What to Wear on The Big 4-0!




All's fair in love and war! Last year's birthday party got off to a wild start when my girlfriend threw my cake at my husband.
All’s fair in love and war! Last year’s birthday party got off to a wild start when my girlfriend threw my cake at my husband.

In general, I don’t really like surprises. (Like I said, I’m not really that kind of woman, as much as I’d like to be.) I’m a list-loving, plan-making Virgo to the core in that regard. But last year, my friend Kevin pulled off the most successful surprise 40th birthday party for his wife and my friend, Lauren, I’ve ever been part of. Not only was she completely shocked, but she was ecstatic and deeply, sincerely moved to walk into her front door and find 150 friends from infancy to adulthood standing in her backyard. She burst into happy tears. It was fabulous.

My 38th Birthday with a bus-full of friends, watching Jack Johnson perform at The Greek.
My 38th Birthday with a bus-full of friends, watching Jack Johnson perform at The Greek.

Even Lauren, though, who had a rock-star attitude about being surprised and loved every moment of the night, admitted to me recently that the one teeny-tiny flaw in the evening was that, in retrospect, she may have worn something different than what she wore. She loved the two brand new Lily Pulitzer (her fave) dresses she was given to change into – and she looked fantastic – so the dress itself wasn’t the problem.  It just wasn’t necessarily what she would have selected for herself if she’d had time to plan ahead.

My theory is that for certain occasions, a woman has a vision – whether conscious or unconscious – about the clothes she’ll be wearing and how she will look and feel while wearing them.

A birthday wish for my girlfriend, Annie
A birthday wish for my girlfriend, Annie

With my own 40th birthday party on the horizon, I have mixed emotions about the fact that I have known this party would be happening since January. Make no mistake: I am THRILLED to be in the know. But I can’t help but feel some pressure to choose the right outfit for the occasion. What is my unconscious vision for how I want to look and feel that night?

We went big with a Ladies-Only karaoke night for my 34th birthday
We went big with a Ladies-Only karaoke night for my 34th birthday

Lord knows, I’ve had plenty of times when I walked out the door feeling great about my outfit only to see proof positive in pictures that I was gravely mistaken. Conversely, I’ve had as many moments when I’ve chosen something beautiful and special to wear for an important occasion and spent the entire night feeling cold or itchy or stiff. Being uncomfortable is very distracting.

A small, impromptu house-party fit the bill for my 37th birthday
A small, impromptu house-party fit the bill for my 37th birthday

I don’t want to be silly and impractical, overthinking, overspending or over-anything. (After all, it is just one night and it’s anyone’s guess what I will or won’t even remember.)  But since I DO know about the party, I owe it to myself (and to all the Laurens we know) to give the matter a little thought. So here are my criteria so far:

  1. Comfortable. Weather-appropriate, well-fitting. Something I can put on and immediate forget about altogether, basically.
  2. Appropriate. Age-appropriate. Stylish-but-not-too-trendy. Too hot for church, but too grown-up for my 22 year old neice to wear to a club in Vegas. (*This seems like a wide margin. I may need to narrow the gap a bit.)
  3. Flattering. Because I’m turning 40, not 90. (I always say, you may not look as good as you once did, but you probably won’t ever look better than you do right now!)
  4. Fun.  Much like the bride’s dress sets the tone for the wedding, the birthday girl should set the tone for her party.  I plan on having a great time!  And I hope my friends will, too.

And so the hunt begins!

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Doffing the Late-Afternoon Routine
Crisp, Classic, Casual

2 thoughts on “What to Wear on The Big 4-0!

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