Closet Clean-out – The Woman in Her 30s

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There are certain points in a woman’s life when it’s time for a major closet clean-out. Just before college, after finishing school, when drastically changing careers…

And when you hit your 30s.

Why am I concentrating on your 30s and not other age? Well the 30s are a crazy time – it’s a time when you usually have established yourself in your career, you often times have found a life partner, possibly have started having children. Usually your residence has become a home – a place you care about and where you have put down some roots.

You aren’t 25 any more and you feel it in almost every aspect of your life. Do you feel it in your wardrobe?

No matter how young you can pass for or how many hours you spend in the gym, when you are over 30 you look ridiculous trying to dress like a 25-year old. Now this doesn’t mean once that birthday hits you have to chuck all your indie labels and head to Ann Taylor; it just means you need to add a bit of polish, refinement and respect to your look. You’ll be surprised – a proper closet clean-out in your early 30s will improve your reputation at work, your chances at finding a mate, and will actually make you look younger and more confident.

The standard Closet Clean-out for a Woman in her 30s.
What to Toss:

20090601052514Northwestern University lacrosse team flip flops

1. Half your rubber flip-flop collection. If you read this blog regularly, you know I am not a huge fan of flip flops. They aren’t safe, they aren’t healthy, and they ruin the look (and sound!) of most outfits. However, if you read my other blog you know I own a couple pairs and wear them regularly.

Whether I like it or not, flip flops are convenient. Easy to slip on, cheap, comfortable for short errands and puttering around the house, pool, and beach. The perfect barbecue footwear.

However, they are not proper footwear, and shouldn’t be worn as such. Flip flops are not worn by stylish women outside of the above mentioned locations. This means no flops for work, no flip flops for the mall, no flops for dates, no flops in place of proper footwear. Flip flops are the shoes of adolescents and when they are worn by a woman, they look tacky and out of place.

No need to toss every pair, just half your collection. Keep the black or brown ones that are in fabulous condition and are made with structure (well-made straps, thicker sole, etc.), and go ahead and keep a pair in the same color as your swimsuit. It’s also okay to keep a pair with your college mascot or those classic Adidas “shower shoes” for exactly that – showers at the gym and situations where it’s not the best idea to be completely barefoot. However toss any pair that has beading, sequins, clear straps, printed soles, or obvious logos. Any of the cheap flops from Old Navy or the drugstore that are barely padded, the ones you bought to wear under your gown on your wedding day, the ones that were only $2.99 at Express five years ago, the ones that are practically worn through and you have worn since your lifeguarding days in college… they all need to go. Smelly, worn flip flops are not the way to keep a memory. Dig up a picture of you and your friends at the beach when you wore those flops and frame it in honor of the flip flop retirement. Your feet, your sense of style and eventually you will thank me for this advice.

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2. Ironic tee shirts. Fake vintage soda pop ads, Hello Kitty, Care Bears, plays on words, glittery phrases telling the world how sexy, spoiled or fun you are… they all should go in the donation bag STAT. I don’t care if you only wear these around the house or to the gym – I KNOW you have other shirts that can fulfill this duty and do not have messages on them. If not, get thee to Target and buy two or three. They are less than $10, have feminine shapes, fun colors and will survive many washings.

A stylish woman doesn’t have to tell the world what type of person she is, or what brand she is wearing. A stylish woman also doesn’t proclaim her hobbies or fetishes on her bosom. A woman who wears these sorts of shirts in public looks desperate and like a fashion victim. Don’t fall prey to trends – from now on purchase tees and casual wear that are free of logos, embellishment or silkscreening. They won’t age as quickly, and won’t be as likely to age you.


3. Any top made out of denim. This means denim bustiers, chambray shirts, denim shells, vests, cropped little jackets, and all those other pieces that you have been holding on to since the mid ‘90s because someone made you think that denim was classic. This also includes any tops that are partially made of denim (denim collar, denim patches, band, etc.).

Denim is not classic. Yes, the traditional denim jacket comes in and out of style, but each time it is slightly different and a bit harder to pull off when you’re not 21. Unless your lifestyle warrants a sturdy denim jacket or you are considered by many to be a True Fashionista, it’s best to get rid of the denim jackets as well. Nothing ruins the line of a sweet dress, or the style of a simple outfit faster than a denim jacket (especially in a dated wash or silhouette). Getting rid of this excess denim will make your look far more polished, stylish and flattering.

