Fashion in the thirties.

Fashion in the thirties.

Last week a friend and I were commiserating about the horrors of clothes shopping, and she said something that surprised me: she confessed to finding fashion for her thirty-something years to be hard. Crazy hard.

The problem, she explained, was twofold. First, it’s a lot harder to find clothes that are comfortable and flattering than it was when she was in her twenties. She’s a mother of twins, and that does certain things to your body. So does having four children, in my own experience. (We laughed about Jennifer Garner and her “baby bump.”)

(I think my friend looks fantastic; she says that’s because she’s careful with her clothing choices.)

The post-twins body dismayed my friend, but didn’t surprise her. The real surprise was this: her sense of personal style, which she thought she’d nailed down years ago, is shifting. A lot. She thought she had it figured out at thirty, but it’s changed.

She asked what I thought, and all I could say was I thought it was just me. 

And not just for low-rise jeans factor: my thirty-something self doesn’t go near those anymore, even though my pairs from ten years ago still technically “fit.”

My sense of style has changed quite a bit in the past few years. A few months back, I stopped to notice just how much my wardrobe has changed in the past year or two: my clothing is now a little crisper, a little more functional, more uniform-y. The color palette has shifted.

My wardrobe is a lot more streamlined than it used to be. It serves my needs quite well. My hypothesis went something like this: as I’ve gotten clearer on what I want and need from life, I’ve gotten clearer on what I want and need from my clothes, and I know what kind of clothes I feel comfortable in (which boils down to pretty much the same thing as what I actually look good in).

I thought it was just me. But as I ask around to my thirty-something friends, their experiences echo my own: my style has changed, they say. So much!

Maybe my relationship with low-rise jeans is over, but I wouldn’t want to go back to my twenties. The thirty-something years aren’t without their problems (this is real life, after all) but I’m so much more comfortable in my skin than I used to be. So many women say they hit their stride in their thirties; I count myself among them.

As it goes with life, so it goes with clothes. By your thirties, you and your wardrobe are finally hitting your stride. You’ve had decades to experiment with what flatters. You know what you need to wear and what you like to wear. You’ve learned who you are, and how to dress accordingly. Sometimes you dress to impress, but mostly, you dress to feel like yourself. A good version of yourself, but yourself all the same.

Or at least that’s the theory. I have a few more years to see where the thirties takes me—and my wardrobe.

How has your style shifted over the years? What’s your experience with thirty-something fashion? As always, tips, tricks, resources, and entertaining stories welcome in comments. 

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  1. Amy says:

    My latest favorite clothing item…the Ann Taylor perfect shirt. It gives that “crispy” look, but it is surprisingly comfortable. Cute untucked with jeans or dressed up for work. I have a couple of white ones, a blue one, and I am wanting to collect more colors. Also, Ann Taylor is always having great sales!

  2. Annette says:

    I was just thinking about this. I have pretty much gone “uniform.” In winter, I wear a cute top, a cardigan, good jeans and boots (ankle or knee). In the summer it’s a cute top, a skirt or shorts, sandals or flats.
    I’m comfortable, feel cute and the outfit is appropriate for my age (52) and my lifestyle.

  3. Angela says:

    I turned 31 last month so I’ve yet to really see my style change. I hope it would because I hope to enter new seasons in life. I’m single and one day hope to marry and have kids. Sometime in this decade of my life, I pray! And I think my style would change then. It hasn’t really made a lot of changes these past years. The biggest change is I’ve become more comfortable and loving of my God-given physical body, flaws and all, and my style has reflected that. Still modest, but I no longer mind showing my knees (one has a huge keloid scar) or flabbyish arms. I no longer wear big shirts over my bathing suits. I’m more bold with my hairstyle too. It was a journey to stop hiding behind clothes and the name of modesty.

  4. Asha says:

    This post, as well as some other recent ones where you mention hitting your stride in your thirties, and the many wonderful comments, have made me very much look forward to my thirtieth birthday this year! Thank you (and all the commenters) for the perspective!

  5. TiFFANIE says:

    I’m actually in my 40s, but my wardrobe has not really changed that much honestly. I’ve always been somewhat fun and free spirited/rebellious (think boho) with what I choose to wear. I like being on trend, fun and somewhat edgy with my style. I don’t see that ever changing.

