We stopped believing in “fashion rules” a long time ago, and prefer to trust our instinct when it comes to matters of style. At the same time, we wholeheartedly embrace the idea that every woman should have a capsule wardrobe with a few clothing essentials that are both age-appropriate and timeless.
Feel the same way? We thought you might, so we consulted fashion pros to share the style must-haves that work best for women in their 30s.
Styling tips if you're in your 30s
Our style preferences can change significantly from one decade to the next, but regardless of your age, the trick to building a fashion-forward wardrobe is staying true to yourself. Here’s a quick cheat sheet of styling tips from the pros to help you rock your 30s:
- Focus on comfort. “Wear what makes you feel comfortable and happy in your own skin! As we enter our 30s, we tend to be more aware of who we are, and our clothing should represent just that,” Jennifer Nisan, stylist and fashion concierge, said.
- Have fun! “Who says you can’t experiment with your style in your 30s?” celebrity wardrobe stylist Audrey Brianne said. “There are plenty of fun and innovative ways to spice up your attire and overall look. Colored eyeliner, bold patterns and unique silhouettes (think jumpsuits or tunics) will add flare, imagination and creativity.”
- Invest in a few key pieces. “Invest in pieces that will last over time, fit your body well and most importantly, make you feel like your most confident self as you tackle this exciting decade,” Stitch Fix stylist Gillian McHattie told us.
- Seek out inspiration. “Throw your age out the window and dress how you feel,” Primark’s Global Fashion Trend Lead John McCormack suggested. “Also, find fashion icons that resonate with you and take inspiration from them.”
Wardrobe essentials for your 30s
Why it's a wardrobe essential: "Sturdy, stretchy, high-waisted, flare bottom; you name it and it works! Take the time finding your correct size and a flattering wash. You’ll be so glad you invested in a good pair of jeans," Brianne said.
"Denim is the closet workhorse many of us reach for daily, so I recommend putting your money where you spend most of your time — in your jeans," McHattie suggested.
Old Navy High-Waisted Button-Fly OG Straight Ankle Jeans
This high-waisted style is available in petite, tall and regular sizes and has a touch of stretch. The slim, straight leg tapers at the ankle to show off your sleek silhouette, and the jeans are also a sustainable choice since they're made with 7 percent recycled cotton.
NYDJ Teresa Wide Leg Jeans
If wide-leg jeans are your go-to, these high-quality jeans are a great investment. They have Lift Tuck Technology and a slimming panel that smooths and sculpts your beautiful shape. The jeans are available in sizes 00-18 and have a modern-meets-vintage vibe.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: "Next to denim, the classic black pant is one of the most foundational closet essentials every woman in her 30s should own. Whether you prefer wide-leg, pleated or cropped, I tell clients to find the silhouette with the best possible fit for their body and stock up on several pairs because this timeless must-have won’t be going out of style," McHattie said.
Want to look fabulous in your new pants? Brianne offered the following styling tip: "Be sure to hem and/or alter trousers for a perfect fit."
Shinestar Dressy Crepe Boyfriend Trousers
If it’s been a while since you’ve worn real dress pants (we can relate), this comfy yet dressy style is a good way to ease back into your work wardrobe. The pants are made of a stretchy fabric and have a casual boyfriend fit to help you maintain that legging lifestyle while still feeling and looking polished.
NY & Company Mid-Rise Barely Bootcut Pant
With their bootcut design and mid-rise silhouette, these pull-on pants are super sleek. We love that they come in a wide array of sizes (0-20) and tall, petite and average styles.
Classic dress shirt
Why it's a wardrobe essential: "Whether you’re wearing it solo or as a layering piece, the styling possibilities of a classic button-down are boundless," McHattie said. "A polished button-down offers endless versatility, making it one of the most crucial items to incorporate into the capsule wardrobe of your 30s."
Candace Cameron Bure Embroidered Long-Sleeve Blouse
Want to add a feminine flair to the classic dress shirt? Try this flirty style on for size. It has cute ruffle details and chic embroidery that make it stand out from the blah blouse crowd. It comes in five colors and could work equally well for the office or date night.
Ann Taylor Perfect Shirt
If you're looking for a workhorse blouse that will last for years to come and never go out of style, consider your quest complete. This relaxed fit top has a bit of stretch, making it a comfy option, and would look great tucked in to pants or skirts.
Little black dress (LBD)
Why it's a wardrobe essential: "It will come in handy time and time again over the years. Even better if you find an option that transitions easily from day to night," Brianne said.
DG2 by Diane Gilman Hi-Low Hem Wrap Front T-Shirt Dress
You can never go wrong with a high-low hem, especially when it comes to a LBD. This faux wrap style is made of an ultra cozy stretchy jersey knit material and can be styled in so many ways, making it a worthwhile addition to your wardrobe. Plus, it also comes in several other colors in case you fall hard for the design.
