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How to Look Polished & Put Together in Under 20 Minutes


Woman getting ready

You know those days when you plan to wake up early, go to the gym, look over your notes, and straighten your hair all before your 9 AM class, but in reality, you end up oversleeping until oh, 8:30? I do! We’ve all been there.

On days like these, even with under 20 minutes, you still have just enough time to get ready and keep it cute! No need for sweats and bed-head when you’ve got this guide!


Hair Products in a Medicine Cabinet

When you’re short on time, it’s best to skip anything that’s going to alter the natural texture of your hair. Today is not the day to straighten, curl, or crimp–just work with what you’ve got with one of these styles!

First, get rid of grease and dirt with a quick spray of dry shampoo. (Not sure which brand to try? See our list of the best dry shampoos.) Now you’re ready to style! Here are some great hairstyles that only take a second.

Messy bun

Messy buns are a great option when you don’t want to deal with your hair, just get it out of your face! Adorable with a headband, chic with side-swept bangs and a beret, and just plain perfect with a braid for those late-to-class days. All you need is a ponytail holder. Pull your hair back like you would for a pony, but stop when you get half way through your hair, fastening the holder around your bun. Separate it, and pull out pieces for an intentionally messy look.

High ponytail

A high pony is definitely my go-to look for late days! All that’s different from everyone’s favorite stand by is placement–go for a pony that’s towards the middle or upper half of your head! This looks great with waves or curls, or with a mini-boufant with your bangs. If you’re feeling especially Nicole Richie, why not try finishing your look with a headscarf and big sunglasses? It will definitely make your walk (run?!) to class feel a bit more glamorous! Also, for extra glamour and a polished look, take a strand of hair from your pony, wrap it around your elastic, and pin in place.

Intentionally Unkempt

If MK&A and Blake Lively can rock messy hair, so can you! Tousled waves can look great with just a little styling effort. Try using a detangling spray or spray gel to get out any tangles, then finger-comb and separate individual waves.

If All Else Fails…

If all else fails, never underestimate the power of a cute headband or headscarf! For even more quick hairstyles, check out Zephyr’s article, Get Ready Fast – 7 Quick and Easy Hairstyles!


Drawer full of makeup

Forget the full face of makeup and pull out a few crucial products for a polished look on the go. Skip eyeliner, foundation, and anything heavy in favor of these quick-coverage basics.

Tinted moisturizer

Two steps in one! What could be better when you’re short on time?!

Use a sponge to swipe tinted moisturizer around your entire face, making sure to blend at your chin and neck. A good tinted moisturizer will cover any blemish redness or dark under-eye circles, so it’s really all you need for quick, medium coverage. Plus, it will keep your skin looking dewy and natural. I love Lancome’s Aqua Fusion Teinté Continuous Infusion Tinted Moisturizer–I use it every day!

Face makeup

Product Recommendations: Lancomes Aqua Fusion Teint̩ Continuous Infusion Tinted Moisturizer Р, Benefit You Rebel Tinted Moisturizer РBenefit Cosmetics, Physicians Formula Organicwear Tinted Moisturizer Р


Bronzer or blush is all you need to instantly perk up your face. If you’re going the bronzer route, focus on sweeping the powder lightly over your cheeks, forehead, and nose, areas where the sun would usually hit.

For blush, smile! Focus on getting the apples of your cheeks for a sunny, natural look. As temperatures drop, dry skin can be a concern, so cream or gel blushes, as well as cheek stains, can be a great option.

Cheek makeup

Product Recommendations: Cargo Water Resistant Bronzer, Philosophy The Supernatural Bronzer Duo, Nars Super Orgasm Blush, Diane von Furstenberg Beauty Cheekstick – all available at Sephora.


Though you’ll probably want to skip your lengthening formulas with two-step processes, a single swipe of black or clear mascara on your upper lashes will really help to open your eyes and polish up your look! My go-to mascara when I need to get up and go is definitely Neutrogena Healthy Volume in Carbon Black. It has a giant brush, dries quickly, and provides great better-than-natural length and volume. Any of your favorite brands will work, just remember to skip your bottom lashes!


