Fashion Guide for Women in their 30s

Embrace your 30s with fun and flirty, yet sophisticated style.
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For women in their 30s, having a good sense of style is very important. For many of us, this is a time when our careers are taking off, we have more purchasing power than ever before, and we're at least flirting with the idea of settling down. This naturally leads to smarter, somewhat more sophisticated choices when it comes to fashion.

Most women in their 30s have a hard time pulling off the 20-something trends we loved so much during our college days. And why should we try? We're in a new phase of our life, so our clothes should be right there with us. Of course, most of us would still like to achieve some sense of glamour -- we do want to look fabulous when joining our friends for a night out. So, what's a 30-something girl to do? Simple -- step into the beautiful world of grown-up style.


Professional Looks in Your 30s

A well-made, great fitting suit is a key element to the 30-something professional's wardrobe.

For some of us, knowing what to wear to work can be challenging, but it doesn't have to be. One tried and true technique that applies to almost any professional setting is to start with a well-made, great fitting suit. To keep it from becoming dated too quickly, opt for classic styling in a neutral color. Add to that a few quality shirts and a well-made pair or two of shoes. Most women look great in classic pumps, but ballet flats and wedges work too. Just remember that when it comes to footwear, shoes for the office should lean toward simple and subdued.

The skirt or pants of your suit can be mixed and matched with sweater sets, button-down shirts or colorful blouses. Camisoles work well under suit jackets in all but the most conservative offices -- just be sure they're not too low-cut. No matter how killer your cleavage, the office just isn't the place to showcase it. Next, consider purchasing a few dresses to keep things interesting. Knee-length styles in neutral colors and muted patterns work best and remember that a three-quarter-sleeve wrap dress will flatter pretty much any body shape. As for fabrics, of course the classics -- wool, cotton and cashmere -- work well in a professional setting but you can also wear silk, knits and corduroy. Above all, make sure your clothing is clean and wrinkle-free. A dirty, wrinkled wardrobe practically screams slacker.


Once you have the basics covered, it's time to think accessories. Here's where you can have a little fun -- almost anything goes for the office, including gold, silver, pearls, gemstones, and more earthy materials such as turquoise and leather. The key is to keep from going over the top. In other words, you want your ideas - not your bangles - to mark your presence in the office.

Next, let's talk about what to wear when you're not on the clock.


Casual Looks in Your 30s

Penelope Cruz (who happens to be 36) manages to look fresh, chic and casual all at once in this great ensemble.
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When it comes to casual fashions, there are far fewer rules than with professional looks. In fact, some long-accepted fashion conventions have recently been debunked by leading fashion experts. It's now OK to wear white after Labor Day, mix prints, and combine silver and gold jewelry. But this doesn't mean that all of fashion's commandments have gone out the window -- Thou shall not wear stirrup pants unless you're riding a horse.

For 30-something gals, the one rule you should steadfastly follow is: Fit is everything. You can invest a fortune in designer duds, but they'll look cheap if they're ill fitting. Likewise, you can make an inexpensive garment look like a million bucks by having it altered to fit you perfectly. Besides making friends with a good tailor, follow these shopping tips to make the most of your body type:


  • Hide a tummy with a structured jacket and trousers with a wide waistband.
  • Minimize wide hips by wearing jeans and trousers with wider leg openings.
  • Create curves by pairing a ruffled shirt with a pencil skirt or skinny jeans.

Denim is the quintessential American fabric that looks great on women of all ages. But buying jeans for our 30-something bodies may take time and a bit of patience to find the right pair. Remember that the rise and cut of your jeans determine the overall shape. A lower rise is universally flattering, but be sure to fit the widest part of your body and then tailor down. Otherwise, you'll end up with a "muffin top." For more on finding the right jeans, check out these denim fit and find guides.

Going casual typically means you don't have to work very hard, which is great for women on the go. But why not take a moment for finishing touches before you head out the door. Pop on a pair of earrings, give your lips a swipe of gloss and grab a bright-colored bag. Whether you're headed to the park, the movies or the grocery store, you'll feel better knowing you look great.

Now let's get ready for a night on the town.


Evening Looks in Your 30s

In our humble opinion, Drew Barrymore is 30s fashion perfection in this stunning plum sheath with just the right accessories.
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Evening looks, no matter what your age, really depend on the event and the company you'll be keeping. Dinner and drinks with your college roommates calls for an entirely different look than say an evening of salsa dancing with your hot new boyfriend.

