Every Fashion Essential You Need in Your 20s, 30s and 40s
No ifs, ands or buts about it — you will reach a certain point in your life when a shimmery going-out dress, a streamlined trench and girl boss-approved power pumps will be in order. But rather than telling you what NOT to wear once you embark on a new style decade (‘cause that’s just crazy talk!), we’ve put together a list of 27 ceaselessly chic investment pieces — all divvied up according to decades, no less — you won’t want to be without. While the jury’s still out regarding the most fashionable age, we’re confident these style essentials will hold you down regardless of whether you’re in your fun and flirty 20s, ambitious 30s or fearless 40s. Can we get an amen to that?
1. Ban.do Boogie Daze Bomber Jacket ($99): B is for the futuristic bomber you didn’t know you needed, but now won’t be able to live without. This holographic stunner featuring a rainbow trim brings the badaboom factor. We dare you to *never* take it off.
2. Madewell Embroidered Sticker Patch Set ($15): Personal flair goes a long way, baby. Why not add an emoji-inspired patch (or three) to a denim jacket, a baseball cap or your flea market-bound canvas tote? We call dibs on the hot dog emoji, ‘cause #goals.
3. Adidas Originals Unisex White and Green Stan Smith Sneakers ($90): Every boss babe on the block has a pair of Stan Smiths on standby, and for good reason. They’re the It-girl-approved sneakers that give off an athleisure vibe even when you’re just hitting up the corner post office. Pair ‘em with anything from rolled-up boyfriend jeans to a jersey bodycon dress for maximum impact.
4. Topshop Bee Blazer ($110): Mark our words: This cheeky bee-printed blazer will double for a class presentation, a double date and even a conference for young working professionals. Wear it as a matching set or toss it on alongside mom jeans and mid-heel ankle boots for a high-profile lewk.
5. Motel Finn Sequin Mini Slip Dress ($89): Cue the FOMO: You don’t want to reach your 30s only to have regretted NOT scooping up that totally risqué, wear-anywhere paillette dress.
6. Free People Galloon Lace Halter Bra ($20): Life in your 20s is all about embracing a lazy girl ‘tude. Don’t have to wake up until “half past eleven” for your first MWF class? Fine by us. Perfect your roll-out-of-bed-and-go routine with this scalloped lace halter bra that can be layered underneath a fisherman sweater or teamed alongside an open-back dress for a Friday night date.
7. Madewell 7-Day Stud Earring Set ($48): This set of seven-day mixed metal studs promises to hold you down every single day of the week, so you’re never left with *nothing* to wear. Mix ‘n’ match to your sartorial delight.
8. Duo Boutique Western Edge Poncho ($45): The beauty of a boho Aztec poncho is that you can literally toss it on and instantly look like you’re about to hit up Coachella. Throw in some fringed ankle booties, a felt fedora and some boho flares for a getup that channels sunny SoCal.
9. J.Crew Maddie Pant in Bi-Stretch Cotton ($98): Eww, boardroom trousers. But actually. Don’t throw any shade at J.Crew’s best-selling bi-stretch Maddie pants (in neon orchid, natch) until you’ve tried them on. Not only do they bring the Jenna Lyons-esque swagger — give or take some Breton stripes and smart specs — but they’re the quintessential “work” pant.
10. ASOS Bodycon Dress With Collar ($46): There comes a certain point in every working gal’s life when a Wednesday Addams-inspired collared dress is in order. Hitting just at the knee (conservative enough for the boardroom and justifiable for after-hours), this jersey bodycon dress will accentuate your best assets, while maintaining a level of professionalism.
11. Zara Asymmetric Flap City Bag ($70): Because you can’t call yourself a HBIC until you’ve got a chic top-handle satchel that means business. You’ll rock this two-tone suede and leather city bag during your morning commute alongside a wrap coat and power pumps, and a red haute power suit come networking hour.
12. Industry Standard The Margot Highrise in Indigo ($125): In lieu of fleeting denim styles, we recommend this streamlined, high-waisted pair that’s designed to elongate your legs and make you feel like a BOSS. Don’t even get us started about that deep shade of indigo blue — you’ll instantly feel 10 times more put-together upon heading out the door.
13. BaubleBar Fluoro Crispin Drops ($48): The easiest way to look presentable without having to put in the effort when playing hostess with the mostess? You’re looking at ‘em. These cobalt blue drops not only bring the red carpet appeal, but they look ah-maz-ing with a crisp button-down or a silk blouse.
