Navigating Your Personal Style in Your 20s

how to find the right version of you


Words by Sinead O'Reilly
October 24th, 2016

As retailers like COS, Acne and Finery London continue to thrive, so does the age old cliché that, less really is more. A welcomed break from the fast fashion culture which accosted us all during the boom, the words ‘capsule’ and ‘wardrobe’ have never been so well acquainted. Wise words of course, particularly in terms of money and conscience, but we could probably do without the feelings of responsibility and obligation during every impromptu shopping trip. Feelings of “Treat Yo Self” are slowly diminished into feelings of “Treat yourself on occasion, when you truly feel that you are deserving of it”, with all grammatical errors removed. Seeping into your brain at every turn is that incessant voice, which, coincidentally, sounds distinctly like your mother, saying, “Do you really need that?” or “Now when are you really going to wear that?”

She is, to some degree, completely correct. Your coat from last season, could definitely weather another. You’ve barely broken in those boots you nabbed at the Christmas sales. And, classic as they are, you absolutely, under no circumstances have any excuse to buy yet another little black dress. And yet, you have absolutely nothing to wear. Though it seems utterly impossible, it’s true, because you are victim of circumstance. You are a victim of your 20’s.


A widely disputed period of time, peoples’ attitudes differ hugely on this decade in their lives. Some love/ed it – embracing every new experience, revelling in the joy that, the morning after a bottle of wine, they can still be cured by 10 a.m. with an extra strong coffee. Some hate it – feeling the constant pressure of people pleasing and the upward battle of hierarchy, all while cursing the fact that it is now very much downhill when it comes to their metabolism. Both, whether they are guzzling a glass of wine or trying desperately to shake the title of ‘The Intern’, two years after they are officially employed, have one thing in common: neither can dress consistently well. And how could they be expected to? Your 20’s is just one upheaval after another, a back and forth of, clinging to your youth and accepting responsibility.

Life in university serves as a time of growth. You are no longer bound by the barricade of your Catholic school uniform. After 13 years, knee-socks are finally optional in your life. It is time to express yourself through your garb. And express yourself, you do. While it is often assumed that college students spend their days in jeans and trainers, pulled together proudly with a university hoodie, a quick visit to Thomas Street or College Green, reveals a totally different reality. Colour fills the streets, with bold and brash ensembles at every turn, each student subconsciously trying to out-do the other in their high-street/vintage compilation. Quirkiness is in, the fundamentals of dressing for the weather are not. That’s another thing, early twenty-somethings do not get cold. Bare shoulders (knees and toes) are a must when queuing for that club, gig or show, how you deal with the hypothermia is your business.


Fast forward to your life as a young graduate. No longer at the top of the ladder (few care about the Zine you and your bestie made during your Erasmus year), you are suddenly faced with the challenge of getting your peers to take you seriously. And, unfortunately, wearing an oversized jumper dress with fluorescent tights just won’t cut it. Vetements, you are not. All at once there is a scramble to find everything black in your wardrobe and to filter out the skirts and dresses that leave little (if anything) to the imagination. You make solid attempts at building a ‘work wardrobe’, but, on a graduate salary and with the first taste of real time rent on your lips, your look ends up being less about making a mark and more about making do. Like, who in their right mind would pick buying a formal suit over a pair of printed statement boots?!

Things do, of course, get better. Job security improves and inevitably so does your style. Not because money can buy style, it can’t. We won’t name names, but a quick glance at certain ‘A-List’ celebrities will prove that theory wrong time after time. But, because over time you get to know your style and yourself. You’ll realise that maybe there is nothing sexy about getting hypothermia on a night out. Your look will be just as slick with a chic yet sensible jacket over it. And that actually, all black everything, really isn’t your thing. Yes you need to look formal, but you can do it just as well in a deep burgundy pantsuit and a pair of charcoal ankle boots, as you can in an ill-fitting black pinstripe number.

Getting to this headspace is wonderful. Tricky, but wonderful. And the same goes for the wardrobe, it can be an uphill climb. Yes you’ve garnered quite a collection over time, but all that glitters (like your numerous vintage sequined pieces) is not gold. So despite the current minimalist trend and your mother’s unrelenting voice in your head, relax. She’s not always right. Your wardrobe may truly need expansion. Sometimes more is more. So, when the vibe (and garment) is right, we’d always encourage you to treat yourself.