Introduction: The manifestation of bipolar disorder (BD) is hypothesized to be determined by clinical characteristics such as familial loading, childhood abuse, age at onset, illness duration, comorbid psychiatric disorders, addiction, treatment resistance, and premorbid cognitive functioning. Which of these are associated with a more severe course and worse outcome is currently unknown. Our objective is to find a combination of clinical characteristics associated with advancement to subsequent stages in two clinical staging models for BD. Methods: Using cross-sectional data from the Dutch Bipolar Cohort, staging was applied to determine the progression of bipolar-I-disorder (BD-I; N = 1396). Model A is primarily defined by recurrence of mood episodes, ranging from prodromal to chronicity. Model B is defined by level of inter-episodic functioning, ranging from prodromal to inability to function autonomously. For both models, ordinal logistic regression was conducted to test which clinical characteristics are associated with subsequent stages. Results: For model A, familial loading, childhood abuse, earlier onset, longer illness duration, psychiatric comorbidity, and treatment resistance were all predictors for a higher stage in contrast to addiction and cognitive functioning. For model B, childhood abuse, psychiatric comorbidity, cognitive functioning, and treatment resistance were predictors for a more severe stage, whereas age at onset, illness duration, and addiction were not. Discussion/conclusions: Differences in clinical characteristics across stages support the construct validity of both staging models. Characteristics associated with a higher stage largely overlapped across both models. This study is a first step toward determining different clinical profiles, with a corresponding course and outcome.