Friday, July 17, 2009

What To Wear To College

Dear Daddy Likey,

I'm going to college in the fall, and I was wondering what you think are the wardrobe essentials for a university student. I rely (probably too much) on lists to help me get through things like clothes shopping, and your opinions on what I (and other college students) should buy/bring as
freshman would be awesome.


Lusting for a List

Dear Lusting,

What a great question! I thought it best to break up my answer into two separate lists, one composed of "Ideal" recommendations--those pieces of clothing that a freshman would/should wear if all the stars lined up and she woke up on time and had any extra money to buy them and felt motivated at all to put them on--and then the "Reality" list, composed of the clothes that most college freshmen actually end up wearing. (Hey, no shame! Well, the pajama pants are definitely shameful, but we'll get to that in a second.)

I think you'll be most successful if you mix and match pieces from each list, according to your own preferences, budget, and the style at your university*. And remember, these are just some basic guidelines--college is the perfect time to experiment with your look, so don't forget to have fun with fashion

*Of course, none of this advice applies to art students, those lucky academics who could wear a dress made of maxi-pads to a thesis presentation and see their credibility skyrocket.
With a mix of jealousy and reverence, I salute you!

Let's get started:

Ideally: Blazer or Fitted Jacket

Seriously, get yourself a cute little blazer or jacket that fits you just right and makes you look put-together and professional. Even if your normal style is, like, workout pants and a ratty t-shirt, and you feel kind of weird buying and/or wearing a blazer, just do it, because let me tell you, college is a land of opportunity, and many of these opportunities (academic panel, dream job interview, class presentation, etc.) call for a cute little blazer.

Sashimi Boyfriend Blazer, on sale for $37.90, Nordstrom

Really, though: Hooded Sweatshirt with University Logo

I remember my freshman year, I loaded up my cheap dorm dresser drawers with a fairly impressive Carrie Bradshaw wannabe wardrobe--a vast array of tutus and lace camisoles and high heels--but after about a week it became clear that every single other person on campus (besides the art students, duh) stuck to a strict dress code of jeans, flip-flops, and baggy Oregon State University sweatshirts.

In a half-hearted attempt to fit in, I began pairing my tutus and heels with baggy OSU hoodies. Looking back, this was maybe not the best plan, but just be warned that, in America at least, the school logo sweatshirt is as ubiquitous in college classrooms as overpriced textbooks, torturous hangovers, and the word "hegemony."


Ideally: Your Favorite Pair of Jeans (and a nice pair, too)

Basically, the key to a satisfying college wardrobe is to have a stock of fairly simple,
comfortable, flattering pieces that don't take a lot of effort but make you look pulled together and presentable. While it's totally fine to bust out your ripped denim a few times a week, try to bring/buy a pair of unquestionably nice jeans that can take you from the classroom to your after-school job to date night.

Really, though:
Pajama Pants

So, this one I do have a problem with. Going to college is awesome because you have the freedom to do a lot of things you never had the freedom to before, like enjoy seven square meals of chow mein per day, or tell people you grew up on a llama farm and your given name is "Aphid," or, yes, wear your pajama pants to school. And thus, thousands--perhaps millions--of college students use this newfound freedom as an excuse to wear zany penguin-print pajama pants to their
History of Conflict in Palestine class, which is upsetting.

Ideally: A Simple Skirt or Dress

Get a simple skirt or dress in a really cozy fabric like cotton jersey, and I guarantee you'll find yourself slipping it on for classes, parties, study times, dorky field trips to the grocery store with your roommates, etc. It's a great, versatile piece that will take you far.

Madeleine Spaghetti Dress, $17.80, Forever21

Really, though: Teeny Tiny Gym Shorts

Many freshmen, upon realizing they can get real-life academic credit for classes like "volleyball," "walking," and "underwater basket weaving," find it hard to abandon their physical education clothes for their real clothes, no matter what class they're attending. I totally approve of being comfy for your classes (as long as being comfy doesn't involve pajama pants), but by your junior and senior year, unless you've decided to major in PE, try a cute skirt or some actual pants instead.


