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.
I know, I know – I’m LATE. I just didn’t have time to get to Abby’s request before now, and I realize that most women headed back to university have done so already. But just in case there’s still time to revise or augment those wardrobes, 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 Tsubo in addition to budget-friendly ones like Target and Old Navy.
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.
Over to you: If you’re college-aged now, working in academia, recently graduated, the mother of a university goer, or anyone at all who has opinions and ideas about college wardrobe basics, what do you think of this list? What would you add? Subtract? Change? Let’s hear it!
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