  6. Anna says:

    My wardrobe is more streamlined. This is partly due to simplicity, but partly due to knowing what looks good on me now. I used to buy a lot of things that looked cute, but I didn’t like the way they looked or felt. It took me awhile to be more realistic about it.

  7. Coffee Sipper says:

    Hmm, interesting. I thought it had more to do with having read Lessons from Madame Chic, and Jennifer L Scott’s other books, personally. But maybe age does have something to do with it too. I find that I like the idea of the capsule wardrobe, in part because it cuts down on laundry. I also find that though I’ve always been inclined to shop frugally, I’m more likely than I used to be to pick out a few nicer items less frequently and pay a little more (shopping clearance or sales so I’m not paying full price, of course) but the quality is better and hopefully the clothes last a little longer.

    What are your thoughts on this, Anne? Have you read Scott’s books? What do you think of them?

  8. Hehe, when I first clicked through, I was all “I wonder what Anne is going to be sharing on fashion in the 1930s!”

    I completely agree on fashion changing in the thirties. Even things that technically fit from the pre-kid days just aren’t my style. I wrote about the changes in fit preference recently actually. “Why so clingy, shirt?” (I never did get the suspenders though.)

    I think the changes are a combination of knowing more of what I like and then being OK with wearing it. I don’t think anyone notices if I wear gray all the time, and even if they do, I don’t really care. Overall, very freeing.

  9. Lynn Wegmann says:

    At age 56, I’ve come into my own, style-wise. I’ve learned that classic styles suit me. Whenever I try to get something trendy, it ends up at the back of my closet, or in the Good Will bag. If I want something unique, I add jewelry and/or some interesting shoes. I also have a number of pieces that I mix or match. I love Cabi clothes, and these are usually my wardrobe staples.

  10. Cerise says:

    When I turned forty this year, I joked that now I’d have to start wearing turbans and capes and red lipstick and giant cocktail rings and calling everyone “Darling.” Honestly though, I have found my sense of style shifting this year. In my twenties, I had sort of a crisp soft butch look during the work week, with plenty of pants and button-up shirts, with a more rock ‘n’ roll vibe on the weekend. In my thirties, now a mother, I found that pencil skirts and wiggle dresses were more flattering to my new curvier frame, so I cultivated a vintage look. Hats and heels everywhere. I really sought out those pieces for a long time, and I’m disappointed to find they’re not doing it for me anymore. I’m starting to be drawn more to edgy, avant garde styles. Less Dita Von Teese, more Tilda Swinton. Hell, I’m even wondering if I could pull off Tilda’s hairstyle, even though I’ve been pursuing Old Hollywood waves for ages. (I’m starting to get a few grays, all in one place at my right temple, and I’m reeeealy hoping it develops into a big white streak.) I’ve been drawn to dramatic jewel tones all my life though, so perhaps some things never change.

  11. Becca says:

    This was such an interesting read. I was too afraid to dress how I wanted in my twenties, thinking people would sneer at me for being too fat, too square, whatever. Now I’m in my 30s, with the help of amazing bloggers like Zoe de Pass and Leandra Medine, I’m actually starting to enjoy dressing again. So what if I weight 220lbs? So what if my breasts are not in the exact same spot they were in pre-kids? It’s not my job to be either sexy or invisible – I just need to look clean and tidy, so beyond that I’m having fun with clothing – colours, textures, shapes and personality. At 34 I have become that crazy old lady who wears purple.

  12. Ray says:

    I turned thirty this year and I found exactly this when I started to consider refreshing my work wardrobe. Things that suited me in my twenties, no longer seem to, even colours, like black, no longer seem quite right. Like you I thought it would get easier as I became more sure of myself! I’m still working it out but I intend to have fun whilst doing so.

  13. Laurel says:

    I am almost 60. I’m finding it a challenge to look contemporary and comfortable. I don’t want to look like my 20+ daughters and co-workers … I’ve been downsizing my closet to only have clothes that I feel good in and that look good on my tall frame. Your posts on the topic of clothing have encouraged me. Thanks!!

  14. Deborah says:

    I’ve been pregnant or nursing for most of my thirties. So I don’t think that this holds true for me. But I bet it will for my forties!

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