And a night on the town is still the perfect occasion to choose racier items, such as animal prints or a sheer blouse with just enough lace work to keep you from being arrested. But be careful not to overdo it. The head-to-toe vixen look might be OK for a 26-year-old, but the look can be less appealing on a 36-year-old.


For women in their 30s, it's really about balancing sophistication with sexiness. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. If the top you're wearing shows off a little décolleté, skip the miniskirt and go for a pair of wide-legged trousers. If you want to show a little leg, make sure everything's covered up on top. And don't worry, looking sophisticated doesn't have to mean looking old. If you're wearing a formal gown, keep your lush locks down. Or finish a sleek, sophisticated ensemble with a fun, flirty ponytail. In other words, try pairing something youthful with your grown-up look.

When it comes to accessories for an evening out, the only way to get it wrong is to forget about them. Of course, that doesn't mean you should load yourself down with sparkles, but one perfect piece -- a great pair of earrings, a statement necklace or a funky cuff -- can really complete your look. And try to keep things in harmony. Balance sturdy fabrics with bold accessories, but keep it dainty for anything whispery like silk or chiffon.

Now that your clothing is covered, it's time to talk hair and make-up.


Hair and Makeup in Your 30s

The Botticelli-esque Christina Hendricks, who is 35, looks lovely with a loose updo, modest eye makeup and matte red lipstick.
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As much as we might not want to face it, some unfortunate events begin to occur in our 30s, sometimes even earlier. The process of aging includes a steady slope toward dry, wrinkled and sagging skin. What's more, your complexion might not be as even as it once was. Luckily, there are methods of slowing the process, such as being fastidious about moisturizing and keeping sun exposure to a minimum. And if you smoke -- stop immediately; according to the Mayo Clinic, aside from UV radiation, nothing accelerates the aging process faster than smoking cigarettes.

You'll want to adapt your makeup regimen to compliment your changing skin. For example, don't over-powder your skin as you may have done during your oilier 20-something years. Powder settles in the creases of your skin, emphasizing crow's feet and laugh lines. It's also best to avoid frosted products and heavy shimmer, they'll just highlight any imperfections you may have.


As for hair, if you're getting a few grays and don't like the look of them, it's nothing a quick trip to the salon can't fix. Just be sure to stay on top of those salon appointments -- exposed roots can age you faster than an ill-fitting, high-waisted pair of "mom jeans."

Women in their teens and 20s sometimes shy away from wearing their hair up in favor of long flowing locks. This look is still perfectly acceptable in your 30s and beyond, provided your hair is healthy. But there is no reason to fear the updo. Try an asymmetrical chignon or a French twist. Just be sure to pair it with wispy strays and/or side-swept bangs. These looks are elegant and sexy, and the tousled touches offer a youthful twist.

Now that you know how to look great from head-to-toe, it's time to review some important dos and don'ts when it comes to 30-something style.


Dos and Don'ts

Do make accessories your friend!
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Knowing a few basic style tips about dressing for the office, casual occasions and evenings out goes a long way toward looking great in your 30s. Still, there are some dos and don'ts that each of us should keep in mind. Let's start with the don'ts.

  • Don't buy clothes that do not fit.No matter what diet of the week you're trying, do not buy a size down in anticipation of losing those stubborn extra pounds.
  • Don't skimp on the essentials.We all need things like raincoats, walking shoes, jeans and sunglasses. Be sure to invest wisely in these items that you'll wear over and over again.
  • Don't look to the teenagers in your life for fashion tips. Some women think that by emulating high school or college girls, they'll automatically look younger. This is almost never the case. No matter how good you think Kim Cattrall looked standing beside Miley Cyrus in SatC2, young girls' fashions are not made for a grown woman's body.

Now, let's tackle the dos.


  • Do expand your wardrobe beyond basic black and comfy stand-bys. It can be tricky avoiding all the fashion faux pas out there, but you also don't want to get stuck in a rut.
  • Do make accessories your friend. By using jewelry, shoes, bags and other accessories, you can create a wide range of looks using only a few key items of clothing.
  • Do invest in multipurpose pieces. You'll appreciate the versatility of items that can be worn in the office, but also dressed up for an evening out or dressed down for a Sunday brunch.
  • Do invest in well-made, properly fitted undergarments. An ill-fitting bra or oversized pair of granny panties can ruin an otherwise polished look.

Finally, remember the best looks always seem effortless, not overdone. For more style tips, peruse the links on the following page.


Lots More Information

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  • What Not to Wear Style Tips
  • "Workwear Special: What to Wear in the Office." Marie Claire