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What to Wear on Your 21st Birthday


21st birthday
Photo Credits: 1, 2

Most college girls will celebrate their 21st birthday at some point during their four years. And as everyone knows, 21 is a big deal – it’s a milestone birthday, and a time to turn the page to new possibilities and experiences. It’s also one night where you want to look your best while you parade around town with your girls.

Not sure what to wear on your big night? Below, I’ve listed some fashion tips and outfit ideas for going out on 21st birthday! Cheers to another year… Happy Birthday, you big twenty-oner, you!

Key Pieces for a 21st Birthday Outfit:

Before we get to the fashion picks, here are a few must-have items for a 21st birthday look:

  • Wristlet or clutch with wrist strap – For a crazy night out, you don’t want to be burdened by a heavy bag – go for a wristlet or clutch that attaches to you so you won’t lose your money and ID.
  • 21er tiara, sash or light-up shot glass – These are a necessity! Aside from perhaps a bachelorette party, a 21st birthday is the ONLY time you’ll have a built-in excuse to look completely ridiculous at the bars and at restaurants. It’s your birthday, so live it up!
  • Flashy heels – It’s your birthday, so why not make a statement with your footwear? Something sexy, sparkly, or bright is a must for your 21er!
  • Amazing dress – Your 21st birthday is the perfect opportunity to splurge on that perfect party dress -go for something you absolutely love, and make sure it’s something you’ll be able to dance in. 21st birthday dresses are supposed to be fun!
  • Camera – You’ll want to document this night. Have one of your trusty friends act as photographer for the night, and make sure to ruthlessly delete any photos you don’t love!
  • Lipgloss – You’ll want to freshen up as the night goes on. Glossy lips are always a bonus.

5 Best Stores for 21st Birthday Dresses:

  1. Lulus – Great for cute, trendy, and girly dresses that won’t break the bank.
  2. Modcloth – Perfect for vintage-inspired dresses; can sometimes be on the pricier side.
  3. Nordstrom – Giant selection and great for pieces you want to last.
  4. Macy’s – Another department store favorite.
  5. Forever 21 …Fitting, right? ;)

21st Birthday Outfit Ideas

21er Outfit
Dress, Heels, Necklace, Wristlet, Tiara

This first look would be perfect for the fashion-forward girl who isn’t afraid to mix patterns and prints. Start with a flowy white 21st birthday dress with lacy detailing. Add some leopard print heels, a sparkly wristlet, a chunky Betsey Johnson necklace (hey it’s your b-day, you can splurge a little) and a 21er tiara. You’re set for a night of glam and fun.

21er Outfit 2
Dress, Heels, Wristlet, Earrings, Bracelet, Tiara

You can always count on your trusty friend, the little black dress, to carry you through an important night like this one. Put on some sparkly black heels, diamond stud earrings, a brightly colored cuff bracelet, and a wristlet and you are ready to go!

21er Outfit 3
Dress, Heels, Wristlet, Bracelet, Tiara

This last look is definitely my favorite because it’s glam but still fun. One-shoulder dresses have been hot for a few seasons now, and this light pink sequined one would be perfect for the girly girl. Add some white-gold heels and a fancy bracelet. (No necklace is needed since the dress’s neckline is gorgeous on its own!) Grab that wristlet and head to the bars for a night on the town. You’ll be sparkly and pretty all night long!


Are you celebrating your 21st this year? If so, what are YOU going to do/wear? Or if you’ve already celebrated, what did you wear on your 21st birthday? Do you like these looks? Let us know in the comments below!

Posted on on March 4, 2012 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , ,

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44 Responses to “What to Wear on Your 21st Birthday”

  1. 1
    March 4th, 2012 at 4:15 pm

    I really liked this post; mostly because today IS my 21st birthday!

  2. 2
    March 4th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    Happy birthday Rebecca! Great post for any birthday age! Love the last two outfits!!

  3. 3
    March 4th, 2012 at 4:36 pm

    My (and my sister’s!) birthday is on new years eve. I kinda doubt we’d be the only ones wearing tiaras and the like on the 31st.