14. Boden Fitted Waxed Jacket ($250): A cool girl-approved waxed field jacket that always reads off-duty will never steer you wrong. Toss this bad boy over a chambray shirt and black vintage Levis or team it with a silk dress and pumps for a sophisticated #OOTD. Trying, but not trying too hard has never looked so good.
15. Banana Republic Canta Pump ($128): Towering platforms and ankle-breaking steppers, you’ve been replaced. Proof that sensible need not equate to boring, these neon fuchsia suede block heels are ready to werk it.
16. Madewell High-Slit Jean Skirt ($90): Not to say you can’t wear a mini in your 30s (because you most certainly can), but there’s something so RN about a midi-length denim button-front skirt with ’70s undertones. The peekaboo slit doesn’t hurt either. Channel instant confidence by dialing it down with a striped tee, a handkerchief scarf and backless mules.
17. Floreat Lemon Lace Cami ($68) + Floreat Lemon Lace Sleep Shorts ($58): Your days spent scouring your dresser for an old sorority tee and leggings are a thing of the past. This ultra-femme lace print set with lemons is game for slumber parties with your BFFs, a crazy Friday night-turned-at-home pampering sesh or a rendezvous at bae’s place.
18. Everlane The Relaxed Cotton Shirt ($65): A no-frills, relaxed button-down is exactly what the doctor ordered for many a casual Friday and low-key weekend. It’s slouchy, yet still refined enough to be paired with a set of pearl studs, d’Orsay flats and a sleek bucket bag.
19. ASOS Classic Trench Coat ($91): While a perennial trench with French-girl sensibilities looks exceptional at every age, there’s something about rocking this khaki topper in your 40s that seems especially fitting. Simply toss it on over anything and go for a ceaselessly chic getup that’s ready to travel the world in style.
20. J.Crew 10 Percent Deck Turtleneck in Stripe ($75): When v-necks feel too casual and boatneck styles feel too resort, a form-fitting turtleneck will work to your advantage. Bonus points: This striped beauty even contains a hint of cashmere — AKA, perfect for any and all layering purposes.
21. Madewell The Transport Tote ($168): So easy to overlook, yet practical enough for day-to-day use, Madewell’s iconic leather transport tote is a total game changer. It’s deep enough to stow away all the essentials and professional enough to tote to work by the shoulder strap.
22. COS Wide Waist Pleated Trousers ($115): You *need* a pair of wear-everywhere paper bag trousers on deck. Let it be known: These bad boys, featuring a forgiving waist and dropped crotch, will make you look pulled-together even on days you feel like bummin’ it. Round out your corporate uniform with a form-fitting turtleneck and everyday skimmers FTW.
23. Illesteva Boca Sunglass ($220): A timeless pair of tortoiseshell frames that will last you a lifetime are a given once you turn the big 4-0. Turn your attention to these retro cat-eye shades by Illesteva that are worth every penny.
24. Kate Spade Rise and Shine Small Studs ($38): While an OTT pair of statement danglers may be required for more fancy affairs, subtle everyday bling a la a set of everyday studs will suffice for your Monday-Friday lineup. The Swarovski crystals are just enough to keep things interesting.
25. Everlane The Ribbed Wool-Cashmere Oversized Cardigan ($140): Time is of the essence. Between picking up the kiddos from school, meeting up with the ladies for brunch and running your own personal business, this oversized wool-cashmere cardigan is the throw-on-and-go layering piece you’ve probably been overlooking.
26. Banana Republic Scalloped Robin Ballet Flat ($98): Repeat after us: Flats are not dead… far from it, actually. Run — don’t walk — to scoop up a pair of these Kate Middleton-esque blush scalloped ballerinas that will look equally charming with a classic sheath as straight-leg jeans.
27. Mango Check Suit Blazer ($120) + Mango Check Suit Trousers ($80): Is there any wardrobe workhorse more essential to your 40s than a check print power suit that makes you look wise beyond your years? We say no. Not just restricted to the nine-to-five grind, this menswear-inspired set will make you look legit AF, whether you’re commanding attention in the boardroom or attending a rousing political debate.
Which of these fashion essentials will you be scooping up? Follow us on Pinterest for more Instababe-approved style inspo!
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