Reader Request: College Wardrobe Basics

College wardrobe basics capsule wardrobe

Abby e-mailed me this request:

My request would be a post about college and fashion–suggestions, a basic wardrobe guide, anything like that. I don’t know how many college students make up your demographic, but as a college student, I would definitely appreciate some tips on how to maintain a stylish, ‘fresh’ wardrobe while being limited by both closet space and budget.

The timing of this post may be off depending on where you live and when your school gears up, but I wanted to take a stab at this request!

And it will be a stab, because it’s been quite a few years since I did my undergrad and I’ll admit that I don’t feel totally confident predicting what today’s college woman will need and want to wear. I lived in flannel and combat boots myself, and doubt that formula will appeal. Also – as I told Abby – colleges can be found in every climate imaginable, so what works for a school in Maine would be useless at a school in San Diego. But caveats aside, I’m happy to share my thoughts on a few basics that might work for most college women and will trust you to chime in with other ideas in the comments. So let’s dig in!

Two pairs of jeans you adore: For most college women, jeans are a staple, so investing in two or more pairs that fit beautifully and feel fabulous is definitely worthwhile.

At least one pair of non-jean pants: These don’t have to be dress slacks, but they should be just a bit more polished than everyday denim. Olive or khaki chinos, slim black pants, or similar.

A skirt that works: It’s nice to mix up your outfits, so assuming you enjoy skirt-wearing, pack or buy a versatile skirt. Denim pencil skirts and chino skirts are good bets, but really any style or material that works within your wardrobe and style is ideal.

Solid-colored tanks and tees: These will be great for simple, casual outfits that can be dressed up with a scarf or necklace AND for cold weather layering.

Cardigans: Since sweaters are generally more polished than hoodies, these make a great layering alternative.

A going-out dress: Pick something that feels flirty and fun, but versatile, too. A one-shouldered minidress will get less wear than a knee-length sleeveless.

A versatile dress: Also consider a dress that can handle most non-going-out situations, from class and the library to hitting a restaurant with friends. Pick a washable material and a simple silhouette that can be dressed up or down with shoes and accessories.

Boots: Assuming you’re attending school somewhere with a winter season, a great pair of boots will become indispensable. There are many routes to take, but a few options that come to mind: Invest in a quality weatherproof brand like La Canadienne (super spendy) or Timberland (not quite as spendy) so you’ll have a fashionable pair that can still slog. Pick up a pair that are meant to look “distressed” so it won’t matter if they get splattered with snow and muck. Or spring for a pair of weather/waterproof wellies or snowboots AND buy a pair of more fashion-y boots for milder weather.

Flats: College means walking. Bring or buy at least one pair of flats that can take you around campus comfortably all day long. And perhaps part of the evening, too. Consider comfort brands like Clarks, Born, and ECCO, in addition to budget-friendly ones like Target and Old Navy.

Stylish sneakers: For days when you want to go sporty or trendy, it’s great to have a pair of sneaks that feel current and chic. Converse works for many styles, but also try Steve Madden and Keds.

Comfy heels: For those going-out occasions, if you’d prefer to have an option besides flats.

Scarves: Scarves are so fabulously versatile, and go a long way toward pulling outfits together. Bring options including a large pashmina-style wrap, thin silk or rayon fashion scarves, and maybe a fun muffler.

Jewelry: Again, a few great pieces of jewelry will help make your basics look polished. Depending on your preferences, consider some bracelets that stack, a statement necklace, and several earring options from studs to shoulder-dusters.

A schoolbag you adore: Of all the items on this list, I think this is the only essential. Your bag will be with you CONSTANTLY, so select one that’s pragmatic and comfortable to carry, but also feels fun and stylish to you. Depending on your tastes, this may be a funky backpack, a leather satchel, or a canvas tote. To each her own! Just make sure it works for your needs and style.

A handbag you adore: The schoolbag will be the workhorse, but it’s nice to have an option to switch out on weekends. If possible, bring a cute clutch for going out and a more versatile everyday handbag for less fancy occasions. You will likely beat the crap out of the handbag, so bring something you don’t mind scuffing up a bit.