Product Recommendations: Maybelline Sky High Curves Mascara –, Benefit BADgal Lash Mascara – Benefit Cosmetics, CoverGirl LashBlast Mascara –

Lip gloss, stain, or balm

Short on time? It’s easy to finish up your look with a tinted lipgloss, stain, or balm!

You can easily put lip products on en-route as well, to save time! Try a gloss for a pretty, flirty look, a stain for something dramatic, or a balm for a moisturizing punch! I love Smith’s Rosebud Salve because it smells great, gives some sheer color, moisturizes, and can even be used on cheeks in a pinch! As an added bonus, it’s vintage tin is adorable. Just toss it in your bag and go!


Product Recommendations: Smith’s Rosebud Salve – Sephora, MAC Lip Glass Gloss – MAC Cosmetics, Benefit Bene-Tint rose-tinted lip & cheek stain – Benefit Cosmetics.


Woman getting dressed

We all know to avoid wearing sweatpants or PJ’s to class, but what do you actually put on if you’re really late? Something basic and cute, naturally!

This is the perfect time to pull out leggings and a long tunic if you’re feeling fashion-forward, jeans and a cardigan with cute flats for classic look, or even a dress with boots if the weather allows! All of these options are comfortable and quick. Pick them out, put them on, and go!

If you know you’ll be short on time some mornings, it can be really helpful to lay your outfits out the night before. That way, you can have a totally styled outfit ready to go as soon as you wake up.

Outfit Idea 1: Leggings.


Product Information: Elephant Necklace, Fred Flare. English Eclectic Flats, Asymmetrical Tunic Sweater, Arden B. Fame Velvet Leggings,

Outfit Idea 2: Jeans.


Product Information: Madison Low Rise Flare Jeans, Abercrombie & Fitch. Mai Pattern Waistcoat, Essential Tank, Victoria’s Secret. Gold Snake Effect flats, Dorothy Perkins. Women’s Perforated Belt, American Eagle.

Outfit Idea 3: Dress.


Product Information: Eisen Leather Jacket, Dynamic Duo Dress, ModCloth. Cowboy boots,

What do you think?

What do you all do when you need to get ready fast? Do you have any tips for hair or makeup? What about outfits? What do you wear?! Let me know with your comments!

* Editor’s note: Some of you might pick up on it, but all the photos I added to this article are from the Devil Wears Prada (Photo Credits). I thought the opening sequence of the film was a perfect example of girls getting ready & looking pretty and polished. Also, that ultra-organized makeup drawer is totally drool-worthy!

Posted on on November 10, 2009 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , ,

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52 Responses to “How to Look Polished & Put Together in Under 20 Minutes”

  1. 1
    November 10th, 2009 at 4:11 pm

    Nice post! Keeping the face natural looks best for class and is deffinitely easy to do :)


  2. 2
    November 10th, 2009 at 4:23 pm

    Ahh clever using the Devil Wears Prada pictures! Nice post :)

  3. 3
    November 10th, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    good reminder to make me stop taking forever to get ready and then in turn make me late for work!

  4. 4
    November 10th, 2009 at 4:31 pm

    I love that you used The Devil Wears Prada pics! :D I’d recognize them everywhere lol!
    Amazing post! :D I live like an hour and a half from campus, so I really appreciate this post! :D

  5. 5
    November 10th, 2009 at 4:45 pm

    Excellent article!!
    seriously, i love all the great articles college fashion has been coming up lately.
    who has been in the woke up late and only have 20 minutes to get ready dilemma.
    Great stuff

  6. 6
    November 10th, 2009 at 5:40 pm

    Oh, this was COMPLETELY me today. I was working on my article for the school paper (still in my pajamas at 2:00, thank goodness for no morning classes today) and looked up to find that I had class in 30 minutes! Eek! Ack!

    For outfits, I found that this year, I try to keep a few “rainy day” outfits in mind. Like, I know this outfit will look cute together so I can throw it on and not have to worry about it. Usually the staple of these days is the belt, which can make even the shabbiest outfit look more polished.

    And it’s shocking what some blush and mascara can do for a rushed day. Like whoa.

