16 Things Every Twenty-Something Woman Needs In Her Closet

We’ve all done it. Every twenty-something woman has stood, arms crossed, staring at her closet, wondering how to wear their old college clothes to our new “real” jobs. That crop top? Won’t work. Those ratty T-shirts? Don’t think your boss would approve.

“Surely this purple body-con dress can work,” we think, “as long as we wear it with a cardigan!”

When transitioning into the adult world, especially the “professional” world, it’s important to earn respect from your fellow humans, be they coworkers, bosses or clients. An easy first step toward earning that respect? Dressing like an adult. The first step toward dressing like an adult? Making sure your wardrobe include professional, versatile, functional and fashionable staple items. Here are 16 things every twenty-something woman needs in her closet, and pronto.

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Item #1: A fitted black blazer


LC Lauren Conrad Boyfriend Blazer, Kohl’s, $70

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This blazer’s shape makes it look tailored, and the shiny fabric makes it a little more interesting than the normal boxy black blazer from the women’s department. The sleeves also come pre-pushed up, which translates to casual wear well. It also comes in neutral, ivory, and light and dark gray.

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Item #2: Fitted skinny jeans, black and dark wash


Women’s The Rockstar Super Skinny Jeans, Old Navy, $34.83

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These jeans supposedly flatter every body type, and from most of the customer reviews, they do! They fit almost more like a jegging than a jean, but they don’t overstretch or get baggy the longer you wear them. Owning both a Black pair and a Dark wash pair is essential—with the right shirt, these jeans can definitely work for Casual Fridays at the office.

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Item #3: Fitted black pants


Joe Fresh Slim-Leg Pull-On Pant, J.C. Penney, $24

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A cross between a legging and a dress pant, these are the most comfortable dress pant choice. They are ponte material and therefore thicker than a legging, but their sleek black shape lends to the same look leggings give an outfit. Say goodbye to baggy, saggy dress pants and hello to impressing people with the fact that wearing dress pants is actually a thing in your life.

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Item #4: Neutral pants


Women’s The Rockstar Skinny Pop-Color Jeans, Old Navy, $34.94

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The neutral colors of these pants make them ideal to wear with so many colors and patterns. The fit is just as flattering as the denim jeans by the same name (#2) and the color makes them seem more like pants than jeans, so they’re wearable for work. Buy them in Creme Caramel and Rubber Band.

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Item #5: A white shirt

Professional recommendation:

The Madison Stretch Shirt-Solid, New York & Company, $36.95

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This shirt is the essential button-up. Tuck it into dress pants or a pencil skirt or leave it untucked with dark jeans. It always works, no questions asked.


Casual recommendation:

Converse One-Star Women’s Long-Sleeve Button Down Top, Target, $22.99

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This shirt can’t be tucked in like the other option, but offers a more casual and comfortable white button-down look. Plus, the rolled-up sleeves and hidden buttons make it a little more exciting than the typical white button-up.

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Item #6: Long cardigans


Eversoft Cardigan, GAP, $39.95

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Long cardigans go with more than short cardigans. They can be dressed up or down, with jeans or dresses or dress pants. The more colors, the merrier: Try buying black, neutral and ivory.

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Item #7: Black pencil skirt


Ponte Pull-On Skirt, Maurice’s, $18

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This skirt is flattering on all body shapes, and since it’s ponte, it looks even better. It’s long enough to wear to work but sleek enough to wear out, making it a really versatile item.

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Item #8: Basic tank-tops


Jersey Top, H&M, $9.95

See Also

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These tank tops look good under blazers or cardigans, or work well with just jeans. They can be tucked in or left out. Buy one in every color, but especially Black, Natural White and Black-And-White Striped.

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Items #9–#11: Shoes (black pumps, animal-print flats, riding boots)


Women’s Mossimo Paisley Platform Pump, Target, $29.99
Women’s Mossimo Supply Co. Ona Side Scrunch Ballet Flat, Animal Print, Target, $14
Contra riding boot, Pink & Pepper, Brown and/or Black, $89

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Black pumps go with everything, and cheetah print goes with most things. The Contra riding boot is a high-quality product guaranteed to last a few seasons. All translate from work to date-night.
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Item #12: Black leather bag


Stud And Rhinestone Embellished Satchel, Express, $69.99

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Black leather bags never go out of style, and this one even has bling. It’s big enough to fit a good amount of stuff, but small enough to take places without being obnoxious.

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Items #13–#15: Accessories (watch, belts, sunglasses)


Grant Three Hand Stainless Steel Watch, Fossil, $95
Beveled Belt, Fossil (Black and/or Tan), Fossil, $34
RB2140 902/57 Original Wayfarer (Tortoise), Ray-Ban, $200
RB3025 L2823 Aviator Large Metal (Black), Ray-Ban, $145

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A stainless steel watch will last longer and be less likely to scratch than a silver one. Plus, it’s sort of an alternate metal for nice watches, so it’s “cooler.” Maybe. Pretty, anyway. Additionally, one should always have at least two colors of basic belts, with black and cognac tan coming on on top (of course). Finally, two pairs of sunglasses should be kept at all times: One is a tortoise-shell pair of Wayfarers, and the other are black-framed Aviators. Splurge on the sunglasses and it’s easier to treat them with more respect and care!

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Bonus Item #16: A leather jacket


Imitation Leather Biker Jacket, H&M, $49.95

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This imitation leather jacket dials it back to basics: No frills, no studs, no patterns. It’s just a basic black leather jacket that can make a plain T-shirt and jeans look put-together. Doesn’t really translate for work, but hey—twenty-somethings don’t work all the time!

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What are your wardrobe staples? Tell us in the comments or tweet us @litdarling!

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View Comments (4)
  • I personally love the fitted pants … I would add booties on the shoe list. :) Gotta love booties. Steve Madden has some really great priced ones at DSW. Oh, and I got a leather bomber jacket last year at H&M and it’s my favorite. When I worked at a PR agency, we had a lot of freedom with dress; other places, I would have been pushing the envelop. But hey, I’m from Austin. I like quirky.

  • Oh! And and a fun-colored pencil skirt. You can go crazy (yellow or purple) or if more reserved environment, a blue or dark green. My best friend says her fun colored skirt is a staple, but I know that depends on where you work.

  • Thank you for this article. I just got my “first” real job at an office (all the others were part time at universities, gigs like that). I’m 25 and I found this perfect for me, thank you.

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