Other possible options include hoodies and sweatshirts, pullover sweaters, graphic tees, tights, and a fabulous coat or jacket. Again, I’m thinking about which pieces will be the most versatile and useful and in my mind, that means layerables.

Hope this helps!

**Disclosure: Actions you take from the hyperlinks within this blog post may yield commissions for See Already Pretty’s disclosure statement for more details.

Originally posted 2012-09-14 06:00:40.

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47 Responses to “Reader Request: College Wardrobe Basics”

  1. Jen on the Edge

    I sure wish I’d had you as a resource when I went off to college. 🙂

    I live in in the same town as the University of Virginia and one thing I would add to your column is to consider the culture of the school. Is it a preppy school (UVA) or a beachy one (Florida and So. Cal schools) or maybe one that’s extremely fashion forward (RISD)? While students shouldn’t feel like they have to dress like everyone else, considering the overall culture will help make some informed wardrobe decisions.

    • Dee

      I think this is a great point. It might be a good idea to save a few of your clothes “allowance” for once you get to college – do you want to pick up a few tees with your college name on it, and/or some preppy polos…wait and see what you might really want after you spend a few weeks there.

  2. Megan

    I can’t tell you how awesome leggings and a tunic are for class!
    Also- if you bring a shoulder bag to class you should bring a back pack too for when you have to go to the library with all your books and don’t want to ruin your posture! Also RAIN GEAR!! (an umbrella is not enough!)

    Best Dressing!

    • Sonja

      I second the rain gear. I got totally soaked on the campus a couple of times…

  3. Westmoon

    I lecture and teach at university and I would say one thing that is really key is taking clothes you can wear in light layers for class. Our lecture theatres, classrooms and offices seem to operate in a microclimate all their own, independent of the weather outside or, indeed, the temperature of the room next door. Students might find themselves moving between cold, draughty lecture theatres and sweltering lecture rooms in the course of the same afternoon. Many is the student I’ve seen almost blue with cold or else dying of the heat! Plus there’s often a long walk between buildings and residence halls or places to eat, so a good idea to have layers for when you head outside.

    • Sonja

      That’s so true! When I was a student, in winter I sometimes wore a huge wool sweater and woollen tights when it was cold outside, only to sit the whole day in class rooms with tropical temperatures. I suppose it would be a better idea to wear a good, warm winter coat, a woollen cap, scarf and gloves on the way to campus and when walking around between buildings, but to layer thinner pieces underneath, that you can take off whatever you need to be comfortable.

  4. Susannah B.

    Great advice! Definitely invest in jeans, footwear, and schoolbag, as they will take the most wear and tear. And layers really are key for going to and from class.

    I’ve found that finding my college “uniform” has been super helpful in imagining realistically what I’ll wear and what I won’t. On days when I wake up late or tired, what do I throw on, but still feel good about halfway through the day? For me, it was always skinny jeans, a v-neck t-shirt, funky necklace and combat boots. So I stock up on all of those essentials, and bring only a few dresses or skirts or button-downs because those items require me to be more active and thoughtful about styling.

  5. Eliza

    I just graduated this past June from a school in NY. At my particular school, people tended dress outrageously (think chartruse pirate shirts and suits made of sparkle fabric worn to class.) I don’t think I ever saw a classmate wear sweatpants to class. Personally, my fallback outfit was always a neutral coloured jersey dress, nice boots, and bright tights with a coordinating scarf (worn in my hair or around my waist as often as around my neck.) It was as comfortable as my nightgowns, but looked fairly polished.

    As far as dorm storage space goes, I found that life got a lot easier after an extreme purge I did in my sophmore year. I kept only the items which I really loved, and ended up with about 15 items (not including accessories). Looking at the same small selection every day helped me realize exactly which neutral pieces I could add to make the pieces I loved work more smoothly together.

    As for budget, thrift stores are your friend, especially any within walking distance! Also look for vintage shops, consignment, or outlet malls within driving distance. Sometimes the college can be persuaded to organize a van for a group of students, if you can convince them there is enough interest in a particular shopping destination.