    My only rule on these days is that I CANNOT just put on a t-shirt over jeans and call it good. It very rarely looks good and I just hate getting back to my apartment and looking at myself in the mirror and wanting to just throw up because I hate that I was walking around campus looking unpolished. Of course, I know a lot of people do this, but…I prefer the non-tee look. :)

  7. 7
    November 10th, 2009 at 6:01 pm

    I think every girl needs a back up plan for those days when the clock seems to be on fast forward.

    These are such good tips, and I love the second outfit, especially the little waistcoat!

  8. 8
    November 10th, 2009 at 6:09 pm

    I love this post! I have early morning classes every day, and because I’m a senior I frequently have things like shadowing and practicum where I have to look nice. On those days, I pick out my outfit, accessories, and even makeup the night before to save time! I especially love the 2nd outfit, one of the most wearable things I’ve seen on this site! More like this please.

  9. 9
    November 10th, 2009 at 6:27 pm

    thnx so much for this post! i can totally relate to it and i especially love the 3rd outfit. The boots are very clever.

  10. 10
    November 10th, 2009 at 6:37 pm

    This is really, really great! I particurly love outift #3, which is totally something I would pull on. Add some simple, jewelry and your good to go. For makeup, I’ll wear tinter moisutizer, blush, and lipstick- nothing else is needed. And I am so low maintenence with my ahir anyway- I literally wash at night then brush and go.

  11. 11
    November 10th, 2009 at 7:31 pm

    I love this post! Although to be fair, I think the majority of girls do take 20 minutes or less to get ready for the day – I can’t imagine spending more time than that!

  12. 12
    November 10th, 2009 at 8:18 pm

    I liked this post, too! When I’m in a rush, I’m really bad about trying an outfit on then changing 4 more times even though I have to leave the house ASAP. I’m sure I just need to have confidence and make up my freaking mind then go. I think a basic tank, sweater, and jeans with cute shoes is easy enough to still feel cute-ish even if you’re in a rush.

  13. 13
    November 10th, 2009 at 10:48 pm

    Great article! This happens to me all the time recently. I put my alarm and snooze for too long, next thing I know I have to be in class in 30 mins. Thanks for the pointers!

  14. 14
    November 10th, 2009 at 11:23 pm

    I love the article but girls, I can’t love the outfits. I tend to throw on a light black dress when running late ;)

  15. 15
    November 10th, 2009 at 11:53 pm

    Awesome article! Getting ready in the morning sucks when you’re tired and late for class. Thanks for the simple and easy reminders!

  16. 16
    November 11th, 2009 at 12:15 am

    haha, honestly, we’ve all been in this scenario! usually i throw on a part of dark bootleg jeans and layer different items, like a cream colored american apparel tee under a menswear oversized vest, or a striped v-neck tee with a simple black tank top that has lace detail. throw on a pashmina, simple flats & shake some curl-enhancing spritz into the frizzball that i call hair, and im totally ready.

    collegefashion is becoming way more diverse and segmented- i love it!

  17. 17
    November 11th, 2009 at 12:56 am

    Thank You for this post. I needed help in this department. My hair is always a mess when I over sleep, so thank you. :)

  18. 18
    November 11th, 2009 at 1:03 am

    Also, there are days that I have no time to dry my hair after a shower, and I still can’t figure out how to fix my hair when its wet. I always try to make it look “put together” and not so wet looking.

    Maybe there will be a post for how to fix your wet hair, when there isn’t enough time.

  19. 19
    November 11th, 2009 at 1:43 am

    these ideas are cute…if you’re a white girl

    The hairstyles section does not account for people with mixed race hair, or African American hair. Actually, most things on this site only feature tips from and for white girls. It’s sad, but I take from it what I can.

    Otherwise, the outfits that you’ve chosen for when you’re running late are no different from the outfits you suggest for when you’re NOT running late.


  20. 20
    November 11th, 2009 at 1:45 am

    also, the make up tips for the face (and in general on this site) are for white girls.

    um…black people don’t wear bronzer or hot pink blush.

    how about we be a little bit more democratic with regards to make up and hair.

  21. 21
    November 11th, 2009 at 1:51 am

    I can not count how many times this has happened to me lol. This was a great article and i will definatly be using some of this info!!