Ideally: A Button-Up Blouse

When I was a TA in a communications class my senior year, I met a student who was--how should I put this? Is there a Smashmouth lyric to describe it? Oh yeah!--
not the sharpest tool in the shed. She wasn't stupid, but she definitely wasn't smart, you know? And yet, somehow this girl had a solid reputation for being one of the brightest students in the class, if not the entire university, if not the entire universe. How did she cultivate such an epic rep? Well, while most of her classmates shuffled into class wearing ripped jeans, ironic t-shirts, and flip-flops, this girl strutted in everyday wearing a crisp button-up blouse and tailored slacks. She looked smart and successful, and therefore consistently received grades, respect, and accolades to match. Take note, incoming freshmen!

Really, though:
A T-Shirt

You'll probably end up throwing on a cute T-shirt most days, which is totally fine, but keep that button-up blouse and blazer handy--you never know when you might need them!


Ideally: Comfy, Versatile Flats

Most freshmen don't have cars (although if you do, man you're gonna be popular), so your first year of school will inevitably involve a great deal of walking. Comfortable shoes are
imperative. Cute, comfortable shoes are highly recommended.

Blowfish Segment Tie Dye Flats, $44.50,

Really, though: Flip-Flops

Freshmen dutifully buy a new pair of flip-flops to avoid the horrifying fungal infections lurking in the dorm showers, then end up wearing them every day for 4-5 years.

Some extra ideas for you cute lil' list addicts:
  • Fabulous sunglasses
  • Cozy slippers
  • Black leggings (great layering piece)
  • Slouchy cardigan
  • Approximately 1000 ribbed cotton tank tops
  • Knit beanie
  • A cashmere sweater (for glamorous lounging purposes--find one at the thrift store!)
  • Nerdy glasses
  • A few different colors of tights
  • A nice leather belt
  • Boots
  • Colorful scarves
  • Little black dress (cliche, but priceless)
  • Jewelry, jewelry, jewelry!
I'd love to hear other suggestions from readers! What were your wardrobe essentials as a bright-eyed young freshman? What did you wear that you wish you didn't? What didn't you wear and wish you did?


Kel said...

I'm loving this post! Had me cracking up but had great info too. Thanx!

Tibz said...

I..... had no idea people wear pajama pants to classes.

In college here (Malaysia), it's usually T-shirt and jeans, day in, day out.

There are girls who do dress up and all, but eh, I'm not wearing pajama pants. Jeans and t-shirt will do.

Jo said...

I'm about to go into my third year at Uni (in the UK) and I wish I could get away with wearing pyjamas to lectures!!

I'm a photography student, which I guess translates at art student with a side of geek (gotta love those numbers to understand photography) So I veer between jeans/tshirt/v-neck jumper and poofy skirts with ripped tights.

meliasaurus said...

please do not wear sweatpants and hoodies and t's to your classes. i'm so tired of that.

shame on you people for coming to class in your pajamas.

Kim said...

I work at the University of South Carolina and it amazes me how many people wear pajama pants! Why didn't this phenomenon exist when I was in college? More importantly, does this signify the downfall of civilization as we know it?

Sara said...

I love this post Winona! I got my undergraduate and my Masters in Auckland University and I always disliked how students just don't care what they look like. I noticed it too as a TA, you either get girls who don't care at all, or girls who are too done up (they often wear leggings as pants, which, by the way, don't do, and have orange skin).

These are some ideas I think are worth trying: Thick tights, wool and/or cotton. In black, gray, navy and whatever colour you like and experiment with different patterns. These are so cute and can be worn with short dresses and skirts. Oversized cardigans are super cute. Headbands! Not many girls dare to wear them (at least not in Auckland) but seriously they get positive attention from classmates. I agree, invest in a nice pair of jeans. If you can afford it, or can save up some money, buy key designer pieces and you can mix them and match them with the rest of your clothes. It always works.

Anonymous said...

You are the fabulous-est. I am passing this along to all the sweet college girls who work in my office, so they can have a knowing giggle at the dichotomies!

Gemma said...

Great post. Really made me laugh. I'll be back!

April said...

This is great. I'm gonna be a college freshman in the fall, and I desperately needed this! Not to mention, it's hilarious and I will be prepared for both the ideal and unfortunate reality situations.

Amanda said...

Oh man, there's some good stuff on that list. But I've got a LOT to add:

1. in "Michigan Weather" (for non-michiganians, that's code for 'snowing one minute, blistering hot the next'), you HAVE to layer. So lots of little items that can be stacked on top of each other is key. I have a million shirts with a million different sleeve lengths and necklines for that very purpose.

