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What to Buy at Express

I was a carefree sorority girl living my best life in the late nineties.

Back then, my biggest challenge was figuring out how to go to a party at night and write a paper due in the morning. 

I can’t believe there was a time when I didn’t start my night until after 10 pm. The current me would be unrecognizable to my younger self, lol. 

Back then, Express was a staple in my wardrobe. Their inexpensive, trend-focused clothes were perfect for our nights out or an off-campus date. 

One item, in particular, became so popular in my house that we called them “sorority pants.”

Sorority pants were bootcut, low-rise, flat-front trousers made of a synthetic material that perfectly clung to our backsides. They were indestructible, and we put them to the test three or four times a week.

Paired with midriff baring tops (oh, my once flat belly) and heavy boots that looked like tanks, we defined 90s style.

But just like us, Express has grown up, and I’m here to tell you they are 100% worth checking out this season.

However, you need to know what to look for because you would likely jump right off if you were to land on their homepage. 

With warm weather trends being what they are, some of the featured looks are … bare. 

Mid drift tops and cut-out dresses aside, they also have some sleek and sophisticated options.

Ideal if you want to create a classic style with a bit of edge.

For today’s What to Buy at Series, I rounded up my top picks from Express as a former sorority girl, now a 42-year-old mother who is happily in bed reading by 9:30 at night.

What to Buy at Express

A roundup of things to buy at Express

This chic lineup looks like a collection you would see hanging in a better department store.

Let’s talk quickly about sizes.

Express runs true but go up one if you are between sizes.

Their size scale includes an XL equivalent to a 16/18 and has select petite options. 

And they are one of the few retailers that have not offered non-stop sales and markdowns over the last few years, so the price is the price with special promos scattered here and there.

Inventory is smaller than it used to be, popular items sell out quickly, and many things are online only. 

What should you look for? Novelty pieces that will expand and add some fun to your everyday basics. Personally, I LOVE their dresses, and they have lovely updated basics, fun tops, and affordable accessories. 

This time of year, especially, I look for items with a bit of pizzazz, something for a date night or girls’ trip.
I have one planned in June to Nashville, so I have my eye out for a few novelty items to dress up my jeans and break up the athleisure mom uniform I wear at home.

Skimming Linen-Blend Crew Neck Muscle Tank

Skimming Linen-Blend Muscle Tee

Skimming Linen-Blend Crew Neck Muscle Tank, $28  

You may have seen this style top emerging as a spring trend.

The “muscle tank” is a foundation piece for an effortless 90s-inspired look.

I like the updated silhouette and how simple it is to style; just pair it with your favorite jeans.

One thing to call out is that this is not particularly flattering if you are broad-shouldered. But if you are narrow up top or triangle shape, this will help create a balanced proportion.

Available in a range of colors, in XXS – XL for $28, promo buy one get one 50% off. 

Skimming Linen-Blend V-Neck Tee

Skimming Linen-Blend V-Neck Tee in Grey

Skimming Linen-Blend V-Neck Tee, $30

For a universally flattering style, you can’t beat this linen blend v-neck tee shirt. 

The image above looks a bit weird, it’s actually very pretty on, not too short but also not too long. 

I would pass on this if you have a long torso but other than that this will work well as a lightweight summer basic. 

Available in 9 colors in XXS – XL for $30, promo buy one, get one 50% off.

Nylon Notch Lapel Boyfriend Blazer

Nylon Notch Lapel Boyfriend Blazer in Pink

Nylon Notch Lapel Boyfriend Blazer, $158 

This pink notch lapel style went right in my cart.

One of the reasons it’s so versatile is the matching buttons. When the button disappears on the jacket, it makes it easy to pair with various bottoms.

I’ll wear it with a white tank and light-washed jeans, but you could also take this to work with your favorite black pants or go to a shower in crisp white trouser or throw it over a floral dress. 

Available in pink or black, in regular and petite, in XXS – XL.

Lace Short Sleeve Scalloped Hem Top

Lace Short Sleeve Scalloped Hem Top in White

Lace Short Sleeve Scalloped Hem Top, $108 

This lace top is a little fussy for my personal style, but I bought it for my upcoming girls trip to Nashville for something fun and different. 

It’s another easy top to pack to jazz up your jeans. Pair with strappy heeled sandals and a cute clutch. see below;) 

Available in black or white, in XS – L. 

V-Neck Tiered Trapeze Maxi Dress

V-Neck Tiered Trapeze Maxi Dress in Black

V-Neck Tiered Trapeze Maxi Dress, $88

I have a few dresses from Express, and they have far exceeded my expectation, so I ordered this black maxi dress for the trip. I think it will pack well, and you can dress them up or down.

It’s a nice take on a classic black dress, but for a more casual, laid-back summer.

Pair with strappy heels or flat sandals, depending on the vibe. 

For reference, I am 5’10 and ordered a medium. 