  6. Dee

    I second the need for rain gear….I remember I went off to college in upstate NY knowing it rained a lot there, with just a rain hat (sounds terrible now – LOL!). Quickly found out I needed a rain coat and an umbrella — especially if you will be doing a lot of walking!

  7. Sandy

    I’m a grad student on a tight budget, not so young and hip (I’m making a midlife career change.) But a lot of these staples are definitely the same. Jeans and pants are hard for me to find, but I wear a lot of easy-care skirts and leggings. And I agree with the post above — layers are *essential* on a campus. I have a bunch of little tees and shrugs and wraps. If you get cold easily (I don’t), add a good cardigan in a neutral color that you can wear with anything.

    I’d also add in the college sweatshirt or hoodie – they can be incredibly comforting when you need to pull an all-nighter. Also, a cozy bathrobe and flipflops if you’re sharing a bathroom in a dorm.

    Good matte jersey is an incredibly forgiving fabric (wad it up, throw it on the floor, pick it up and wear it.) It’s great for career-type wear if you have to do an internship or a work-study where you need to be a little dressy. I have a couple little jersey dresses in my wardrobe and they are workhorses. Wear it with leggings and a cardigan in the cold months and flats in the warm ones.

    God, boots. I have the worst time with cute boots because I have super-wide calves. No, wider than that. No, wider than *that*. 🙂 But I swear by my Bogs for winter wear — and I’m in Vermont, where mud and slush mean business. Because of the calf problem, I wear a men’s style, but the women’s styles are very cute and will also keep your feet warm and dry. Best investment ever.

  8. Kate K

    As someone who looks back at her fashion choices in college and cringes, my one word of advice: be true to your style and what makes you feel comfortable. Beyond that: I want to give a strong recommendation for jersey dresses. They’re instant outfits, people will think that you’re dressed up, they’re supremely comfortable (for spending hours in class and the library,) they’re washable and low-maintenance laundry-wise, and with the right layers, they’re four seasons wear. They’re also really easy to find–they’re everywhere.

  9. Mrs.M in MI

    I remember spending a LOT of time in my pajamas and lounge clothes in college (maybe because I usually did my homework at 3am?) and they were all quite ratty. So having some cute but comfortable pajamas or sweatpants is probably a good idea.

    Another thing I’d add from my dad, a college professor: please, um, dress at least a tiny bit modestly. He gets really sick of seeing what happens when his students wear pants with very low rises, very short skirts, or very low-cut tops. I can’t say I personally always followed his advice (I attended college during those unfortunate years when all pants came with a 2″ rise) but it’s probably a good idea not to make your professor not want to look at you.

    • Natalie

      About the modesty: YES! Also, be careful with any knee-length or shorter skirts in stadium-style lecture halls. The skirt may be perfectly modest, but if you sit in the first few rows, your professor will be looking straight into your crotch, whether he or she wants to or not, because it’s directly at eye level. I’ve lectured in these style rooms, and every time I want to tell my students to close their legs and put on pants, because I’d really rather not see their underwear (or worse).

  10. LK

    leggings are a must. Velor pants are needed too for wandering around the dorm especially if you live in a co ed dorm. A robe too for the shower. And slippers!

  11. Lauren

    In both of the Universities I’ve been at (both midwestern state schools), the fashion has been similar — everybody dresses up and looks really nice for the first week, but then style slows down to t-shirts, jeans, and flats.

    In both of these schools, my fallback, staple outfit was jeans or a casual denim skirt, a t-shirt (I stocked both plain ones and funky ones from Threadless), and flats. Throw in a scarf or an awesome necklace and I was set.

    One thing I would suggest, especially those schools in an area that experiences a long fall, is a cute blazer/jacket that can be worn both indoors and outdoors. It allows you to navigate the cool outside temperature and also be prepared for the indoor classrooms and events where it might be colder than outside! I had two that I used often — a dark pink corduroy blazer and a dark brown canvas blazer/jacket thing. They were both indispensable!