4. Miniskirts (and skorts… and shorts). Okay okay, skorts are a brilliant invention. Looks like a skirt, but has shorts underneath to keep you properly covered (and they also prevent chafing). However, skorts always look like skorts, and skorts always look too much like what little children wear. Skorts have not been in fashion for many years, no matter what QVC or that mail-order catalog tells you. Donate them all.

As for short shorts… they haven't been in style for years, they aren't flattering on any normally shaped woman and are uncomfortable to boot. Chino, denim, seersucker, jersey… no short should end right below your bum unless you are under the age of 14.

The same holds true for miniskirts. You may have the greatest legs this side of the Atlantic, but that doesn’t mean you are flattering yourself in a thigh-skimming skirt. Super short skirts look desperate, dated and wrong on the majority of women on this planet. That being said, a short skirt is different from a mini. A skirt that is an inch above the top of your knee is short – a skirt that is an inch below your bum is mini. Rock your great gams in a short skirt every day of the year, they can be quite flattering and sexy (and elongate the leg); however get rid of the minis – they are not doing anything for you.

Note: The combination of short skirt and high heel is never stylish. Nothing taller than a 3” heel with a skirt above the knee, and consider a boot or wedge to balance out all that exposed leg. A basic pump with a short skirt is very ZZ Top and not a polished look for anyone.

5. Cheap bras. No matter your size, a cheap bra is not a flattering bra. It’s time to get rid of any bras you bought at a non-lingerie or department store (hello H&M), the mesh or stretchy lace ones that provide zero support or shape, the ones that are falling apart, the one you bought because it matched those panties that have since been tossed but the bra is so comfortable and it doesn’t matter because you only wear it on weekends… you know you own some of these bras and they aren’t doing you any favors.

You’re an adult now, and it’s time to invest in adult lingerie. Go to a specialty or high end department store and get fitted. This does NOT mean Victoria’s Secret – you are looking for a well-trained professional who specializes in lingerie. After being fitted, you can choose to shop at that store, or go elsewhere that is more in line with your income. Invest in a few skin-colored smooth bras that disappear under knits and light colored clothing, a great bra for styles you often wear (plunging necklines, halter tops, racerbacks, low backs, strapless), and one or two in black or skin color that lift, separate and shape you into a feminine beauty. Once you have these bras, treat them with care. Hand wash them with a product made for such delicate fabric, and have them air dry. If you don’t have the time for hand washing, wash on the gentle cycle of your machine in a lingerie bag. If you baby these bras, they will last far longer, maintain their shape and elasticity and baby you back.

Once you have a proper base bra collection, you can then slowly add to it with lacy, racy and frilly confections. Even those these pieces are less versatile, they should be purchased considering how they shape you and how they are fashioned. Spending money on quality lingerie will save you money in the long run, and nothing makes you look thinner or more youthful than a properly lifted bust line!


6. Laura Ashley Dresses. Church dresses, Laura Ingalls Wilder dresses, granny dresses, prairie dresses… I have asked many fashion experts for the proper term of these sorts of dresses and no one can come up one. This may because they have been out of fashion for so very long of a time!

These are the dresses that are often made of rayon or challis, bias cut or with an empire waist and hang from mid-calf to ankle length. In the early ‘90s they were often spaghetti strap and worn alone as a sundress or paired with a baby tee. Usually these dresses are seen with tank-style straps or cap sleeves. They are sometimes solid on color, but usually in floral print (hence the “Laura Ashley” term).

No matter your sense of style, these dresses are no longer stylish. As with denim tops, these are not classic pieces and look dated and frumpy on any woman of any age. Yes, the bias-cut dress may be flattering to your hourglass frame, and yes that floral print may remind you of your childhood bedroom. That doesn’t mean it is the attire of a stylish or polished woman.

It is possible to have a conservative wardrobe without succumbing to the Laura Ashley dress. It is also possible to show off your feminine style without having these dresses in your wardrobe. Consider separates, sheath dresses, and dresses with a more retro style (belted with a full skirt). They can be just as conservative, just as feminine and just as flattering without looking as though you are an extra from Little House on the Prairie.