  4. 4
    March 4th, 2012 at 4:42 pm

    I love the third outfit especially! I can’t wait to wear something similar on my 21st…only 7 months to go!

  5. 5
    March 4th, 2012 at 5:04 pm

    My 24th is coming up soon, I feel old! Haha but these outfits are all great :)

  6. 6
    March 4th, 2012 at 5:23 pm

    The link for the 2nd outfit’s black dress does not work :( I really like that dress too!

  7. 7
    March 4th, 2012 at 5:57 pm

    mine is in 3 weeks! 21 isn’t as big of a deal in Canada since our drinking age is 19 :) (18 in some provinces)

    so i’m having a low-key 21st…a nice dinner out with my boyfriend. thus my outfit will be a little more reserved

  8. 8
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:00 pm

    Man! 3 years ago I was looking for a post like this on your site… oh well I’ll just use it for my 25th birthday look next year :)

  9. 9
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:20 pm

    Cute outfits, my 21st was 2 years ago. A note: if you plan on drinking a bit, heels may not be the way to go.

  10. 10
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:39 pm

    i think there should’ve been more variety in the outfits.. they’re all dresses :S what about some cute blouse-jeans ensembles? :) or skirts?

  11. 11
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:45 pm

    My 21st birthday is in 12 days…can’t wait! Thanks for the inspiration :) I have the killer heels, now I just need a killer dress.

  12. 12
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:47 pm

    I’ll be 7 months pregnant on my 21st! Won’t be doing much partying! I’ll have to find an outfit that will fit my big belly, lol. Great post though, cute outfits. My favorite is the last one.

  13. 13
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    seriously, 21st birthday is a big deal? since when?, LOL
    I guess its not a big thing where i live…

  14. 14
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:51 pm

    This made my day because I’m getting ready to celebrate my 21st in a few weeks while studying abroad in London (where such things don’t matter). It made me excited all over again!

  15. 15
    March 4th, 2012 at 6:59 pm

    I was sick and I went out straight from the ceramics studio where I was doing class work, so I wore clay covered jeans and a t-shirt, as did my friends. It was still quite fun and memorable. No need to go crazy about the outfit or the bar unless you want to.

  16. 16
    March 4th, 2012 at 7:11 pm

    I’ve still a few years to go…but I’ll remember this post when I’m gearing up for the big 21!

  17. 17
    March 4th, 2012 at 9:04 pm

    I wore jeans and a nicer shirt for my 21st birthday, but then again, I am a summer baby, so I didn’t have a bunch of friend’s around for my birthday. At least I didn’t get alcohol poisoning from that birthday!

  18. 18
    March 4th, 2012 at 9:09 pm

    The second and third are most definitely my favorites! Turning 21 is such a special night and dressing to impress is always important! I think this is a great post and once my 21st birthday rolls around I’ll definitely keep it in mind!

  19. 19
    March 4th, 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Interesting… my bday is this wednesday.. and I’ll be 21 :o nice post

  20. 20
    March 4th, 2012 at 10:51 pm

    Where was this when I turned 21! Hahah I’m loving that last dress

  21. 21
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:17 am

    Love these outfits! Although for my 21st I think I’m going a bit more casual. Just one more year to go :)

  22. 22
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:48 am

    1) Maxi Pleated Skirt
    2) Coral and Mint Jeans
    3) Neon bangles and jewelry
    4) Stacking and layering jewelry
    5) White Button Down Shirt (not sheer polyester)

  23. 23
    March 5th, 2012 at 12:49 am

    woops lol ignore my last comment

  24. 24
    March 5th, 2012 at 6:51 am

    Great outfits! But who says you need to drink to celebrate?!

  25. 25
    March 5th, 2012 at 8:31 am

    Cute outfits, but I probably won’t be drinking. I’m not really into birthdays, so I’ll most likely do something casual.

  26. 26
    March 5th, 2012 at 9:26 am

    This is crazy that this article is posted now since my 21st is next week! These are great but I’m pairing a black mini with a lace tank top for my birthday. These would be a little overdressy for the bars I’m planning on going to. Either way, these are really great ideas!