  12. Anne

    Wow, it has been ages since my undergrad years! Two words to describe college style back then: Flash Dance. I would add a denim jacket to your collection. I bought mine my second year in school and threw it out in tatters about 10 years later. I would also add a winter coat to that list and take your book bag/backpack with you when you shop for it.

    I really think your timing on this article is fine, at least out here on the west coast it is still summer.

  13. Mary

    I’m going to add in that make sure all these are washable! In college I had a great little black dress and the perfect fall jacket, both of which I ruined by washing rather than dry cleaning. No matter how much you promise yourself, dry cleaning is expensive and you often run out of time.

  14. Cee

    I’m just finishing my masters and after four years of university, I can safely say I would not have made it without:
    – Leggings. They can be plain black, but they’ll allow you to get more use out of clothes. Pop them on under a summer dress/skirt and you can wear it in cooler weather. Plus side: they are incredibly comfy!
    – Pashminas/ big lightweight scarves. If you’re sat in a library for hours, it’s always great to have an extra layer to wrap yourself up in. I find I always get very cold very quickly when I’m sat still.
    – Good jewellery. It needn’t be too expensive. If you’ve had a late one the night before, or your morning is a litter earlier than you would like, it’s great to be able to throw on relatively plain clothes and use jewellery to pull your outfit together.
    – The biggest, most stylish bag you can find/afford/carry. Never underestimate how many books you will need!

  15. Natalie

    As a recent college grad, and current graduate student, I support the aforementioned advice of layers for college. You’ll often have to walk fair distances early morning, when it’s cold, and mid-day, when it’s much warmer (especially if you’re at a large university; as I undergrad at University of Florida I regularly walked several miles a day). A coat that’s really warm, but terribly bulky & therefore difficult to carry during warm midday walks across campus from class to class will drive you nuts. Also, every college campus I’ve been on over-air conditions in the summer and over-heats in the winter. I regularly strip down to the tank/tee under several layers of sweaters in winter lecture halls.

    Additionally, make sure EVERYTHING you buy/bring is machine washable, and the less delicate, the better. You’ll most likely be doing laundry in laundromats or dorm laundry rooms. Trying to hand wash silk in the dorm bathroom sink you share with 50 other girls? Not fun. If you’re anything like me, you’ll do it once & never wear it again.

    I agree with pretty much everything on your list, Sal, but would add a high quality pair of flip-flops or other casual, slip-on sandal (or several if you’re going to school anywhere warm). Get a cute pair (I love Teva – they hold up well, and have adorable patterns & colors) that will work with jeans, shorts, skirts, & dresses, and you can wear them all summer. Having shoes you can slip your feet into as you run out the door, late for 8am class, without having to worry about finding socks that match in the dark because your roommate is still sleeping & you don’t want to wake her is invaluable. They’re also a great alternative to rain boots in the summer, as most styles dry quickly, and if you have to walk a mile in the rain to get to class, any pair of shoes you wear will get wet.

  16. Kat Belle

    I definitely second all the suggestions for a comfortable dress! I’m a college student myself right now, and throwing on a jersey always feels like the best kind of cheating – you look like you put effort into looking nice but it only took you about thirty seconds to get dressed.

    Also, a good pair of sweater tights or thick leggings can be indispensable if you live somewhere where it gets cold! I have a couple pairs that have a fleecey lining, and they are quite possibly one of the most cozy and comfortable things to wear ever (which is definitely what you need when slogging across campus in the snow!).

  17. Erica Lee

    Holy heck, I was just going to ask you about this! YAY.

    I’m a first-year. The girls at my school have two basic outfits: oversized tee shirt, running shorts, sneakers/Chacos/cowboy boots or button-up shirt, chino shorts, Chacos/boat shoes/cowboy boots.

    I definitely agree on the rainboots! I had a pair of pleather moto boots from Target that should have been fine, but by the end of the day, I had two small lakes in my boots. Spring for the nice-ish, knee-high $30 rainboots.

    This may be only my university, but if you’re going to any uni in the South, buy some cowboy boots. They’re adorable and you will love them to death.