  22. 22
    November 11th, 2009 at 1:53 am

    oh and i forgot to mention…..ignore the haters cause this is a wonderful site that gives great advice. If ppl dnt like it then maybe they should find another site. PEACE!!

  23. 23
    November 11th, 2009 at 2:11 am

    the third outfit is so cute <3

  24. 24
    November 11th, 2009 at 2:34 am

    Some really great ideas, I m generally more of a low maintenance girl and use these sorts of tips in my everyday life. I definitely want to try a lip stain, so will be picking up the benefit one that you recommended :) Thanks. Also I am a huge fan of cream blush over power as it is moisturizing and gives a very fresh, sheer wash of colour that look great on everyone!

  25. 25
    November 11th, 2009 at 2:40 am

    I love all of this! I want to print it out, so I can look at it on those crazy days! Thanks!

  26. 26
    November 11th, 2009 at 2:52 am

    It takes longer than 20 minutes to get ready to go to class? (That doesn’t include eating breakfast, right?) I would consider 20 minutes from the moment you wake up till you’re ready a long time.

  27. 27
    November 11th, 2009 at 6:10 am

    I kinda agree with Camille. But considering I have locs (dreadlocks), Most of the cute hairstyles on the internet don’t apply to me lol. Then the make up, well, I only wear mascara anyway. It’s too hard to find a shade of foundation that matches and I don’t even bother with blush and bronzer.

    The outfits are really cute though!

  28. 28
    November 11th, 2009 at 7:37 am

    Amazing! I check this blog everyday and have never been disappointed.

  29. 29
    November 11th, 2009 at 8:30 am

    i love this article, completely. great tips!

  30. 30
    November 11th, 2009 at 9:56 am

    Hi, I love this post. I’m always running out of time and arriving to school, looking like a complete idiot. Thank you!

  31. 31
    November 11th, 2009 at 11:35 am

    Hey girls, I’m glad most of you are liking this post! I know that it can be super stressful getting ready when you’re short on time, and it seems to happen a lot in college….at least to me! Aren’t the Devil Wears Prada pictures great?! I was super excited to see that Zephyr put them in! They’re such a great fit, and who doesn’t love that movie?!

    I just wanted to say something quick to Camille who said “most things on this site only feature tips from and for white girls”–This might come as a shock, but I’m NOT a white girl. I’m actually ‘mixed’ as you put it–half Swedish, half African American. These are all things that I do with hair and makeup. I DO wear bronzer and blush, but when writing this article I made sure not to recommend any particular colors since that’s a personal choice for anyone, regardless of their race, and obviously, girls with different hair and skin colors are going to need different tips…Hair and makeup is individual. I can only write about what I personally know. I just thought I’d clear that one up, because I was really shocked to read your comment!

  32. 32
    November 11th, 2009 at 1:04 pm

    I really love this post since i run out of time a lot these days, ts really helpful specially the hair tips….loved the pix 2, the devil wears prada movie s my fav.

  33. 33
    November 11th, 2009 at 2:32 pm

    yes i have to say these are really good tips i hate looking like crap when i walk out the door but i always do and throw on whatever looks comfortable at the time now I know thank you!

  34. 34
    November 11th, 2009 at 3:24 pm

    Thanks for you response!
    But your tips, and heritage still don’t account for girls of darker complexions, which I am. And girls who have different hair textures, like me. We are always left out of tips like this.
    It’s not your fault personally, and I don’t mean to attack you at all, its just disheartening when fashion/make-up/hair advice is never geared towards people like me.

    Suffice to say, I still try to get a lot of tips out of this site.
    Maybe this site should employ someone who is black. We want to be fashionable too!

  35. 35
    November 11th, 2009 at 4:26 pm

    Camille stop complaining- I’m black and I’ve been following this blog for a couple of years now and I think it’s amazing!

    How hard is it to when you see a picture of pink blusher to just say oh, I should get that in rust or whatever colour you get? It’s not that difficult is it? And I’m black and I use bronzer- especially at night, it makes me glow!

    And what are you on about with the hairstyles. ANY girl can wear a plait or a messy bun or a high ponytail. And if you rock your natural afro hair then that’s great- it’s lower maintenance, funkier and more fashionable than any of the hairstyles ever mentioned on this site.