7. Cheap polyester skirts. During my many years of retail management, personal shopping and visual merchandising I worked for the clothing company Express. Express was the go-to store for many college and post-college aged women in the late ‘90s because they offered affordable variations of runway styles, trendy suiting, and wearable date and clubwear. One of their most popular items was the mesh-overlay skirt. Many other retailers carried this same garment and it was seen on almost every American woman at some point during the late ‘90s to early ‘00s. This skirt was straight, often with an elastic waist and usually fell just above to the middle of the knee. The lining was a stretchy lycra or a thin polyester acetate, the top layer was a mesh usually in a graphic print, often embellished with rhinestones or embroidery. These skirts were paired with bra tanks and flip flops in summer, with ribbed turtlenecks and tall boots in winter. They were fabulous because they were cheap, trendy, machine washable and versatile.

I remember I had a taupe acrylic v-neck stretchy sweater (the “Jet Sweater” from Express) that I paired with one of these sheer skirts – it had a red under layer and a black, ivory and taupe abstract leaf-print top layer. I wore this ensemble to work, to bridal showers, on dates, to church. I found it to be elegant yet hip, trendy while classic. When the skirt no longer fit, I packed this set in a steamer truck in case I got back down to this size. I opened this steamer trunk two years ago and this “elegant ensemble” now looked cheap and sad.

That’s what these skirts look like to the rest of the world. They are not flattering (they show every curve and bump), they usually hit at a weird place on the leg, the fabric goes with little other than the poly tops and acrylic sweaters that were sold during the same era, and they look very dated and cheap.

Invest in one or two pencil or a-line skirts that hit at the slimmest part of your leg. Get one in black, gray or brown and another in a fun color or print. If you choose a sturdy fabric with a bit of stretch, the skirt will work in almost every season and be resistant to wrinkles. You will find it will easily take the spot where these cheap skirts used to reside and you will look thinner, more elegant and more modern.

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8. Club Tops. You know what a club top is – it’s that little beaded, sequined or shiny synthetic wonder you picked up for $12.99 at some store you usually wouldn’t shop at. One of those stores in the mall with too loud of music, overcrowded jumbled racks organized by price point, fitting rooms that don’t have doors or mirrors (and smell a bit like Fritos), and the rest of the customers are under the age of 17. You were probably shopping with a bunch of friends and went in for giggles and was overwhelmed by the incredibly low prices or the fantastic bling (and neckline) of the top. It’s stretch satin, polyester mesh, Lycra. It has rhinestones, sequins, beading, lace cut-outs or maybe all four. It is near impossible to wear with a bra or the couple of days before your period. It’s a top that you don’t mind having a bit of beer spilled on it, possibly your “Get Lucky” top.

Well a stylish woman doesn’t own tops like this and doesn’t really need them to get what she wants out of an evening. One can be utterly sexy without looking trashy or cheap. Consider a silk camisole in a flattering rich color that is low on embellishments, but high on style. Tube tops have come back in style – a blouson one in silk or silk jersey shows skin while showing elegance. A chiffon or silk wrap blouse shows off your waistline and your décolleté while still showing your sense of style. You will find if you purchase more elegant of evening tops you will require fewer in your closet. Switch up the look with accessories – gold hoops and bangles one night, diamond studs another. Surprisingly, higher quality evening attire will save you money in the long run.


9. Cheap suiting. This includes unlined jackets, jackets that have such a sheen they catch the light, tight trousers that show VPL, overly trendy lapels and leg widths, short tight suit skirts, short skirts with long jackets (go ahead and sing it with me), and anything that has embroidery, fur trim, decals, or sequins attached to it.

You most likely aren’t applying to work at Amanda Woodward’s agency, so there really isn’t a place to wear this sort of “career wear.” Working for those few years for Express I sold and purchased much of this attire (also got quite a lot from other retailers such as Arden B and Bebe). Melrose Place and then Sex and the City were the hot shows to watch and take fashion cues from. Suiting got very creative, and very sexy. It was easy to care for since it wasn’t lined, stretchy so it showed off my curves, and mixed and matched with much of my bar and club attire. It was great to have when working retail for I gave the appearance of being a professional and yet still a fashionista.