    I use a backpack, as do 95% of all other female undergrads. There’s just too much walking for a messenger bag or cute tote, but test out the waters of your own campus before making the final decision. And whatever you choose, make sure it’s waterproof, or you will cry. A lot. ( I did D:)

  18. Dee

    So glad to see a few commentors adding robe and slippers/shower shoes to the list…especially if you have to walk down the hall to the bathroom! Also what about a swimsuit and/or some workout clothes? I know the list is getting pretty long here but swimsuits and work out clothes can also come in handy when you need to WASH everything else but need to wear something while they are washing — LOL!

  19. Kate

    Hm, has college changed much in the past 15 years? Jeans, t-shirts, sweaters, comfy shoes. I still live in a college town and I guess these days add leggings and you have a college wardrobe.

  20. Beth {Southern Bluestocking}

    Love this post–just started my MA in a new city and have been thinking a lot about personal style in the academy. Within the context of your suggestions (which are great) I think the most important thing is figuring out your personal go-to, this-makes-me-happy-&-confident style.

    For me, my uniform is skinny jeans; tall, flat boots; a t-shirt and a cute scarf: the jeans and boots are comfortable and let me run for the train when I woke up late, the scarf makes me feel together and doubles as a shawl when the classroom is frigid. This is perfect combo, for me, of the undergrad “I just rolled out of bed and I’m not sure where I left my textbook” and professorial polish, and that’s how I’m negotiating this grad school space.

    But my point isn’t ‘ooh, my style’–I’m not in grad school for wardrobe accolades–but the fact that knowing what is comfortable and makes me feel polished lets me ignore my clothes for the rest of the day and shine at the stuff that will matter in a decade: publications, recommendations and research. And that’s awesome.

  21. tess

    try clothes on before packing them, I do this now before vacation trips, as my weight fluctuates, it would be sad to get to where I was going and not be able to zip up

    figure out how often you will wash, pack at least 2 more changes of clothes than the number of days, to allow for wet scoks on rainy days, etc

    don’t bring anything too precious, jewelrywise or clotheswise, my roomate destroyed my only silk blouse with sweat stains, pilled up a treasured powder blue turtleneck sweater, and left a broken glass jar of dried up honey under her rolling bed that I discovered after she moved out, I cleaned it up so that I could get my security deposit back, oh memories

    oh yes, establish boundaries with your roommate, good luck!

  22. Lisa

    I work on a college campus and from what I’ve observed you’ve pretty much nailed it. I would agree with the commenter that mentioned everything must be washable. Also a cheap umbrealla would be another nice addition too.

  23. tess

    one more thing, try not to gain 20 pounds like I did, the only things that still fit after a while were gray sweatpants

  24. Sara

    I’ve been working on college campuses for 16 years now (undergrad/grad/now prof) and the only guidelines I’d add are fairly obvious: save your feet, save your back. Get a good-quality backpack with lumbar support; skip the totes. Totes are cute, but they put uneven strain on your back and will cause problems in the end. Wear comfy shoes that you can run in *always* – you never know when you’ll get caught in the rain or find yourself in a situation when moving quickly is necessary. As a prof, I only notice clothing when students look extremely uncomfortable or are wearing something extremely revealing or offensive. Otherwise, I don’t notice and don’t care a bit.

    • f.

      Yes! Try REI for a decent backpack, as for the trendy rucksacks that places like Urban Outfitters are selling lately, avoid avoid avoid – you will kill your back, they usually lack a secure pocket for your laptop, and the flimsy straps will dig into your shoulders. Owww.

      Make sure that if you would rather be a handbag / tote carrier, you always have an extra foldable nylon or cotton tote bag inside of your handbag in case you need to bring home some new books from the library or get in some quick grocery shopping on the way home from campus. That will save you from carrying a bunch of weight on only one shoulder as well as rescue your handbag from being chronically overstuffed, which can ruin it faster than you think.

