What do you wear in your 30s?
Anything you want.

In my late teens and early 20s, I loved scouring the clearance racks at Charlotte Russe, Forever 21, H&M, you name it. If it was three dollars and remotely my size, it was mine. My style felt unsure of itself, like I was trying to dress like someone else.

Throughout the years, I’ve slowed way down, fallen in love with thrifting, and become more picky about the clothing I purchase. Now that I’ve arrived in my 30s, my wardrobe has come together in a completely new way.

It started when I found a secondhand Citizens Of Humanity denim jumpsuit on eBay. After months of looking for one like it, I felt an instant, emotional attachment to this garment. Fifty dollars and three anticipation-filled days later, it arrived on my doorstep. And when I slipped it on, I had a vision of myself 30 years from now, wearing this very jumpsuit.

I raced (I actually raced) to my closet to see which other pieces elicited this same response. A pink jacket I purchased from Target over a decade ago (this one!) that makes me feel like a cartoon character. A teddy bear coat made from deadstock fabric that makes me feel like a cozy movie star. A sweater I crocheted for myself in all my favorite colors. Right then and there, I pulled a dozen pieces out of my closet for the donate pile—pieces I accrued that I knew in my gut I would never wear.

As my style slows down and my closet grows smaller, the patterns of my fashion sense are growing evident. I love color and playful shapes, fabrics that last a long time and don’t wrinkle easily, and easy-to-wash garments. The pieces I keep (and don’t keep) are creating a roadmap for my next style season.

For the first time in my life, I have a wardrobe plan. Here’s how I’m setting intentions for my personal style in my 30s.

Edit first.

Removing options allows me to more clearly see and love what I have.

The denim jumpsuit is only the beginning—I’ve started curating my clothing like rare gems. A recent Kondo-ing of my closet has cut my wardrobe nearly in half, which makes my favorite pieces shine even more. Today, a quick scan of my closet reveals my most-loved garments. Years ago, you’d find unworn fast-fashion pieces strewn throughout; now, I’m saying “no” to closet chaos.

When I feel like something is missing from my wardrobe, I check if there’s anything I should donate or sell. I often find that removing options allows me to more clearly see and love what I have.

Rewear with abandon.

For my own purposes, I call my long-term favorite clothes my “cornerstone pieces.” They’re the pieces I get emotional about. Like the short-sleeve button-up shirt with a license plate print—my husband found it in a leftover garage sale pile on the side of the road 10 years ago. I can’t imagine parting with it on purpose.

If it makes me smile or warms my heart, I’m wearing it—and I’m wearing it often.

So, for the love of my license plate shirt, I’m ditching the stigma of the dreaded rewear and trusting my cornerstone pieces. They’re the pieces that always look and feel good on my body. If it makes me smile or warms my heart, I’m wearing it—and I’m wearing it often. What’s the point of an outfit if you don’t love how it makes you feel? Or if you send it to the back of the closet as soon as you’re done wearing it?

These are also the pieces that are super-simple to care for. My closet is where dry-clean-only garments go to…not get dry cleaned. I’m saying “no thanks” to garments with difficult care instructions, in favor of the pieces that I can wash and wear again the next week.

Slow it down.

My 20s taught me a powerful lesson: rarely, if ever, does an impulse purchase become a wardrobe staple. My jumpsuit purchase had been the result of a months-long daydream about what I wanted. I searched secondhand sites every other week to see if anything new cropped up that fit my size, budget, and style preferences. I even had a few devastating last-minute auction losses. And when I found the perfect piece, it really was perfect. So I’m letting my impulses simmer, because I know that the result may be better than I can even imagine.

Rarely, if ever, does an impulse purchase become a wardrobe staple.

My cornerstone pieces also inform my future purchases. If I know what I wear most often, and why, I’m able to make better decisions when I shop. I’m more thoughtful than ever about purchases and examine how a new garment might stack up against those heavy lifters. If I can’t imagine it as a cornerstone piece (or playing nicely with my existing cornerstone pieces), then I’ll think twice about it.

Turn to the experts.

This decade will likely hold serious physical changes for me, including if I decide to have children. So I say this knowing it may or may not be possible: when in doubt about an investment piece, I envision myself going grey in it.

It’s okay to change your style as your life changes, but I do get excited thinking about the long-term life of a garment in my closet. If I’m fortunate enough to move through several more decades, I want to continue to wear pieces that excited me in my 20s and 30s.

I find it helpful to take inspiration from older women whose style I admire and want to emulate as I mature. Specifically, two women I discovered on Instagram named Linda (here and here) have been my style beacons. When I’m feeling sartorially stuck, I scroll through their looks and assemble my own version of what they’re wearing. I trust their instincts when I can’t trust my own, and I’m energized by their classic, vibrant style.

Maybe you’ve felt the pull, too—to dress more authentically as yourself, to slow down, to wear what you love and not what you’re told to love. Maybe you’ll look at your closet and realize that you have also created a style plan without knowing it. Maybe this has nothing to do with age. Maybe it has everything to do with age.

What you wear in your 30s is up to each individual to explore. How you wear it, though—with courage, self-love, and thoughtfulness—is a continual process that will take a lifetime.

Do you have a plan for your current and future style? Share in the comments below! ✨


Emily Torres is the Managing Editor at The Good Trade. Born and raised in Indiana, she studied Creative Writing and Business at Indiana University. You can usually find her in her colorful Los Angeles apartment journaling, caring for her rabbits, or gaming.