2. I agree with black leggings. I have about 5 pairs in different lengths. I am obsessed with leggings. Perfect for layering, and super cute!

3. Doubles of just about everything. Admit it: when you live in the dorm, you never do laundry regularly. So, when I find something good, I buy two of them, in different colors. It allows me to go longer between laundry days, which I was going to do anyway, but this way I'm less stinky and people are less suspicious.

4. A really bright and funky but also sensible pair of sneakers. Yes, I ended up wearing flip-flops most days, however: my flip-flops are Tevas and therefore have a support arch, and also Western Michigan's campus is tiny, so I wasn't going as far.
Had I gone to somewhere like MSU, however, I probably would've busted out my kangaroos (Yes, I love the 'roos) more often. Bear in mind: while they're adorable, ballet flats are NOT good walking shoes. Ultra-flat is as bad as, if not worse than, ultra-high heels. They make my feet sore very quickly. Ok, but you can take this with a grain of salt because I have narrow feet. Still, though. No support arch.

5. To contradict myself, I'm gonna echo Winona's sentiment about a few sturdy pieces that show how serious you are, in case of job interviews and the like. And to that list I'd like to add a painfully specific item: klunky, black, closed (and rounded) toed, high heels with a buckle. The heel needs to be wide for a sturdy base. Everything here is about comfort and looking serious - and also ensuring that you can make it from the car to the door through snow or ice or whatever it might be without falling and ruining that perfectly pressed white blouse Winona was talking about.
Also, they go great with pants, which I can't really say for any other pair of high heels I own.

And lastly, I'd like to brag that I made it through college without ever wearing my pajama pants out of the dorm complex (ok, I wore them to the caf, but it was connected to my dorm and I changed before class ALWAYS), by simply replacing them with sweatpants. It takes 2 seconds to change into them, and they're equally as comfortable, but 10 times less 'college-y' looking (in the bad way. and yes, there are SEVERAL good ways.)

Long-winded. I apologize. I hope it's helpful! ^_^

Emcee Morgan said...

My trick freshman year was fairly ridiculous. For my first class of the day, I would throw on a sweatshirt over my pajamas because, typically, I was running late. Then, right after class was over, I would run back to my dorm room and shower and change properly for my afternoon classes (I am the worst at making a schedule, but it actually worked to my benefit). After a while, people became convinced that I was one half of a pair of identical twins, which I encouraged so they didn't know the extent of my laziness.

Suzy said...

Aww I can't believe I missed out on this experience. Like, I'm still planning on going to college next year, once I'm 24 and able to do everything without needing my mom's ssn, but I won't get to stay in a crummy dorm and I'll be the old gal in class, taking everything so seriously. If you think you scowled at those penguin pants when you were in school, just wait until I set my fiery eyes upon them!!

Really, though, this is a great post. Helpful and humorous. Perfect.

D'Et said...

Oh my gawsh... college! Good topic! Like our Michigan poster, I live in a climate that was all about the layers. The mantra around here has always been, "Don't like the weather? Wait 5 minutes, it will change."

I tried all of the "Ideally" stuff! Ultimately, though, I survived in jeans (or sometimes capris) and tees/camis/tank tops. Shoes really are super important. Imagine sprinting across campus with a sloshing coffee in one hand, your messenger bag spanking you viciously, and losing a flip-flop to a passing bicyclist. Not cool. I prefer sandals that stay on.

Speaking of messenger bags... I totally learned that lesson the hard way. Granted it was the late 90's, but even then... 2 straps are for the uncool.

Ooo and lots of cheapie (my advice since I lose stuff pretty easily) sunglasses that are super cute! This way you can hide your sleepy eyes from the sun when you've been up all night "studying"...

I love your blog, by the way! Great stuff. :)

Becky said...

I have to say, my style vastly improved in the 3.5 years I was in college. When I lived in on-campus housing I was one of those people in yoga pants (I NEVER wore character printed pj pants though...that still doesn't redeem me)and tees and/or hoodie. It was when I started living off-campus and had two jobs (one at the Gap and one as a hostess at an upscale restaurant) that I started to dress like a human being instead of a "beware of extreme apathy as exemplified by my lack of grooming and stretch cotton wrappings" sign. I'd usually have to go straight from class to work, so I'd do hair, makeup, and wear clothes. With buttons! and colors! I definitely had roommates, classmates, and friends who spent their entire 4 years looking like they were on their way to the gym. Great post!