Problem is that sort of suiting doesn’t work in most parts of the retail world. Unless you work in fashion, retail, beauty or a very creative firm, cheap and sexy suiting is a no-go. As for cheap suiting – it’s better to show up in a sweater and trousers than an ill-fitting and cheaply fashioned blazer. Cheap suiting gives off the same impression as the cheap club tops – you are desperate and you are not the cream of the crop.

I highly encourage every woman to invest in a classic black pantsuit if she ever has the reason to dress up outside of the home. You never know when you will be asked to speak in front of the PTA, go on a job interview, attend the funeral of a loved one, represent your company at a trade show or convention. The pants work alone with blouses and sweaters in your collection, the jacket should be a classic enough style to work for many seasons without looking dated (keep the buttons black and the pockets covered and to a minimum). Many stores that specialize in career wear have great end of season sales and often maintain the same fabric though many years so you can build up a budget-friendly collection of mix and match career wear.

If you are going on an interview or starting a new job tomorrow and all you have is that boxy brown unlined blazer with the gold pinstripes and double-breasted buttons… unless the dress code specifies a full suit you may be better off in a crisp white tailored shirt, a dark skirt or pair of trousers, simple leather pumps and a strand of pearls. A polished woman wishes to always give the best impression and sometimes it is better to be appropriately underdressed and than inappropriately dressed.

You may also wish to visit:
The Staples For Every Woman's Wardrobe
Dressing for Your Interview
What if I Hate Shopping?
Black Doesn’t Make You Look Slimmer, it Only Makes You Look Boring

A woman with curly hair wearing a plaid blazer holds a green fur coat over her shoulder on a city street.

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  1. Thank you for this post! This is my current problem as I am turning 28 in less than a month, and I want to do incremental changes until I reach 30 instead of doing the whole shebang in one go.

    Cheers! Would be following this and your My Wardrobe Today blog 🙂

  2. Above commenter: So what if they DID just roll out of bed and go to the bars? They’re not obligated to do more. It’s a bar, not church, and you’re guaranteed to see worse fashion than a plain cami.

    As an unmarried, childfree 32-year-old living in Florida, I agree with about half this (very entertaining!) list. I have to foremost disagree with the flip-flops thing. Obviously get rid of the disgustingly worn ones, and don’t wear cheap ones away from the home/boat. But they are a *necessity* in the southern states. There are days when even sandals with more straps are too hot.

    I completely agree with you about the polyester skirts, cheap suits, and clubwear. They just look like they’re made for youngsters, or else like ten-year holdovers from 2000. But I think having one or two flattering floral dresses or subtle denim shirts isn’t a betrayal of one’s adult status. If you can make them work, fine. If not, you can’t. Nothing’s for everyone.

    Another commenter already mentioned the difference between quality silkscreeing/prints and the “princess” and “diva” crap. I own several silkscreened shirts from Etsy that provide just the right touch to a more conservative outfit.

    And the jury’s still out on miniskirts. They’re sexy, and I’m nervous that telling women over 30 not to wear them is a little prudish. Nobody wants to see a 98-year-old woman on the dance floor in one…but 38? If you can pull it off, don’t be ashamed.

    I liked this post, despite my disagreements with bits of it. It is an interesting topic–what are the age rules? Especially since not all 30-year-old women have the same professional/husband/kids/house life…

  3. I’m a 27 year old male with better than average fashion sense, but I have to add one that was clearly omitted.
    #10: Any single-color camisole “Cami” should not be worn outside the home singly as a top. It may be appropriate under a proper shirt, button-down, etc, but should never be considered an acceptable alternative to a real shirt. Especially if you are over 30.
    I’m tired of seeing women wear a pair of blue jeans with a white camisole at the bars. You look like you just woke up, got out of bed, and rolled into the bar. Nothing about the cami is cute, no matter your shape.

  4. I’m 25. I don’t own anything on this list – not even a single pair of flip-flops. I have an interview coming up and I shopped from Ann Taylor. I guess this makes me really old…
    But I look like a teenager in jeans and a T-shirt. So it’s okay. 🙂

    You should do a list of essentials for 25 year olds. A lot of people would find that useful – the transition from college to the real world.

