How to Dress in Your 30s: 12 Recommended Outfits & Style for Every Women in Their 30s
As is often the case with “milestone” birthdays, there’s no shortage of advice out there about what you should have achieved by the time you turn thirty. From how much money you should have in your savings account to the label on your relationship, almost everyone has an opinion about what’s “normal,” no matter how unsolicited it may be.
In reality, the only thing you “should” be doing by age thirty is, well, whatever you want — especially when it comes to your personal style. Three decades in, you’ve no doubt dabbled in some regrettable trends (the gaucho pant renaissance of 2005, anyone?), and you’ve hopefully come to the realization that a proper fit will almost always look better than a beautiful piece purchased in the wrong size. You know which pieces, fabrics, and inseams work best for you, and if you’re anything like me, you’re eternally grateful that Instagram wasn’t around while you were figuring it out.
By thirty, you know what you like and you’re ready to embrace it — because life’s too short not to love what you’re wearing. Below, the essential pieces it took me nearly thirty years to embrace and appreciate, and that I’ll be wearing for years to come.
The White Tee Capsule Collection
It took me a long time to appreciate the value of a well-curated white tee collection. I like to give myself options—fitted, boxy, ribbed—and take inventory every few months to ensure they’re looking fresh.
The Fit-Like-a-Glove Jeans
When it comes to shopping for denim, I feel like I relearn the same lesson every year: go with what you know. I’m not saying you shouldn’t branch out, but if there’s a brand you know fits, keep buying from them! After trying (and failing) to diversify my denim collection over the years, these are the brands I’ve continued to buy in bulk.
The Treat-Yourself Bag
Whether you’re celebrating a bonus, a promotion, or the end of a bad relationship — some things just call for a self-congratulatory splurge. Personally, I tend to splurge on handbags and leather jackets — two pieces that last forever, either stay or come back into style over the years, and more than pay for themselves in both compliments and utility.
The Gets-Better-With-Age Leather Jacket
Speaking of leather jackets, I’ve never regretted spending a little more to get a high-quality piece that will last for decades. The right jacket gets better with age, so make sure to hang onto yours, even if you haven’t worn it in a while. Chances are you’ll come back around to it.
The Perfect Black Pants
Black pants have always been my mom’s signature look, but as a child, I could never figure out why she’d choose something so “boring” over spicier options like the printed capri pants I favored during the same era. I had yet to experience the thrill of putting on a pair of freshly tailored black pants, which now serve as the foundational piece of almost all my favorite outfits.
The Vintage Piece You’ll Keep Forever
Some people are seemingly born with the ability to uncover incredible vintage finds. Others, like myself, needed a bit more time to get the hang of it. By thirty, you’ve made some mistakes when it comes to resale, but with the help of an increasingly accessible vintage market, here’s hoping you’ve discovered one or two pieces you’ll be wearing for years to come.
The Broken-In Graphic Tee
As a teenager, graphic tees felt like an easy way to advertise my impeccable (read: painfully nerdy) taste — not unlike the Death Cab for Cutie song that automatically played whenever someone visited my Myspace page. While I’ve toned it down a little bit over the years, silly graphic tees have remained a wardrobe staple, whether tucked into a high-waisted trouser or thrown on over a pair of knit bike shorts. I find they hit their sweet spot about six months in, once they’re properly worn in.
The Job Interview Blazer
Remember your very first job interview outfit? Mine was a J. Crew skirt suit with nude Cole Haan pumps—both lovely, but perhaps out of place on Google’s ultra-casual Mountain View campus. I’ve since discovered that interview dressing is all about looking your best, not playing a part. People can usually tell if you’re wearing something you just bought, so grab something you already own that you’d wear to an important meeting with your current employer.
The Wear-Everywhere Black Boots
I don’t know who needs to hear this, but yes, you should probably buy that pair of black boots you’ve been eyeing. I say this not because I want to encourage mindless consumerism but because I truly believe you’ll get more wear out of them than whatever other one-and-done pieces you might be considering. As a thirtieth birthday present to me, be sure to take your favorites to the shoe repair shop — they’ll look like new and last that much longer.
The Versatile Event Dress
By the time you turn thirty, you’ll have made it through the first gauntlet of friends’ weddings, but you’ve likely got at least a few more on the horizon (to say nothing of the approaching baby showers!). I used to buy a new dress for each wedding, but now, I’ve cultivated a collection of looks that lend themselves to being repeatedly photographed — no surprises or wardrobe malfunctions.
The Grown-Up Underwear
Take a good hard look at your underwear collection — is it befitting of a fully-functioning thirty-year-old human on the precipice of their best decade yet? Clear out the tattered remnants from your college years and make way for something slightly more elevated.
The Understated Everyday Jewelry
Anyone who lived through the bib necklace trend of 2013 can appreciate the value of an understated approach to accessorizing. I look for pieces that won’t make me cringe when I remember them ten years from now.