Available in XXS – XL. 

Wood Handle Straw Clutch

Wood Handle Straw Clutch

Wood Handle Straw Clutch, $68 

I mean, how stinking cute? 

I order this wood and straw clutch to go with the black dress and because I can’t say no to small occasion bags. 

Edit Printed Satin Faux Wrap Front Open Back Top

Edit Printed Satin Faux Wrap Front Open Back Top

Edit Printed Satin Faux Wrap Front Open Back Top, $58 

I think this faux wrap top is a fabulous year round “going out” top. 

You can wear it with black or white jeans, and in the cool weather, pair with your coated or faux leather pants. 

Be sure to check out the back detail as it’s open so you’ll need a low back bra. 

Available in XXS -XL.

White Faux Leather Woven Crossbody

White Faux Leather Woven Crossbody

White Faux Leather Woven Crossbody, $68 

I love a white bag this time of year, especially with all of the white sandals and heels we’re seeing.

This one adds some dimension with its woven finish and it’s roomy enough to carry all of your essentials.

Square Link Chain Necklace

Square Link Chain Necklace

Square Link Chain Necklace, $24 

Express has some great costume pieces, priced the way costume pieces should be priced. 

Like this trendy square chain necklace for only $24. This is the kind of price point where you can try a look, have fun with it, and not have to spend $100 +. 

Textured Circle Link Huggie Hoop Earrings

Mini Textured Circle Link Huggie Hoop Earrings

Textured Circle Link Huggie Hoop Earrings, $24 

Similarly, these huggie earrings are an affordable, easy-to-wear piece that will update your look and add variety to your jewelry collection.

52 in 2022!

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Recommendations are based on my experience as a personal stylist and wardrobe consultant for over a decade. I worked with busy, down-to-earth women who wanted to look chic and feel confident but were often confused by so much of retail. 

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What to Buy at Express

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Megan Kristel

Megan Kristel is an entrepreneur, working mom, and former personal stylist. Tired of the one-dimensional portrayal of women online, she founded The Well Dressed Life as a resource for other professional women.

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Tracy Gray

Tuesday 3rd of May 2022

I love these selections. I have stayed away from Express thinking that it was too young for me but thanks to you I will definitely be checking it out. Thanks


Monday 2nd of May 2022

I owned those pants too. What I appreciated back then, was that they were trendy while coming in TALLS! I am only 5'8" and while I don't always need a tall inseam these days because retailers have adjusted inseams, back in the early 2000s 5'8" was considered tall and regular length pants were always too short.


Monday 10th of January 2022

Can you explain the trend of high-waisted jeans, and at the same time, ankle pants? I only just found your site and my fashion aesthetic is clearly old (think "What Not To Wear"). I almost understand the light wash denim, but the two extremes of high waist and short ankle just have me confused. Who is supposed to look good or keep warm in these style this winter? I can't find anything new that is mid-rise or full-length. (Thank goodness for ThreadUp and Poshmark!) I'm 47, 5'4" tall, and short-waisted. I straddle the line between regular and petite, so sometimes a regular length pant will help with the ankle issue, but nothing saves me from a high waisted pant. Can you help me understand what I'm missing?


Tuesday 11th of January 2022

@Megan Kristel, thank you! It does help. I guess I'm disappointed that many retailers have ONLY the trends available in the store, and not a larger variety. I'm old-fashioned in that I prefer to try on before buying. Admittedly, I shop for myself quite infrequently, but I just lost 40 lbs (yay!) and so I have been in stores more lately, looking to find my new size in various brands. I haven't loved what I saw, including at Ann Taylor. But knowing that this is the current trend, I guess I have to dig a little deeper.

Megan Kristel

Monday 10th of January 2022

So, a couple things. Items like light washed or high rise/ankle length jeans are created to provide variety in silhouettes and styles. They are trend focused rather than classic, wardrobe builders - but, paired with wardrobe builders they can create fun, modern looks.

You're not missing anything, these items may just not be your style or work in your life.

Would I wear an ankle length jeans walking around a cold city?

No, but I would wear it with heels and sleek blazer if I was going to a party or on a girls trip somewhere. Having fun with fashion isn't necessarily practical.

If you're looking for more traditionally cut trousers specifically, and you are between regular and petite, we feature a lot of options Ann Taylor and Banana Republic that are all mid-rise and full length.

I hope that helps :)


Monday 24th of May 2021

I was a sorority girl in the very early 2000s and I know EXACTLY which pants you're referencing. We also LIVED for Express' sister store, The Limited, for going out tops and dresses. Ah, to be young again. :)

Megan Kristel

Monday 24th of May 2021

Yes! The Limited - loved it too!


Monday 24th of May 2021

I recently popped into Express and was quite impressed with their collection! I saw A lot of very nice looking neutral pieces as well as pops of color that I loved. Thank you so much for your input and ideas.