  25. Bekka

    I think this is a great, versatile list. It’s hard to come up with a simple list that will cover all the temperature zones. I do agree with the rain gear as an essential, and also with just “something really comfortable.” Ideally, we none of us did (or will) spend all college years in raggedy sweatpants and a hoody, but for when you’re stressed, studying hard, homesick, or sick-sick for the first time away from home, at least one amazingly comfy and snuggle-able outfit is a must.

  26. Megan Mae

    I think your list is a great idea. I want to nay-say other commenters – please knock off the leggings. Okay when it’s getting cooler, yes layer them under dresses for warmth, but please put on real pants or wear something long enough to cover your butt. Also don’t wear pajamas to class. Many of your classes, especially ones going into your field can give you strong networking for your future job and you don’t want your teachers remembering you as that person who showed up in sweats everyday (unless you’re a phys ed major).

    Remember to take care of yourself while going to college. Most people think it’s just an extension of high school, and act like it, but you’re paying for a higher education – not being forced to coast through highschool. I see way too much of that in my classes these days and hate the attitude of classmates.

    My personal style has been non-binding dresses and skirt/tee combos with a pair of ankle boots. Perfect for sitting through lectures all day and still looking put together.

    • Litenarata

      THANK YOU!

      People who wear leggings with a top that doesn’t cover their butt look like they’re wearing pantyhose and forgot to put on a skirt. After awhile I got over the ickiness of seeing what’s essentially a bare butt (leggings leave little to the imagination, especially skin-tone colors) and just laughed to myself about how silly they looked.

      • poly

        I like wearing leggings because they flatter my figure and are comfy. I don’t think that people should tell others they must cover their butts when wearing leggings. I don’t think people should shame others about how their butts look in certain clothing. I don’t find butts offensive; they are just a part of the body. If it is someone’s figure-flattery priority to showcase that part of their body, then I can’t imagine telling them not to.

  27. katie

    this sounds like a great, versatile list. i graduated in 2010 from a midwestern state university, and am currently in medical school and a master’s program, and this would have served well to meet almost all of my needs. however, i would add one or two obviously professional blouses to the mix. dresses or tanks with sweaters can dress up for most situations, but there are still occasions (interviews, internships, etc) where a collared blouse that gives a smart, professional impression is really essential.

    • Laura

      Second the professional options! Especially if you’re a junior or senior and beginning internships or job interviews, you’ll want reliable, easy-to-care-for, classic, “grown-up” professional staples in your wardrobe.

  28. Gabi

    I’m a huge fan of skinny jeans and boots with a easy to layer top like a tank with a cute and polished jacket over it. I wear a lot of knit blazers and faux leather jackets. It makes it super easy to get dressed in the morning when I’m half asleep because everything goes together

  29. Litenarata

    Maybe not for the first or second year, but at some point you’ll also need a business outfit, possibly even a suit, for internship and job interviews. The career fairs at my school always stated that employers expected to see you in business attire.

  30. sarah

    Hm. I guess I’m the oddball here. Jeans and a cotton-terry cardigan are reserved for when I’m truly exhausted or sick. My students always know that if I come in in jeans and sneakers, something is wrong.

    My basics would be sturdy 2-2.5″ heels (remix and frye make some of my favorites) in mary jane or t-strap styles (keeps ’em on the feet) and brogues are my preferred walking shoes, a pencil skirt, a couple of A-line or trumpet skirts, some camisoles (consider this yet another vote for layering) and cardigans and a few blazers that range from casual to dress (eg: I have a tuxedo style blazer from the Gap that is a stretchy black cotton with satin lapels, suiting blazers from j crew, and a black velvet cartonnier jacket I found thrifting). I also live in scarves (my neck gets cold) and love jewelry – though I make most of my own (what a fun thing you could do with your dormmates or roommates!). When it starts to get wet, I actually prefer skirts, as this keeps one’s hemlines up out of the muck and wet (you’ll be warmer), paired with thick tights and boots (I waterproof the dickens out of mine).

    So, I guess there’s one vote for a business-casual University wardrobe. When I started my phd, I was definitely the only dressed-up grad student in our department. It drew a lot of comments. But now, more folks have come in in subsequent years, and I think we’ve gradually created a culture where those of us who enjoy dressing up feel comfortable doing so and being enthusiastic about it.