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  6. WHOA can someone say…subjective!

    Seriously, it isn’t AGE that should completely dictate how you dress, it is a person’s persona/how they carry themselves, etc. Seriously, if a woman is X years old and is still a tiny little size, etc. she should be able to play it up,not based on her age, but what suits her.

    I TOTALLY agree on the idea to get rid of the steve madden platforms, etc. from the late 1990’s-early 2000’s but NOT because of age…because they are “dated” and just don’t look great anymore!

    I think you should focus this post more on what styles are “passe,” etc. NOT based on age!

    And to the poor person a few posts ahead who asked if she HAD to give up her club tops…if they still look good on you, and you still feel comfortable in them, GO FOR IT GIRL! Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise!

    Age is just a NUMBER that should be used for medical records, demographic purposes, etc.

    BE COMFORTABLE in your clothing, do what suits your body type, and yea, get rid of stuff that is horribly dated. But otherwise, BE YOURSELF!

  7. All the females I know are getting this post. My MOM wears some of this stuff, and we’re not even going to talk about my closet. I needed this loveless FYI. Thank you!!

  8. Came across your blog by visiting some other sites. I agree with practically everything that you said, and I am 26. I am cleaning out my closets this week, and am getting rid of a bunch of these things, and some things (like worn out bras) will definitely be tossed out.

  9. just found your blog today. i’m 32, STILL in grad school, single and about to move AGAIN! so, i’m in the process of cleaning out my closet before packing and was in search of some advice. am now shaking my head at what i know is in my closet… do i really have to give up my club tops??? am i REALLY that old? reality seriously bites you in the ass sometimes!

  10. Another great post & excellent advice. I couldn’t agree with you more about those wretched polyester skirts.

    I have one ironic/message T and I won’t throw it out, even for you dear Allie – I love the colour and it has a nice-shaped sleeve. I will be going to my wardrobe though and chucking a lurid club top!

    I wore a very floral Laura Ashley dress to my first school dance at age 15 or 16. If only I could delete the memory.

  11. I am dying ova hea!! That was very funny. I am 31 and I am guilty of a lot of those fashion sins. My sister who is 33 LOVED denim full length dresses!! and cheap suits! She still wears cheap suits!! I dress more like a 30 something now but I secretly like a lot of those “young” things.

    One thing I think a girl does need is at least one club top though! They’re fun. I know they’re cheesy but who cares!!

    here are some more 90’s teen items for the list that should (probably :() go :)!

    1. Doc Martens or any clunky boot
    2. Down puff jackets
    3. Spaghetti strap tanks!
    5. Bell bottoms ( I owned a leopard spandex pair! WOW
    6. No just flip flops, PLATFORM FLIP FLOPS!
    7. Platform sneakers a la Posh Spice
    8. “Grunge” shirts (plaid)

  12. Big fan of both your blogs and appreciate your great fashion advice. Must disagree on the flip flops thing though. I have a pair of comfy Reef flip flops that are indispensible for summer wear. Also, I note that YOU wear your Reef flops often AND to work on occasion.

  13. I just found your blog searching for SAHM fashion (and loved last year’s post on SAHMs and the mall), and I’ve been inspired to purge my closet… only to discover that over 80% of my clothes are worn out, unflattering and/or dated.

    Thank you! I have so much more space in my closet now and am no longer haunted by polyester skirts!!

  14. Thanks for the great post, Allie.
    Honestly, I own multiple style books, but even all of them together did not help me as much as your website, especially these instructional posts. Did you ever think about writing a book?
    When I first read your post I was disagreeing with the part about jeans tops. It took me over a week, to pull out all my jeans tops, try them on and honestly look into the mirror.
    I always thought I cannot live without jeans tops. You are right! None of them did much good for me and ended up in the toss/donate pile.
    Here is my list of them, not one, not two, not even five:
    1. Gap wash jeans blazer (2007)
    2. Club Monaco dark wash jeans jacket (2005) – kept it
    3. River Island (GB) dark wash classic jeans jacket (1999) – kept it
    4. River Island (GB) medium wash classic jeans jacket (1999)
    5. Mustang jeans blouse (2002)
    6. mavi jeans shirt (2000)
    7. DKNY medium wash jeans blazer (2005)
    8. Diesel sleeveless jeans shirt (2000) – kept it
    9. 7 for all Mankind spaghetti strap jeans dress (2007)
    10. mavi jeans shirt dress (2001)
    Wow! I never realized I had a major issue here. I have eliminated all but three and I promised to reevaluate the remaining ones soon.
    I feel so much lighter now 🙂
    On the other hand I’ve never owned a single flip-flop my entire life.

