When I was turning 25, my sartorial haul was full of hand-me-downs (my mom was/still is a total babe), borrowed-from-bestie clothes and heaps of thrifted finds supplemented by staples from wear today, toss tomorrow stores. There was no shortage of things to wear and outfits to play with, but it didn’t quite feel me. At that age — when I was old enough to finally break bad habits formed in the dorms and start acting like a young professional who was kickstarting her career — I felt that turning 25 years old was as much of a milestone as (finally) turning 21 and turning 30 is made out to be: It’s the perfect time to set yourself up for becoming a real-life grown-up. For me, the easiest place to start tackling that was my closet. After all, you should dress for the role you want, right?
I didn’t go gung-ho stripping down my wardrobe to just the basics — I don’t think anyone who loves clothes in their mid-20s needs to. But what I did do over the course of those two months in the new year before my birthday (which made it easy for me to declare a New Year’s resolution) was consider what I could do to take pieces I loved and elevate them to match my mid-20s momentum. Hole-torn Vans? Chucked ‘em. A pair of sunglasses I’d *actually* want to take care of? Added to my wish list. You’d be amazed at the sheer amount of stuff you get rid of when things like fit and quality come into play, and how much more you cherish your tried-and-true pieces once you narrow them down. My clothes were now new and exciting, yet familiar and comforting, and that balance felt perfectly on point.
If you’re considering a similar not-quite-30 closet overhaul, then follow our definitive guide to the 25 clothes you should keep and toss by the time you’re 25 years old. Here’s what you need to start styling more grown-up getups.
15 Clothes You Should Own by the Time You’re 25
1. Well-Fitting Denim: Start the hunt for that fits-like-butter pair of jeans. When the waistline hits at your sweet spot and the hemline is just right, you’ll be shocked at how put-together your tee + jeans look feels.
2. Athleisure Kicks: I get it — you’ve worn that battered pair of Chucks to *every* concert you went to in college. Hold tight to the memories, but swap them from your rotation with a sleeker leather pair that can vibe with a pair of work pants as much as your daily denim.
3. Non-Bodycon LBD: A more easygoing silhouette can take you from desk to dinner without a costume change in between and introduces possibilities for even more versatile outfits since you can layer *underneath.*
4. Bra That Makes You Feel Flawless: Imagine how badass you’d feel if this was the first thing you put on every AM.
Heidi Klum Bondi Fantasy ($95)
5. Classy Everywhere Bag: Clutches, cross body bags and bucket bags are cute af, but set yourself up with a more practical bag that can tote around more than your travel-sized compacts. Colored leather or suede will give any outfit instant polish without feeling too stuffy.
Pine & Boon Dot Tote in Ultramarine Blue ($180)
6. Next-Level Graphic Top: It’s fine to wear your motivation/inside jokes/most re-tweetable pop culture references on your sleeve, but why not give them a next-level sartorial edge with sequins, pins or patches?
7. Midi Skirt: When is a more elegant option ever easier? Skip the need for fussy tights and restrictive trousers with a knee-length midi that elevates everything from a crew neck tee to a crop top.
8. Blazer Expensive Enough to Tailor: If it immediately says “badass” when you toss it on, then it’s a piece worth investing in as you graduate over the years from go-getter to boardroom boss.
9. Block Heel Shoes: Shoes *do* exist that add a pretty punch to your outfit without killing your feet. A pair of colorful block heels should do the trick.
Marias Jardin Heel in Cherry ($225)
10. Sunglasses That Didn’t Cost $15: Not all sunglasses are created equal. Throw down for a pair of sturdy frames (and a protective case!) that can last you through multiple Coachellas and winter wonderlands with just a little TLC.
Warby Parker Banks in Sea Smoke ($95)
11. Non-Cutoff Shorts: Curb the so-preppy feel of going from shredded shorts to a clean hemline by looking for a pair with personality, be it with a pin-up silhouette or bold bursts of color that will clash like a dream.
12. Quirky but Classy Jewelry: Find a more everyday balance between boring studs and big bling with quirky jewelry that makes a subtle statement — the kind you don’t have to change from work to weekend.
Young Frankk Dusk Studs ($52)
13. Cozy Office Layer: Skip the sweatshirt: Wrap yourself up in a snuggly layer with sophisticated details like a shawl collar or leather trim that add just the right amount of office polish.
Mango Striped Cardigan ($80)
14. Hair Accessory That Makes Up for Your Bedhead: Hack your just-rolled-out-of-bed hair with a simple but chic accessory that pulls your look together, no matter how many flyaways you have.
Deco Comb in Lilac ($18)
15. PJs Your Celeb Crush Would Approve Of: Face it: Your sorority sweatpants have seen better days. Be on the lookout for more delicate PJs that could carry you away to dreamland at a glance.
10 Clothes You Should Toss by the Time You’re 25
16. Street Flip-Flops: For the locker room and yoga class, they’re a must-have. But leave these thongs in your gym bag unless you’re lucky enough to live that beach-babe life.
17. (Most of Your) Free Canvas Totes: Look chicer like that by cutting your ties with the cult of oatmeal-colored bags (no matter how cute the slogan) by slowly transitioning your too-easy-to-pass-up carryalls into shopping bag supplements.
18. Pull-Over Hoodies: Now that there are so many ways to cover up and stay comfy thanks to the athleisure boom, why not bust out of your alma mater’s knitwear and explore more stylish options?
19. Jewelry That Turns Your Skin Green: Trade up from (really) cheap baubles to ones that will leave your skin true to color wear after wear.
20. Round-Toed Flats: Hack the appearance of your comfiest dress shoe by opting for a flat with a pointed toe. The added peak is all you need to make your footwear feel more professional.
21. Saggy Hair Ties: No matter *how* long you hold onto them, they won’t bounce back. Skip the stress of having a saggy topknot midway through your kickboxing class by tossing them all.
22. Cap Sleeve Tops: So many ’90s trends came back this year — from those tattoo chokers to crop tops to freaking capris — but never the cap sleeve. Take that as a cue that you’ve definitely grown out of this style.
23. Non-Vintage “Vintage” Garments: Keep your Sunday brunch look from feeling too kitschy by sticking to fit and flares with more modern silhouettes than a button-up front and Peter Pan collar, unless, of course, the dress is *actually* from the ’50s.
24. Cotton Leggings That Aren’t Meant for Yoga: If you lean on wearing cotton leggings under dresses and skirts, update your go-to layer with leather-look leggings for a more grown-up feel.
25. Princess Maxi Dress: Maxi dresses have gotten a major update since you splurged on one fit for a fairytale. Get more mileage out of the floor-length frock by swapping it out for a more casual-feeling garment, like one made of ribbed jersey, or keep the fancy feel with a more slip-like silhouette that’s super versatile.
What clothes are you keeping + tossing when you clean out your closet? Tell us what styles you’re saving + ones you can’t believe you’ve held on to in the comments below.