    Like seriously- stop throwing the discrimination card; it’s far too easy.

    This site is great and just wanted to let you know Camille’s views don’t represent those of most black people.

    Eg. When Zephyr did the article on what colours to wear with what skintones (and that was ages ago) she mentioned every skin tone possible!

    I’m guessing you don’t go on this site much and wanted to vent for whatever reason…

  36. 36
    November 11th, 2009 at 7:17 pm

    This idea is good in theory but in practice I find it never works!

    Honestly the only way I can avoid not having an outfit look put together is to take a few minutes the night before – it’s not that hard to go into your closet and pick things out to wear the next day, taking into account if you have to do a lot of walking (so those four inch heeled boots aren’t the best choice) and whatnot.

    There’s nothing worse than showing up to your class on time to find that the professor scheduled the class to meet in a different classroom all the way across campus and you wore your new heels in the rain trying to break them in because you were in a rush and forgot that your classes were not all in the same building as they usually are supposed to be. True story. Happened to me yesterday, haha.

  37. 37
    November 11th, 2009 at 10:53 pm

    Oh, I see those boots in outfit 3 EVERYWHERE!
    But the first place I saw them was here — for $20 cheaper AND in 4 different colors!

    Wholesale shoes are very cheap (think $5-10 for a pair you pay $30-40 in store), but most places sell them at such a high premium that it’s REALLY hard to find a good deal.

    just passing it along :)

  38. 38
    November 12th, 2009 at 1:45 am

    I agree that 20 minutes is alot of time to get ready for class, haha – I’ve had 5 minutes left happen to me once… not fun.

    Picking out your outfit the night before is definitely the way to go, and I find that blush/bronzer really helps me look as if I’m awake (when I’m still actually half-asleep).

    I love the outfits as well!

  39. 39
    November 12th, 2009 at 7:24 am

    Ohh those tips are precious! Bookmarking it. Thanks :)

  40. 40
    November 18th, 2009 at 2:06 pm

    I agree with Rachel, though I’m the total opposite. I’m the palest, whitest redhead. How do u think bronzer looks on me? Even the lightest shades look like I have a disease. So what? Be creative. Take the ideas and figure out what works for you.

    The tips on the site are pretty general and adaptable, which is the point! No one here is saying “go buy this or that particular item in this or that colour”!

  41. 41
    November 21st, 2009 at 6:55 pm

    I really like this article, and i really like the fact that all these shoes are runable (yes… a new word). I have seen so many blogs where the shoes are so impractical, for an instance you should not go to a concert, or shopping in sexy, but super high stilettos!!

    About the race essue…. blogs are rarely ment to dictate, but simply inspire… take a look and make it your own… i live in a small european contry (Denmark…. or as oprah calls it… the happies place on earth) i have never heard of some of the brands, we don’t have abercrombie and finch, american eagle, forever 21, and so on….

    if you think of yourself as stylista instead of a black girl, you might even discover new sides of yourself

  42. 42
    November 28th, 2009 at 3:00 am

    I like this article

  43. 43
    December 11th, 2009 at 4:01 am

    A good article I would like to take a serious look,thanks share.

  44. 44
    December 15th, 2009 at 6:56 pm

    Can anyone tell me what brand and where to find the boots in the first pic from the movie ‘Devil Wears Prada’?

  45. 45
    January 16th, 2010 at 9:00 pm

    Just to warn you about the Organic Wear Tinted Moisturizer, I was reading on, and apparently it sucks… and makes you look orange. Just a warning :] Great Article Though!

  46. 46
    June 21st, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    this is absoulute genius! thankyou so much it so helpful xx do you know were i can get some boots like the ones in the very first picture?

  47. 47
    July 23rd, 2010 at 7:07 am

    hey great article!! I will definitely try this as i am always waking up late!!! I really need to arrange my outfit a day before!!!

  48. 48
    September 12th, 2010 at 10:55 pm

    @Jess a tip for wet hair is to dry it as much as posible with a towel and pull it in a messy bun and finish it off with a ribbon wrapped around the bun or a headband! It looks super cute and polished!!!

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