  15. I am not getting rid of my lilly pulitzer skorts. nuh uh… you can’t make me.
    Skorts are great for moms who have to bend over to pick up crawling infants and if you want to look “cute” on a sailboat (or any boat) for that matter but not worry about flashing someone they are good as well…

    I totally agree w/ everything else though- I ditched those cheap skirts and my express suits long, long ago.

  16. Hey Allie –

    Love the post! I agree about the statement tees. They might as well say ‘badly aging bimbo’ rather than ‘princess’!

    Two things I’d add to your list:

    1) If you are bigger than a 32B, for the love of God, TANK TOPS LAYERED UNDER CARDIGANS ARE INAPPROPRIATE!!!!! I don’t care how fitted it was when you got dressed this morning, it gapes and shifts as the day goes on. When you can’t even lean over a desk without a wardrobe malfunction occurring, it’s not a viable option for work.

    2) Poor footwear choices for the office. These include street sneakers and hospital-type thick-soled shoes. They may look comfortable but they look really stupid with suiting or skirts. You can find good footwear that is comfortable, you just have to make investment purchases at better-quality stores. Like suits, you get what you pay for when it comes to shoes!

  17. Emily, maybe your mom can sell her 80s wear at a thrift shop. Then all the Agyness Deyn wannabes can parade around in her power jackets paired with Daisy Dukes?
    I had the same thought Monica did, about the denim blazers, not really jean jackets. I also like corduroy blazers. As long as the person is not going for a head-to-toe denim look, which is hideous, I don’t think there is anything wrong with a denim blazer paired with chinos, for example. I will confess I own a jean jacket, though. In my defense, it fits great, it is a dark grey wash, and it is recent (2005). I am not giving it up though I am 33, it is the one wardrobe item that I get compliments on everytime I wear it.
    Also, while I hate most printed t-shirts, I see nothing wrong with silk-screening if done tastefully. I saw a woman last week with a beautiful black t-shirt with a single silk-screened rose on the shoulder and it looked so great I almost asked her where she got it. Of course, that is miles away from a t-shirt with glittery “Princess” on it. I just think that the Stacy and Clinton “No prints, ever! After 25, it is a life of solids for you! The most print you are allowed to wear is a tweed!” school of thought is a bit drab.

  18. Allie,

    Great post! I’m 45 and don’t wear most of these items, but need some advice on the flip flops. Are you saying to throw out all flip flops or just the rubbery ones?!? I have been crazy over flip flops/thongs and have lots of leather ones from Ann Taylor and Talbots. Please advise!

    Also, I thought that in a spring post – you mentioned denim jackets and your mom wearing one? Didn’t realize they were off limits!

    Enjoy both blogs! Keep the advice coming!

  19. Hey, Allie! This is awesome, like all of your instructional posts. As a girl in my 20’s, I’d love to see you expand this and eventually add posts addressing the other style transitions at different times in a woman’s life that you mention here. You’ve been such a huge help to me as I’ve read your blog over the past year; I’ve never commented, though. Congrats on the coming addition to your family, by the way! You’re glowing!

  20. Allie,

    You should have written this list 20 years ago as my mum still owns all this stuff and refuses to give it up!

    Any tips on how to persuade her to give up the terrible fashion? (And don’t even get me started on the 80s relics …)


  21. Oh dear, now I feel old…I’m not even 21 and the only thing I own from that list is a few mini skirts…for wearing with tights and boots in the winter. I suppose my 30s wardrobe clean out won’t be so fun.

  22. I just recently discovered your blog and I must say it is wonderful! I spent hours going through the archives and searching for things that I might find useful.

