand for really unique shoes – case in point, this croc heeled loafer pair.
  9. Clogs are having a major moment. This classic suede pair would look great for everyday.
  10. Feathers! I just found the most incredible pair of secondhand feather Manolo Blahniks for an absolute steal on The Real Real.. but if you want to get in on the moment but don’t want the hunt, these mules look great.
  11. These red ballet mules deserve a trip to Paris! This New York based brand is my go to for chic flats. Code: STEELE10 gets you 10% off.
  12. If you’ve got Fall weddings or events – these strappy pearl heels would be so chic. Wear them straight through the holidays.

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SUMMER TO FALL: TRANSITIONAL STYLE

This is always the time of year when I start reallyyy craving fall fashion. But realistically? It’s still breaking 90 degrees most days in the city and truly crisp days are still a month or two away. So the key here is finding transitional pieces that will bridge the gap. Here – a few things I’ve picked up lately plus a few more that I’ve got my eye on.

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LET’S CATCH UP 7.11.22

I’m in a bit of denial over how quickly the summer is passing and, as much as I can, am trying to savor each of these warm weather weekends. For the record, I’m in full support of adopting the European approach to summer, which involves a much slower pace and about a month off work for holiday travel. But in the meantime, I’ll be planning day trips to the beach, popping champagne just because, ordering dessert and hopefully wrangling a weekend or two at the lake. Below – what else is on my mind, on my bookshelf and in my cart lately.

ON MY MIND:

  • The news cycle has just been brutal lately. One of the few ways that I’ve felt like I can make an actual difference is by signing up with Vote Forward – an organization that helps encourage historically underrepresented communities to vote in the upcoming midterm elections. When you sign up, you can select a state and send letters to potential voters to encourage them to get out and make their voices heard. I chose Pennsylvania (my home state and one that is deeply divided).
  • We saw the Elvis movie this weekend and I think I’m still processing it. I grew up with a pair of southern grandparents who loved Elvis and some of my earliest memories are of my grandfather strumming his guitar while singing Elvis songs. So for that reason alone, I knew it would hit a nostalgic sweet spot. In typical Baz Luhrmann fashion it was hyper-stylized, but I thought Austin Butler did a great job playing Elvis – the singing, dancing and accent all felt right to me. What I.. nearly hated.. was Tom Hanks. To be clear, he plays the villian of the story – Elvis’ long-time, manipulative manager that essentially ruined his career and contributed to his early death. But still, I found him incredibly hard to watch. All in all, I did like it – but I think you might need to love Elvis to appreciate the movie?
  • I’d love to start slowly collecting more art and like the way that blogger Grace Atwood approaches collecting art (trust your own intuition, buy what you love) – this post she just shared on common art related questions is a good example!

ON MY BOOKSHELF:

  • I’m reading ‘Finding Me’ by Viola Davis right now for my book club and it’s been really moving so far. I didn’t know anything about her back story – and the fact that she survived her childhood and ended up where she has is such an incredible story of resilience, perseverance and sisterhood. It’s also a really poignant perspective on race and poverty in this country. It will very likely be a 5 star read for me.
  • If you follow me on Instagram then you might have seen me raving about ‘The Summer I Turned Pretty’ series on Amazon. It perfectly captures that feeling of being 16 and having a crush that just consumes you. I also loved the friendship between the two Moms and the beach house setting. As luck would have it, the show is based on a 3 book series. Did I order the complete boxed set? Yes. Do I plan to binge read them all as soon they arrive? Yes. Team Conrad forever.
  • Speaking of book adaptations, have you read Where the Crawdads Sing? It was such a huge best-seller a few years back but I never picked it up and now I feel like I’d want to read it before the movie comes out!
  • I’m excited about this debut novel, Portrait of a Thief, from Grace D. Li. It’s being sold as Ocean’s Eleven with an immigrant story twist. Think I’m going to start on it after I finish my Summer series!
  • I’ve been craving a home refresh lately and am wanting to – slightly – evolve my style. I’m often really drawn to the eclectic look of British homes and want to pick up this coffee table book to explore the inspiration further.

IN MY CART:

  • Last month I did a self-imposed “no shopping” challenge. I started the practice a few years ago when I was trying hard to break the fast-fashion, ‘buy it, but don’t need it’ trend based habit of over-shopping that I’d spent about a decade indulging in. It worked and ever since I’ve been far more intentional about shopping and my personal finances. But even with good habits firmly in place I like to use these month long challenges as a chance to reset a couple of times a year. It also really helps me to become clear on what I do actually want to buy – if I’m still thinking about it a month later, I know it’s probably worth it.
  • I tried this clean beauty brand last summer and loved the mascara but it’s since been used up. I’d love to grab a refill and also try the lipstick and cream blush in this set.
  • How sweet is this cashmere cable-knit short sleeve sweater? It has a very vintage feel that I’d pair with denim shorts now and a midi skirt or under a blazer come fall.
  • I haven’t been wearing a ton of jewelry lately (besides small hoops and the rings I never take off) – but this teeny seed pearl necklace caught my eye and I think it would look great layered with a few chains or my favorite charm necklace.
  • I know it’s far from Fall, but these high waisted houndstooth trousers are on sale and will look so chic with a simple black sweater. I’ve mentioned it before, but when I’m shopping with my forever wardrobe in mind, if I see pieces that I love like this, that fill a gap in my closet and I know I’ll wear repeatedly – I buy them. Who cares if it’s July?
  • Also, call me crazy, but I might also pick up this pumpkin mug. We’re short on storage space so I have to be very sparing with my seasonal decor and the good stuff always sells out. I can just picture myself with a big cup of hot tea in this and a good book. Here’s to buying what sparks joy.. no matter the calendar date.

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THOUGHTS ON TURNING 35

I turned 35 in Paris.

In some ways, it feels like I was 17 just a few years ago. Wide-eyed, sharp-tongued. Eager to pick up a full hand of mistakes in the next decade or so. I can picture myself so clearly then… it feels tangibly recent.

But at the same time, I feel solidly 35. And I mean that in a good way. I’ve softened in areas and strengthened in others. It’s been good for me, this slow and steady path of aging.

I’ve noticed that a lot of people have this kind of fear of 35, but I’ve always held a bit of a fascination with this age in particular. Back at 17, in my tiny bedroom in Pennsylvania, I would stay up late to watch Sex & The City and think.. that’s it. Not some timeline of matrimony and motherhood that everything else was feeding me. I wanted exactly what those 35 year old women had. The big careers, big romances, big fashion, big city.. all on their own terms. That was it for me. So I spent the next decade and a half chasing it. And now? I think I just might have a version.

Along the way, there has been nearly as much broke (wallets.. hearts..) as there has been built. More lessons learned the hard way than any easier alternative. But in another 17 years, when I look back on myself in these photos, I hope I feel proud of the progress.

From here, the future feels unnervingly unknown. I suspect there will be more mistakes along the way. More growth too though. And if I need a point of reference – there’s always my original favorite female foursome… The Golden Girls. Carrie’s heels and Sophia’s handbags seem like a winning style combo.

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