The brief period between graduation and your 30th birthday is one rife with hard questions, revelations and WTF moments. It’s a time when you finally start to settle into yourself, break bad habits and get used to the idea of being an actual grown-up (scary, right?). While you might not be ready to put a down payment on a house (probably the most adult thing to do, ever), cultivating a wardrobe that reflects who you are now and where you want to be is totally manageable in the here and now. And all it takes to turn around your current state of sartorial affairs are a few next-level essentials.
Sophisticated silhouettes and such would seem like the obvious jumping off point, but there’s an even easier place to start: updating your fabrics. A closet full of quality materials in familiar shapes — you know, your favorite oversized sweater only better — can go a long way in making even the most understated basics look like a million bucks. To find out which fabrics make the most impact, we talked to Keaton Row stylist Stacy Gatto and New York City-based stylist Nina Fenton. Here’s what they had to say:
Nothing says “sophisticated” like a little bit of silk. The versatile fabric is breathable, hypoallergenic and incredibly soft. It will prove its worth after only a few wears.
“The versatility and timelessness of a silk blouse makes it a wardrobe workhorse,” says Stacy. “And, while there are plenty of synthetic blouses out there, nothing drapes as well and flatters the body like silk. Wear your silk blouse ($78) or camisole to work under a cardigan or blazer, paired with a pencil skirt or trousers. You can also layer a silk button-down under a sleeveless dress. On the weekend, wear it with jeans under a leather jacket. Silk works just as well for evening — a silk blouse unbuttoned to show off your collar bone is a sexy date night option.”
Instantly elevate your favorite topper — the sweater — by saying sayonara to acrylic or poly blends and embracing cashmere. The super-soft fabric requires putting down a bit of extra cash, but it’ll add value to your wardrobe both in terms of its durability and aesthetics.
“Cashmere is functional (fine and warm) and luxe. Nothing beats the feel of soft cashmere,” says Stacy. “It’s worth the investment. A beautifully constructed cashmere sweater instantly elevates the other elements of an outfit and has an undeniably rich look. Invest in a classic shape to get your money’s worth: A crew neck or cardigan in your favorite neutral is a purchase you will never forget.”
Nina suggests thinking outside the box and incorporating the fabric into your wardrobe in more unexpected ways. “Pair a cashmere short sleeve sweater with jeans and sneakers, wear cashmere socks with your favorite vintage booties or invest in the ultimate luxury — a cashmere bathrobe you can relax in at home with a glass of wine and an episode of The Real Housewives.”
Leather adds polish, edge and instant cool factor to any outfit, whether a laid-back, off-duty ensemble or a no-nonsense girlboss getup.
“Leather pieces add a refined finishing touch or chic edge to just about any look,” says Stacy. “Throw a leather jacket on over simple jeans and a tee and the classic combination is instantly elevated. Wear it over a casual day dress with booties, a tunic and leggings or even over a cocktail dress — the possibilities are endless. A leather pencil skirt is another great investment. Wear it during the week with your silk blouse and a blazer or dress it down on the weekends with a tee and sneakers. Leather pieces are sturdy and timeless, and they age well. They’re investment pieces you’ll reach for again and again.”
If you love the look, but aren’t feelin’ real-deal leather for environmental or ethical reasons, choose high-quality vegan leathers made from natural and plant-based fibers like cork. Avoid polyurethane (PU) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC), both of which have serious implications for the environment. Can’t avoid PU? Choose options made from recycled nylons or degradable polyurethane.
Mango Leather Pencil Skirt ($130)
Building a grownup wardrobe goes beyond stocking up on elevated basics; it takes into consideration where and how products are produced too. Hemp is one of the most sustainable fabrics out there, plus it’s strong and durable to boot.
Hemp has a high heat capacity, which keeps you cooler in the summer and warmer in the winter than cotton, and has incredible absorbent properties which, paired with their ability to screen ultraviolet rays, means they’re less prone to fading. And blended with other fabrics like cotton or silk, it creates a longer-lasting, more durable product that doesn’t compromise on quality or softness. “It is a great alternative to some of the other less friendly fabrics on the market,” says Nina. “So why not choose hemp for your favorite easy, everyday tee?” Or better still, these chic tailored shorts.
Like hemp, bamboo is a low-impact material. It can be produced without the aid of pesticides and it uses about a third of the amount of water needed to grow cotton.
“Wearing bamboo feels great,” says Nina. “It’s buttery soft and drapes well.” It also has excellent wicking and insulating properties and because of its long fibers, tends to pill less than other fabrics. Essentially, it’s a win-win. This lightweight cardigan is perfect for layering anytime of year. Pair it with a long-sleeve tee and jeans for the cool-weather months and toss it on over cutoffs and a crop top once the warm weather rolls around.
Shopping like an adult doesn’t end at the receipt…
Unlike your fast fashion duds, the five fabrics listed above require a little love and care, but it’s time and effort that’s well spent. “Caring for silk and cashmere doesn’t have to be intimidating,” says Stacy. “While your 20s are usually haphazard in the laundry arena, in your 30s you should resolve to treat your favorite clothes like the investment pieces they are. Cashmere and silk are perfect candidates for hand washing. We love to use Laundress products on these items because they’re non-toxic and smell incredible. A quick soak in tepid water and a little air drying is all it takes to clean cashmere and silk — no dry cleaner needed.”
Nina also highly recommends hand washing fine fabrics. The process is gentler and will result in less wear and tear on your favorite pieces. In terms of leather, pre-treating pieces with a water-resistant spray before wearing is key. “Leave stain removal and heavy cleaning to the experts,” says Stacy.
Do you have any of these fabrics in your closet? Show us your favorite pieces by tagging us on Instagram @britandco!