    I am a recent college graduate about to start a job and I really, really, really hope you can do something similar for those who are trying to clean out their closets after college (I currently have mostly tee shirts and jeans in my closet and have no idea what I should be shopping for now) and shift to a more grown, up sohpisticated look for work and outside work (not only clothes, but make-up wise too).

    Love your blog so keep up the great work!

  23. And Allie, I’m sure you’ve mentioned it before, but it ALWAYS amazes me how many women think exposed bra straps are okay. SINCE WHEN? I’ve seen spaghetti strapped tops and dresses layered over similar colored bras and guess what – it still looks like a bra strap. I see this everywhere -even at weddings! I don’t understand.

    Anyway, great points!

  24. This post was hilarious!!!
    I just gave up my “clubbing tops” to my sister. She’s still in University, her last year and I know she’ll put them to better use!!

    I have other items in my closet mentioned in your list (cropped jean jacket, tank top with a face), but your post didn’t embarass me enough to chuck them 😛

    Good job on the list!!

  25. Personally as a “young adult” in college, I don’t think these items should be in ANYone’s closet, especially those ironic tees. It’s like an invite to have people stare at your chest.

    Lovely post, Allie. And funny to boot! Love the blog. Wish there were more like it.

  26. It really depends on the person and her personal style but once a gal enters a profession, then quality suits and tailored outfits are not only appropriate but a must.

  27. Thank you! I don’t know what it is about 30, but it just seems the exact right time for a wardrobe overhaul. You’ve given me a great start!

    The one thing not mentioned here that I’ve been tossing lately are spaghetti straps. They simply don’t seem appropriate anymore without being layered with a jacket, and jackets are inappropriate in this 100 degree southern heat. Hence the toss.

  28. I am laughing out loud!! Not at the post but, a woman has just come into my shop wearing the most awful Tee that you mentioned!! It was grey with sleeves covered in silver sequin!!!! It then had various lengths of chain stitched on the front to look like necklaces!!! All in all a classy look…….. for a hooker!!!

  29. This is super! It’s great to see such a precise and right-on list of the dreck that hangs around in our wardrobes–even if it zips or buttons without strain, it’s possible to outgrow clothes in other ways.

    I do have to say, though, as much as I want most denim clothing (save some jeans) to go far, far away, I’ve seen some denim jackets that I’ve thought very stylish and appropriate, “casual Friday” jackets, that look especially good with printed dresses on cool nights in summer, and can take a borderline-too-dressy outfit down beautifully. They tend to be dark denim, and cut in swingy or blazer shapes rather than traditional denim jacket shapes. This is the only example I could find quickly, and it’s not ideal, but reasonably illustrative of what I mean–a jacket that happens to be made of denim, rather than a “jeans jacket”:

    Strong agreement with browneyedgirl’s second comment, above. I get fitted at a lingerie shop near me, and buy the bra that works there at full price, but I subsequently buy duplicates off eBay. Good bras are so important, even for women whose breasts aren’t exceptionally large or hard to fit.

    And you made an excellent point at the very end: “sometimes it is better to be appropriately underdressed and than inappropriately dressed.” Well said!

  30. I’m not a fan of the flowery-dress-over-pants idea. Most of those flower dresses aren’t attractive or flattering no matter what they’re paired with…I think you’d be better off with slim pants and an actual tunic top in a flattering shape, but that’s just my two cents!

  31. The dress over pants look is very tricky – it has to be the right cut and length of dress, the pants need to be slim, the legs need to be long, the body needs to be pretty slim so it doesn’t look bumpy, and the wrong combo of print and pants can just look like… well a dress over a pair of pants.

    That’s one look I would leave to those who have a good sense of personal style already and probably don’t need this post. To easy to go terribly wrong… but done right it can look very cute on the right person. 🙂

  32. I LOVE this post. Lots of great explanations about why stuff doesn’t work.

    I must add my 2 cents about one thing, though. IMHO, a flowery, frumpy dress can be saved by wearing it over pants, if it is not too long, and also with very current jewelry. Thoughts?

