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How to build a capsule wardrobe for work and fun in your 20s

Buying basics and clothes that make you feel comfortable can help ease the transition from personal style to work style.
Courtesy Sydney Andrews

Navigating a young adult wardrobe can be tricky — you’re ready to ditch the party attire and adopt a more mature style, but you still want to look like you’re in your 20s.

According to style influencer Sydney Andrews, 24, it’s possible to achieve a balance between the two to ease the transition into the working world.

“It’s this weird [phase of] coming out of college where you might be either wearing sweatpants every day and then your going out clothes, to building this capsule wardrobe of things you can wear to work,” Andrews told Shop TODAY. “Then also figure out how you can dress it up and maybe wear to go to a happy hour, but also without looking too mature.”

According to the influencers we spoke for style tips, building out a wardrobe fitted for young adulthood is achievable by pairing cheaper basics with good quality pieces that are as versatile as your lifestyle. Where you might go all-out on a nice blazer, you can save by buying cheaper basic t-shirts and tank tops.

Andrews must-have splurges are a nice pair of sneakers — she’s loving New Balance right now, she said — black boots, a good pair of jeans or trousers, a blazer and a pair of leather pants.

Courtesy Sydney Andrews

For 25-year-old influencer Maddison Collinge, navigating a post-grad wardrobe meant stocking up on pieces that could translate from her work wear to her personal life styles. Bodysuits and a good pair of pants are a way to achieve that, she said.

“Getting those basics and staple pieces really has just helped me with all my different styles,” Collinge said.

Collinge shared her influencer fashion tips, recommending looking at national fast-fashion retailers that are more affordable and carry a wide variety of options.

“They can have a lot of like younger clothing, but I honestly think it’s all about knowing what you’re looking for,” Andrews said of more affordable stores. “And you can find great pieces at those stores if you just spend a little bit more time.”

Still, Andrews said not everyone might want to spend hours combing through a store’s expansive online site or through the racks to find the perfect top. For people who want a quick outfit solution, she recommended checking out smaller boutiques.

Accessories also go a long way to elevate an outfit, Andrews said.

“You can be wearing a black t-shirt and jeans but if you throw on a cute little bag and some chunky gold necklaces and hoops and slick back your hair like you’ll look 10 times more put together in my opinion,” Andrews said.

As you’re developing your style identity in your 20s, both influencers recommended sticking to what you look and feel comfortable in. Buying an outfit based on the latest trend might give some immediate satisfaction, but if you don’t feel confident in it you might not wear it or regret the purchase down the line.

Figuring out what pieces and styles look good on your body type is one way to stick to purchasing clothes that help you feel confident, Collinge said. Even selectively splurging on clothes that are a good, lasting quality and fit you right can add so much to a wardrobe.

Courtesy Sydney Andrews

“That’s one thing I also really focus on now is buying a good pair of jeans, maybe they’re a little more expensive but they actually flatter me and I feel comfortable and confident in them and you’ll actually wear them,” Andrews said. “So I think it’s worth spending money on that.”

Style tips for building a work wardrobe in your 20s

Below we have rounded up staple pieces to splurge and save on according to fashion tips from influencers. From tennis shoes to a quality pair of jeans, we have found items that will help build your wardrobe after college. Scroll down to see all of the picks or click on the categories below.

Tops and blazers

Old Navy First-Layer Tank Top

Gap 100% Organic Cotton Vintage T-Shirt

Gap Modern Crewneck Half Sleeve T-Shirt

Gap 100% Organic Cotton Perfect Shirt

REORIA Square Neck Long Sleeve Bodysuit

Express Draped Lace Inset Long Sleeve Bodysuit

Banana Republic Classic-Fit Italian Wool-Blend Blazer

Mango Houndstooth Suit Blazer

Jeans and pants

Madewell The Curvy Perfect Vintage Straight Jean

Athleta Brooklyn Ankle Pant

Mango High-rise Wide Leg Trousers

H&M Wide-Cut Pants

ASOS Stradivarius Faux Leather Pants

ASOS DESIGN Leather Look Flare Pants


Calpak Kaya Laptop Backpack

Glassons Faux Leather Croc Buckle Shoulder Bag

PAVOI 14K Gold Plated Sterling Silver Earrings

BaubleBar Lauren 18K Gold Earring Set

H&M Pendant Necklace

BaubleBar Gia Necklace


New Balance Women’s Made in USA 990v5 Core

ASOS Office Aisling Stretch Block Heel Ankle Boots

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