10 Staples Every 20-Something Should Consider for Their Wardrobe

Disclaimer: I’m 32, but I think we can all agree that the last two years don’t count, so that makes me 30. And what better age to reflect on the style lessons I learnt in my 20s? (Humour me.) I loved my 20s—it was the decade during which I moved to London, carved myself a rewarding career, got married, and had some of the most fun I think I’ll ever have in my life. And my clothes? They were all an intrinsic part of that. 

Working in fashion, suffice to say my outfits are important to me. Am I the perfect dresser? Absolutely not, but the transportive feeling others get when listening to certain songs is what I get when I see certain garments hanging in my wardrobe. I can remember exactly what I wore for the milestone moments in my 20s, be it a day spent in the park with my family when they came to visit or the unexpectedly great night out with friends that we still talk about to this day, and seeing that outfit takes me immediately back there.

I want you to have this same glorious connection with your wares—which is why I’ve taken a sartorial look into the past to determine, with hindsight on my side, what wardrobe staples for women in their 20s should look like. After consulting my colleagues, I think this edit succinctly summarises what you need to tackle your 20s stylishly. I know it delivers, as many of said colleagues are still in their 20s and have given it their seal of approval.

Scroll on to see what the Who What Wear team considers the wardrobe staples for women in their 20s, but remember, age is just a number. Wear what you want, whenever you want—I fully intend to!

1. Classic Jeans


(Image credit: @michellemdriscoll)

Style Notes: After years of playing around with some rather questionable jean styles, towards the middle of my 20s, I stripped things back to basics. I bought myself some staple blues (without embellishments, frayed hems or crazy rips) and wore them with everything for just about any occasion. 

2. Breton Top


(Image credit: @basicstouch)

Style Notes: When I look back at photos of myself, admittedly, some of my outfits do make me cringe. However, the ones where I’m wearing classic pieces, such as a Breton-stripe top? They look timeless. Throw them on with everything from jeans to miniskirts, and I promise you’ll always look chic. 

3. Elevating Jewellery


(Image credit: @thatsaleaf)

Style Notes: Buying jewellery was a big deal for me in my 20s, as it felt like it was very hard-earned and signified that hard work. I didn’t necessarily spend lots on it, but the pieces I did invest in I made sure were the sort that would improve my outfits—think baroque pearl earrings (which remain one of the biggest trends on the jewellery scene) and chunky chain necklaces. 

4. Tailored Blazer


(Image credit: @isabellecoheen)

Style Notes: From job interviews to a chic cover-up for nights out, a blazer will serve you well throughout your 20s. Opt for an oversized style for maximum versatility and wearability. 

5. Smart Loafers


(Image credit: @rabia098)

Style Notes: There are two kinds of 20-somethings: those who live in trainers and those who wear heels on the daily. I was the latter. However, you also need a smart shoe style that you can fall back on from time to time. Cue loafers. 

6. Mid-Range Handbag


(Image credit: @laurennicolefk)

Style Notes: Most of my friends bought their first "proper” bag in their 20s, cementing it as a sartorial rite of passage. By "proper,” I mean a brand name with a price point of around the £500 mark. Michael Kors was the done thing when I was in my mid-20s, but now it seems as if Coach is taking over. If, however, you want something on the subtle side, Wandler, Elleme, Staud, and By Far make for strong contenders. 

7. Going-Out Dress


(Image credit: @chrissyford)

Style Notes: If your world centres around your weekend plans, then you’re going to want a great dress that you can throw on when your friends DM you at 10 p.m. to invite you out. An LBD will serve you well, as will metallics. 

8. Chunky Trainers


(Image credit: @himichelleli)

Style Notes: Okay, so I know I said that you’re either into heels or trainers, which was perhaps short-sighted of me. If you’re anything like me, by the time you reach your mid-20s, you’ll be, at the very least, commuting in trainers and then switching into heels when you get to work. Then, you’ll start to realise just how cool trainers look with everything own. 

9. Fancy Top


(Image credit: @theindiaedit)

Style Notes: Jeans and a nice top will see you through just about every sartorial dilemma your social calendar can throw at you—have some strong options to hand, and you’ll never be able to say you don’t have anything to wear. 

10. Something Vintage


(Image credit: @frannfyne)

Style Notes: Nothing sparks the same amount of joy as being asked where something you’re wearing is from and being able to respond, "Thanks, it’s vintage.” Your 20s is the time to go on the hunt for gems that’ll live in your wardrobe forever. 

Next Up: Looking for Never-Date, Affordable Wardrobe Basics? I Got You

Maxine Eggenberger
Deputy Editor

Maxine Eggenberger is Who What Wear UK’s deputy editor and has over thirteen years of experience in fashion journalism. She been creating engaging and elevated style content specifically for Who What Wear UK since 2018, covering runway reports, emerging trends, long-form features, self-styled shopping stories and columns, including her edit of the best new-in buys. She ensures the highest editorial standards are met across the site, leads the editorial team in their SEO strategy and keyword planning, works closely with the beauty team on content initiatives, represents the brand at industry events, and regularly contributes to social media, including her own Who What Wear UK TikTok franchise, French Style Fridays. Previously, Maxine appeared on ITV's This Morning in her own fashion segment and has interviewed countless celebrities—everyone from Victoria Beckham to Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o.

Prior to Who What Wear UK, Maxine’s career began when, after completing her first-ever internship at Look magazine, she was offered a position on the brand's fashion desk. She accepted, leaving university a year early in the process. Her passion and natural talent for writing and styling meant she swiftly rose through the ranks to become the title's fashion news and commercial content editor, with a stint as InStyle.co.uk’s fashion and beauty writer along the way. She later served as Look’s acting Editor in Chief, overseeing both print and digital, before embarking on a successful freelance career, working with Grazia, The Pool, and Marie Claire amongst others.

Maxine is based remotely from her countryside home near Edinburgh where she spends her downtime renovating her house, walking her dogs, hosting friends and trying to master the art of making Old Fashioned cocktails.