  33. Dear Allie,

    What a fantastic & very funny post! I love your advice about the jeans jackets. I am ashamed to say I have been clinging to not 1 but 2 jeans jackets. I will donate these to charity tomorrow. My reward – a cute blazer in a flattering cut and color as soon as I have enough money.

    I really enjoy you blog.

    Keep up the great work,


  34. Very appropriate post for me…I just turned 30 last month. Most of these items have already made their way out of my closet. Now…on to replacing them with professional, quality pieces! Aw darn, shopping! 🙂 I could easily pass for 22-25, partly due to being petite, so some new power clothes are definitely in order. 🙂

    I am a daily reader, rare poster. Thanks for taking the time to share your style with us!

  35. Oh, dear Allie,

    You speak the truth. But it is painful. My bias cut dress is so slenderizing. My chiffon skirt moves so gracefully as I walk. Yet you are my fashion maven. SOOO you owe it to me to tell me how I will replace these items. I’m a busty size 14. I’m awaiting your next post!

  36. hiya! found you through a friend, and **sigh** you just made me fill 2 large trash bags of clothes to throw at goodwill. I’m almost 32, and most of my clothes were purchased when I was 21-25. I hate shopping and even when I do I’m paralyzed by ignorance of fashion, so I end up w/ either nothing or crappy cheap stuff that does me no good. thanks for all the tips! I feel well-armed now for the next time I have $$ to shop.

  37. Ohhh! And one more tip on bras. I got fitted at Nordstroms, and sadly the bras that fit best were $70 each, which I shelled out because as a 32DDD, I NEEDED them. I seriously wanted a breast reduction before that bra. Anyway, I just found the same exact bra in my size at Last Call Neiman Marcus for $25. So my suggestion is to get bras that fit, then shop for the deals on the same bras from other sources.

  38. It really depends on your shape and how they work on you. I don’t only solely pencil and a-line skirts and that isn’t all that is out there right now… as long as they are of good fabric, well-structured and look of quality, they should usually be okay. 🙂

  39. Allie, you are hilariously funny, and dead RIGHT! Demin tops, Laura Ashley, and the Amanda Woodward reference–too freakin’ funny!

    I remember when I started working in a real estate office and the dress code said “skorts are okay.” I e-mailed the office manager to let him know that skorts were NEVER okay. Yes, I did. 🙂

    I still have a couple of tees with the slogans “Water Baby” and “J’Taime.” But I’m only 27, so I’m still gonna wear them around the house! My flip flop collection has dwindled, so I’ll let that be (I didn’t wear them much after college, anyway). And THANK-YOU for pointing out that a real bra fitting isn’t gonna happen at VS!! Nordstrom is my lingerie store of choice.

    Your blog and The Sartorialist are the only fashion blogs I need!

  40. Add flare-leg express jeans and those horrible black Steve Madden shoes with a 3″ platform and your post basically sums up my wardrobe during my last couple of years of college (I graduated in 2001). I’ve basically moved past the things you describe in your post but I’m still holding onto a couple of non-polyester skirts in the shape you describe above: one is a very brightly coloured silk print (the colours are bright greens and blues–not ones I associate with that era) and the other is a straw-coloured cotton seersucker. Can I still wear shirts of this shape if they aren’t polyester or double-layered?

  41. GREAT post! I’m 44 now and I still see the above on some women my age, never mind in their 30s.

    — Grace in MA

  42. I totally agree that the ‘message tee’ is long past its expiration date. After the second season of sarcastic screen prints I was wondering when it would end. Same with the cheap polyester skirts *shudder*. I am embarrassed to say I own at least 3 of these (and I can never seem to have them fall at a flattering angle), but I’m only three years from my thirties so I’ll say goodbye now.

    However, I have to disagree on the flip flops. I recently attended a trade show with a well dressed woman in her 50’s who wore beaded Ann Taylor flops with a lovely cream pantsuit. If you can make it work, I see no reason to abandon *all* flip flops. Maybe just the stinky rubber ones.

  43. Excellent advice – great advice.

    I gotta admit, I kind of winced when I read that bit about the cheap polyester skirts. I wore one yesterday for work, in fact! (NY & Co., I don’t even remember how many years old…) But deep down, I know you’re right: Not professional, not at all classic, very dated.

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