    I will say, my students respond really positively to the dressy teacher. I like to bring in brighter colours and interesting patterns as the days get shorter and darker, and that’s when they really start to comment – guys and girls alike. Sure, it’s an extra effort – but it always seems to be appreciated!

  31. Kacie

    Ugghh. I was in a graphic tee or school t, jeans and flip flops with a hoodie for most of my college years. I just didn’t even think about it. But hey, it was cheap! I’m glad I am improving somewhat :).

  32. Galena

    All of these suggestions are great! I work at a college campus and am only a few years removed from attending myself. One thing I do have to add:

    FOR THE LOVE OF GOD, IF YOU WEAR LEGGINGS WEAR A TUNIC OR SOMETHING ELSE TO COVER UP YOUR BUM. Camel toe is not attractive in public: only you, your intimate partners, and your gynecologist should be seeing that, not everyone you walk past on campus. And PLEASE also make sure your leggings are opaque unless you’re covering them with a long layering piece! I have seen way too much of way too many girls on campus because of these 2 simple factors that they didn’t consider (or considered but didn’t care about).

  33. KL

    I’m a college student and this list looks pretty good to me, although it sometimes skews conservative. Last year I brought a pair of dressier non-denim pants with me, and they were mostly orphaned. Slim black pants might be easier to mix in than knit widelegs, though.

    Also–I haven’t seen anyone under age 22 wear a chino skirt lately, but maybe that’s just my campus. I like to dress up a bit for class, just for myself, but I also like to toss a casual zip hoodie over a cute dress or blouse+skirt outfit so that I don’t stand out TOO much from the yoga pants and sweatshirts crowd.

  34. f.

    Some things I would add for a colder climate – a polar fleece jacket (Bench makes some that have really comfy cowl necks and hoods, which can be a godsend) and a waterproof or water-resistant jacket to go over. I love my soft shell jacket, it’s served me well for 4 years now! Also, if you are living in a chilly place, don’t underestimate the importance of good wool socks. They are more breathable than cotton or most synthetics, and can be really nice for walking around the dorm too.

    Plus, bring a small wallet or coin purse along for nights out. Many of us have to learn the hard way how annoying it is to lose a wallet that includes your driver’s license, credit cards, library card, student ID, etc. or how costly it can be to get your big fat wallet stolen! So before you hit the town, stick some cash in your small coin purse and leave the important stuff at home. Trust me on this one.

  35. Ellen

    I’m a college third-year right now and I second the bit about avoiding chino/denim skirts – they’ve gone a little out of style. Circle/skater skirts are more in, as are stretchy comfortable pencil skirts. Brogues, blazers, sheer tops/dresses and chino pants are also all good.

    Also, re: that bit about flannelette and combat boots – the 90s are having a bit of a revival at the moment, especially in college, so both of those are more in than you think 🙂

  36. Kaybug

    I cannot add anything to this list as I’m lightyears out of college and yet to parent a student (and he’s a boy anyway). But I only wish to comment:

    It makes me so wistful to think of the ways one can express oneself creatively through dress as a student, and that I probably missed a good bit of that opportunity when I had it. So please, female students: take this time to experiment with what appeals to you. Even if it’s on the cheap, completely machine-wash and durable, take a little time with yourself, be proud of how you look. Don’t look back after graduation, when you are having to dress more seriously for a workplace, and wish you had had more fun with it. No matter what size you are, or what your budget is, there is fun fashion for you at your age, and ways to literally “try on” personalities as you go.

    I certainly wish I could have told my younger self this at the time, and that I could have lost my body image issues earlier than I did. But now, I save it for the weekends. :o)

  37. Tina Z

    All college students should have one nice business-casual outfit- doesn’t have to be a suit but that’s a good option. You will have events come up where you need to look professional and if you don’t, you will stick out. And for the love of god (and your sanity at the end of a long day), find a pair of comfortable heels. Nothing is more ridiculous than that pair of platform heels you wore out last Friday night paired with a suit or other professional outfit.