WendyB said...

I think I wore Danskin leggings and a men's Hanes t-shirt for 4 years. Back in the '80s, by the way!

Anonymous said...

I think you're right on the money with this one. I just graduated from my college as the valedictorian and I think part of what put me on that track was just owning the role. My freshman year, I did all the "reality" things you write about (minus pj pants, but only because I agree with Seinfeld that sweatpants tell the world you've given up). Sometime sophomore year, however, while I was planning on studying in Europe the next year, I realized that flip flops and ratty jeans just weren't going to cut it there. Or in the rest of my life. So I started cultivating a more adult style and, yeah, for the first few weeks, people asked me why I was dressed up when I wore a skirt and flats but by the end of the year, it was so a part of who I was, that no one batted an eye and I began to really get noticed for my professionalism and not just my smart mouth. That lead to amazing opportunities, and I recommend you try it yourself.

Anonymous said...

hi... just dropping by!

Unknown said...

great post!
i lived in sweatpants for 4 years. but i also didn't have much choice being an athlete.
life consisted of: wake up, practice, run to class, work out, class, individual practice, home, study, sleep. rinse and repeat.

jillian said...

i just graduated from college, and the one wardrobe piece i wish i had invested in was a nicer looking pair of black yoga pants. the comfort of sweatpants, but the appearance of "i cared about looking good today". they are my new go-to.

Robot_Love said...

Great post!

I'm going to have to 3rd the Michigan posters suggestion to LAYER LAYER LAYER. Different campus buildings have different temp fluxuations, and like Michigan, here in WI the weather can change in the blink of an eye.

That being said, I'd like to add:
1) Cardigans! Multiple. In every color! Very comfortable and they will look more put together than you favorite zip-up hoodie (which I still can't part with).
2) Rainboots/Spare umbrella. Nobody wants to sit through a power lecture with soggy shoes or a soaking wet sweatshirt. Be prepared!

Michelle Schraudner said...

First, GO DUCKS! :)

Second, pajama pants are the worst thing that happens to college freshmen. Well, and the freshman 15. I feel like those two things go hand in hand.

I had a car freshman year, it was a huge deal. Especially at UO where no one brings a car. Needless to say, I had a lot of friends come Friday night when they suddenly needed to go somewhere.

I also took the ridiculous PE classes. Self-defense wasn't too bad, but the fact that I got credit for Aqua Aerobics...amazing.

I totally agree with this whole list. Ribbed tanks, cardigans, jeans and ballet flats are pretty much my staple wardrobe. It's just as easy to wear as a tank top, hoodie, and flip flops, so you may as well look nice.

Lisa said...

I was not a fan of the overpriced college sweatshirts or sweatpants in general, so I wore zip-up hoodie sweaters and twill trousers when I wanted to be schlubby. The twill trousers were so comfy I wore them constantly for salsa dance team rehearsals.

nadarine said...

Say no to sweatpants, pj pants, and Uggs. There are no excuses. (And if someone says "oh, but Uggs are great for cold weather": NO THEY ARE NOT. THEY MAKE SNOWBOOTS AND RAINBOOTS FOR INCLEMENT WEATHER. Uggs are neither waterproof nor slush-proof. Moving on!)

1) I cheer for simple dresses. Natural fibers (cotton, jersey, modal, wool) in solid colors or not-trendy patterns will take you far. I wore some iteration of the black dress plus black boots (stacked heels are good for walking) for four years. Accessories are key: tights (layer them for cold weather, and add in wooly tights if you can find them), hats, jewelry, etc.

2) Good walking shoes do not have to be trainers, I promise. Sturdy leather boots are worth it (stacked heel ftw), and you'll wear them forever. Flat boots are also good, provided they have a bit of arch support. Ballet flats are only good for short jaunts, or you'll eff up your feet.

3) I vote nay on the university-logo sweatshirt. (Actually, I vote nay on most logos.) You don't need to pay $45 to wear a shirt that says "I got to school here!", since you're already paying loads of money to go to school there.

4) trench coat. Trench coat, trench coat, trench coat. Toss a trench coat over nearly anything and you'll look good.

Overall advice? Think of what you're happiest wearing now, and how you'd like to continue that or expand upon that over the next four years. Stock up on basics, since half of them will probably be appropriated by roommates or the dryer, and use this time to refine what you love to wear and to find new things that you'll feel good in and make a major part of your rotation.