  27. 27
    March 5th, 2012 at 2:22 pm

    This post is so perfect, my 21st birthday is in exactly 57 days (!!!) and I’m definitely on the hunt for the perfect dresses to celebrate my birthday on my first bar shuffle and at my birthday parties the following weekend. Such a great post, CF does it once again :)

  28. 28
    March 5th, 2012 at 5:29 pm

    Great post, and great timing! It was posted ON my 21st. I got a great dress for cheap at Forever 21 that was perfect :) thanks, CF!

  29. 29
    March 6th, 2012 at 5:08 am

    What a lovely use of one of my photos, good job :)

  30. 30
    March 6th, 2012 at 10:04 am

    Great post! I love the date of this post, because it was posted on my birthday (my 19th, but still on my birthday!) Happy birthday to Maddie and Rebecca, my fellow March 4th babies :)

  31. 31
    March 6th, 2012 at 1:11 pm

    I wish I wore a dress on my 21st :-/ I didn’t even get out for a bar night. Nevertheless, the white dress is by far my favorite. :)

    1) Moccasins
    2) Light colored skirt (with tights to match!)
    3) Coral or Mint blouses
    4) Floral wedges (or any pastel color wedges)
    5) Hair tie or pin with a little extra in it (flowers, brooches, etc)

  32. 32
    March 6th, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    This is such great timing! My 21st is on the 11th, so I’ll definitely be putting these outfits to good use!

  33. 33
    March 7th, 2012 at 11:22 pm

    Love these outfits. My 21st is in 6 days and I bought a dress today. I was going for more of the obnoxious girly dress. I bought a short dress with a black sparkley corset top and then the bottom of the dress is white and poofy. You only turn 21 once so might as well get a little crazy! I’m in love with the short poofy dresses and for me this was the perfect 21st bday dress!

  34. 34
    May 10th, 2012 at 11:11 am

    Could you do a summer 21st birthday edition? My birthday is coming up and I have no clue what to wear!

  35. 35
    August 17th, 2012 at 9:16 am

    That’s a good suggestion for 21st birthday. Your suggestion are good however in my opinion you got to wear your best dress within your wardrobe and if you find nothing appropriate, then the best idea is to shop. You can wear short cocktail dresses or high low dresses with elegant designs. You got to wear good shoes with the dress. And to add little glamor you can accessories yourself with jewelery.

  36. 36
    February 16th, 2013 at 3:26 am

    Hi, I’m turning the big 21 :) sooo excited!!

    love the dresses, but I would prefer to wear Leggings and I have no fashion sense to save my life. so please could you give me ideas on what to wear with leggings!!

    thanks :-)

  37. 37
    February 19th, 2013 at 3:06 am

    MY 21st is on the 5th gahhh I’m excited my dress is picked out … I need heels & I’m using a black coach clutch!

  38. 38
    February 26th, 2013 at 5:27 pm

    I think you can have a cute outfit without a dress. I’m going to a concert. Add an outfit with pants or jeans(:

  39. 39
    June 23rd, 2013 at 3:12 am

    I love the second outfit….. I want that for my birthday which is on the 29th of this month

  40. 40
    February 16th, 2014 at 5:41 pm

    I loved this post! Especially since my 21st is on March 12th so its awesome! The only sad part is I live in PA and I’m short so the snow comes up to my calves and usually around March we still have snow, so I might have to subsitute my dress for jeans and a top, unless someone can give me cute ideas on how to style black sweater leggings with a dress. I wanna be warm, ha!

  41. 41
    September 26th, 2014 at 7:33 am

    Its my 21st on the 21st december which means its my crown birthday aswell.i have a idea of my dress i want it to be like a cinderalla theme and i want a father and daughter dance my invites i want it to be a shoe kinda small telling about the party colours i want the place too be white and gold but still in a doubt i need ideas plz help

  42. 42
    December 21st, 2014 at 6:48 pm

    Hi I really like the outfits but m a size 34 n I want something that’s going to make me feel confident..since I’ve gained weight I dnt want mini skirts or dresses..
    Confused…my 21st it’s next month

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