Ruffle V-Neck Swing Dress
"Your wardrobe staples are pieces you will call on day in and day out, so durability and comfort is key. If you don’t feel good in it, you won’t want to wear it regularly," McCormack said.
Case in point? This sassy LBD combines fashion and function with its flattering fit, flexible fabric and sweet details. We're big fans of the puffed shoulders and elasticized cuffs, and adore the swingy, ruffled hem.
The perfect white sneaker
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Similar to the white tank, an everyday white sneaker will serve you time and again. In fact, Stitch Fix has found that 84 percent of its women clients said they’ll be opting for flats over heels, so investing in a white sneaker that can be dressed up or down with any of your favorite 30s essentials is crucial,” McHattie said.
“No matter if you’re 18 or 60, white sneakers can be paired with everything from denim to dresses to loungewear — it’s all about putting your own styling stamp on things,” McCormack added.
Easy Spirit Romy Leather Walking Shoes
A pair of white sneakers can take you from weekdays to weekends with ease in style and comfort. This classic walking shoe offers shock absorption, an easy on-off design and a cushioned footbed.
Kizik Lima Sneaker
If comfort is a priority for you, these sporty sneakers are a good bet. They feature a breathable, knit upper, ankle paddy and a roomy toe box. Plus, they’re quite snazzy!
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “They come in handy year-round and go great with everything from pants to maxis and more,” Brianne said.
Similar to a LBD, black booties are a timeless wardrobe staple that will always be en vogue. You don’t have to break your budget to find a sleek pair, either! Take this pair of ankle boots, for instance. The affordable style has a walkable block heel and ample arch support.
Aetrex Frankie Boot
No two booties are alike, and we always tend to keep a few different styles in our roster. For instance, this heeled pair would look fabulous with a mini dress and moto jacket for date night. The foot-friendly style has ample arch support and cushioning, and it's ideal for addressing heel and arch pain.
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “I love all types of [sun] hats, from visors to bucket hats! I think they add so much character to an outfit while also being protective,” Nisan said.
"In addition to always wearing SPF when venturing outside, there are several fashion-forward ways to provide your skin with further protection from those pesky sun rays. Women in their 30s today grew up or came of age in the ‘90s, so they’ll appreciate the timelessness of a classic bucket hat that’s versatile with any look," McHattie said.
San Diego Hat Co. 6-Way Adjustable Sun Hat UPF 50+
This versatile style is adjustable and can be worn six different ways, depending on your mood. It also offers UPF 50+ sun protection!
Coolibar Convertible Roll-Up Shelby Shapeable Poolside Hat UPF 50+
This UPF 50+ style has a shapeable wide brim that offers ample sun coverage and is particularly perfect for beach excursions and day trips when you’ll be spending hours on end outdoors. The lightweight hat can easily be rolled up in a suitcase without crushing it, and also comes in two neutral hues that are universally flattering.
An upgraded work tote
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “Invest in a style that fits your lifestyle needs, whether that’s something that can carry your laptop but is big enough to discreetly double as a gym bag, or something that serves as a fashion forward mini tote with just enough room for the essentials to carry you from the office to dinner meetings with clients,” McHattie said.
A New Day Reversible Tote Handbag
Get sick of handbags easily? An affordable find like this reversible tote bag can help your money go further. The spacious, structured design can fit all of your daily essentials and it also has a tie closure at the top to keep your items secure.
Vineyard Vines Leather Handle Classic Tote
Craving fashion and function? You'll get the best of both worlds with this classy tote that's made of a sturdy canvas and features sleek details like a leather trim and handles. It's pretty darn spacious and has a zip-top closure to secure all your essentials. Did we mention that it's made in the USA?
A made-to-last leather jacket
Why it's a wardrobe essential: “While the styling options for a leather jacket are practically endless, there are a few tried-and-true ways to incorporate this staple into your wardrobe,” McHattie said. “When heading into the office, pair a leather jacket with your favorite wide-leg trousers and a chunky sweater for a look that’s equal parts elevated and edgy. Getting ready for date night? Contrast a silk or satin slip dress with a slightly oversized leather jacket to create a balance of masculine and feminine vibes.”
“Just like you, a leather jacket only gets better with age, so I recommend investing in a style you can envision yourself wearing long term. Equally important is finding a leather jacket that fits you well. Since you’ll be layering it over other tops and dresses in your closet, I suggest choosing a style that offers a bit of extra room in the arms and shoulders,” McHattie said.
Overland Azura Washed Lambskin Leather Jacket
Sure, this one’s a bit of a splurge, but we’ve always believed in quality over quantity and a topnotch leather jacket can last you for years. We’re digging this lightweight style that's made of lambskin leather and has precision stitching. The jacket comes in five versatile hues and we're particularly fond of the beautiful blue one that's a great alternative to basic black.
Spanx Leather-Like Moto Jacket
Prefer faux leather? This leather-like jacket offers the visual appeal of the popular material but it's also nice and flexible like fabric. The fact that you don't have to get it dry cleaned is also a major bonus.