When it came to college style, our expectations of what we needed definitely did not match reality. Expectations: Adorable, Blair-Waldorf-esque silk pajamas (for all of those nights lounging around in our dorms and gossiping, of course); 10 pairs of high heels (since they would soon be acceptable for everyday attire, naturally); floor-length dresses (for all the fancy formals we’d go to) and shirts and sweatshirts from high school (to show off our extracurriculars).
Reality: We needed none of those things.
Luckily, you don’t have to repeat our mistakes. Here are the clothes you’ll actually need — because those ball gowns? So far, they’ve yet to make it out of our dorm rooms.
1. Take it outside
While the weather is still nice, rompers, sundresses, high-waisted shorts, sneakers (especially good ole Converse or Vans), skater skirts and crop tops all make for stylish yet comfortable pieces perfect for dancing, singing along and mingling. In terms of accessories, we love lots of bracelets and necklaces to layer and something that’s easy to carry around, like a cross-body bag or a backpack.
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As the temperatures start to drop, you’ll obviously want to adjust what you’re wearing. Layers are an oldie-but-goodie solution: faux-leather jackets, thick scarves, jeans, thick socks and a pair of boots will preserve your fashion sense and your internal temperature.
2. Study time
During midterms and finals, most college libraries are open 24/7. In other words, you’re going to be spending a lot of time in the library. When it comes to outfits for studying, comfort is key.
However, we have good news: There are definitely ways to be cozy and chic at the same time, so you don’t have to leave your fashion sense at the library door. We love sporty lounge pants, which can be found at Anthropologie, Urban Outfitters, Piperlime, ASOS andForever 21. Add some classic flats, a white tank and a structured blazer, and you’ll feel like you’re wearing PJs, even though you sure won’t look like it.
Just remember: if you can’t survive a multiple-day study session in it, it’s not comfy enough.
3. Career collegiette
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For career fairs and other business-related events, like interviews or internships, you’ll want conservative pieces. This is definitely not the time to whip out that dress that always makes every guy (or girl) at the party swoon! Try pieces like a neutral-colored pencil skirt; a dress that’s no shorter than a couple inches above the knee; a smart, low-heeled, professional pump; a well-fitted blazer; a nice bag; tailored blouses; button-ups and/or shells (that aren’t see-through and don’t show your bra straps); some trousers and a cardigan.
Choose colors that will match consistently with one another. For example, if you buy a navy blazer, don’t buy a black skirt — buy a navy bottom or one in a color that pairs with navy, like cream, gray or taupe.
You don’t have to spend a ton of money while buying professional attire, but make sure everything fits you perfectly. A tailor is a wonderful resource in this situation.
While these may not seem like necessary purchases when you’re just starting college, they really are good investments—you never know when you’ll need to interview for an on-campus job or attend a networking event, even if you aren’t planning on applying for internships soon!
4. Night owl
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Not allcollege parties are created equal. For most frat parties and house parties, which are usually casual, you’ll want stylish tops you’re not attached to—chances are good they’ll get ruined by errant drinks. Your choices for bottoms are wide open: shorts, flirty skirts and skinny jeans are all good picks. However, shoe-wise, we’d stick to close-toed options because they’ll keep your feet happy and your toes safe. Trust us, when it comes to crowded frat houses, the more coverage for your feet, the better.
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However, occasionally you’ll be invited to a fancier party for which you’ll want to look a bit dressier. These are what bodycon skirts and sultry dresses were made for! Add some ankle booties or strappy heels. Somebody call 911, shawty fire burning… sorry, we had to.
5. Work it out
If you wear cute workout clothes, you can lift heavier weights and last longer on the elliptical—true story. Before you head off to school, stock up on colorful and patterned sports bras, loose tanks, sweat-wicking and/or breathable tops, jersey shorts, a hoodie to wear to and from the rec center on chilly days, stretchy capris or long pants and, obviously, a good pair of athletic shoes.
Every collegiette is familiar with the adorable shorts, singlets and yoga pants from lululemon, but we encourage you to experiment a little bit with your fitness fashion. Old Navy, Zella, Alo Yoga and Fabletics will have everyone asking where you got those shorts and sports bras.
6. Oh so class-y
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You’ll definitely want to look composed and stylish, even for those dreaded 8 a.m. classes. After all, the classmate who sits next to you could become an invaluable connection, or your professor could end up writing your next glowing recommendation letter.
Looking presentable matters! Our go-to outfit for class is a simple shirt with dark-wash jeans, flats or riding boots (depending on the season), jeans, some fun jewelry and a jacket or a coat if it’s cold.
You’re definitely free to play around with this category and express your own style. As long as “your style” doesn’t equal your favorite pajamas, you’ll be golden.
7. Goooo, team!
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Whether you love your school, sports or just the players, you’re guaranteed to go to at least a couple of athletic events during your time as a collegiette. Showing some pride is essential, but don’t assume you have to choose between supporting your team and looking stylish. For a relaxed outfit, wear denim bottoms, sneakers and a T-shirt or sweatshirt from your college bookstore. Want something a little more elaborate? Rep your school colors in a cute top and semi-dressy bottoms, like a skirt or a pair of silky shorts.
When the nights get cold, we’d recommend switching to jeans and adding a jacket or coat and a scarf — in your college colors, naturally.
Check out the best places to get school spirit gear!
8. Wet n' wild
Rainy days were a little annoying in high school, but it’s a whole different game in college. Until they build Hogwarts-style underground tunnels at our schools, we’re forced to trek all over campus multiple times a day as the rain does its best to make us giant prunes. That’s why waterproof clothing should be upgraded from an afterthought on your packing list to a first priority.
Definitely bring rain boots. If you’re going to a relatively dry area, then an inexpensive pair from Target is more than adequate, but collegiettes in rainier climes should consider investing in a high-quality brand like Hunter.
You’ll also need a waterproof jacket. Overstock.com and Macy’s always have affordable options, but there are also sleek choices from Nordstrom and Zappos. And, of course, if you want to go the traditional route, there’s always The North Face!
Make sure you’re ready for college with these eight essentials! Have a fabulous, fashionable fall semester.