Chocoholic said...

Yes, you must layer. Computer classes are always freezing while others could be hot. Plus, make sure to have waterproof shoes and and umbrella for those days you have to walk to class and a torrential downpour starts. I'm in Indiana by Lake Michigan and we get lake effect snow, so here, good snow protection such as comfortable, flat, knee-high boots are good for those days it decides to snow two feet in a few hours.

Rheanna Lea Cline said...

I wish this post had been around when I was a freshman!

I'm halfway through my own college career in Southern California, and for those soon-to-be freshmen who find themselves in a similar climate along the path of their collegiate journeys, I highly recommend the mother of all sandals: Rainbows (, which are not only comfortable, but super easy to just slip on as you run out the door to your next class. Also, TOMS seem to be similarly trendy/useful these days.

On a different note, denim shorts are very very very handy on days when you're planning on hopping into the car after your last class and heading to the beach. (It might just be SoCal, but I see lots of bathing suits on my classmates, even during class. Is this just a SoCal phenomenon?)

And don't forget your homemade tie-dyed paraphernalia!

JessieB said...

I'll add another plug for layering. You can always take off a cardigan or scarf. I almost always throw a pashmina in my bag, whatever the weather is. This lets me warm up in a hurry if I need to. So I recommend having a variety of pleasing scarves/wraps.

Can I also say, as a university instructor, that pajama pants say to me: "I couldn't be bothered to put on PANTS, and so I probably didn't study either."

Anonymous said...

I am a professor. News flash: we can see what you wear. And yes, we do judge you. Please avoid the already-mentioned PJ pants, along with platform flip flops (usually accessorized by chipped polish), massively oversized sweats, tight lounge pants with sexually suggestive words printed on the back, and anything that would invite others to a Festival of Inappropriate Sharing. Thanks for the chance to vent!

Lanika said...

I laughed so hard at the 1000 ribbed cotton tank tops.
so true.
if you check out Gala Darling's blog, Icing ( she has an even more idealistic take on university wardrobes (it involves matching your major, archaeology majors wearing Egyption hieroglyph prints) To make that more realistic, universities sometimes offer t-shirts and things like that for their different departments, you can order off their websites. That's how I got my Geography T-shirts, like "it's geoomorphin' time" and other nerdy Geo jokes that get you dirty looks from the Physics majors.

Beth said...

I will start out by agreeing with many of the above commentors- NO SWEATPANTS! NO UGGS! NO SWEATSHIRTS (at all. I mean it [see nadarines point #3]. A sweater is the same damn thing + looks better)!

And avoiding all of those? You can manage to not wear a suit to class and still be good-looking; dresses, skirts in a color/print you like, or decent-looking pants in a material that isn't denim (please don't succumb to the denim plague) can be just as comfortable as anything else, and make you look like you value your education.

If your outfit is a little too short, I can't tell you how good throwing on black tights is for making you look less pornographic. But not leggings, please for the love of god- the way they end on most people actually tends to make their legs look shorter/fatter/worse in a general kind of way. Oh, and leggings with nothing over them? I have been known to kill for less.

But, the fact that she is asking the question at all shows that she has some pretty good judgement + will make the best fashion decisions. Good luck!

Antoinette said...

Great suggestions. I started my college career many years ago now, and it's so interesting to know that some things, like the sloppy tendencies of college students, haven't changed much. LOL I will send a link to this post to my niece, who goes to college this fall. Doubt it will make much difference, but I can always hope!

Noel said...

Love it! I'll be a freshman this fall :). And YAY, you went to OSU -- my parents both went there (I had fond days in Corvallis).

Anthea said...

Great post. I wish College/Uni wasn't so casual. You sure get a lot of stares when you try to dress up. Ugh! Love the blazer you featured!

Tibz said...

So..... I've read the other comments, and remembered that while I am perfectly happy in jeans (of various colors) and T-shirts (likewise varying colors), I did wish I could manage to wear skirts more often, or even *gasp* dresses. Of course, that would make me stick out like a sore thumb, plus my friends would all ask me if I had a date or was going out. (The answer is no.)

So. How do I manage to walk out the door more dressed up than usual for college, for no particular reason, without running back to change?

Marie said...

I agree about an umbrella - stay dry and think of it as another accessory!

Ania said...

I actually go to fashion school so everyone dresses as though they're headed to Fashion Week every minute of the day. I wore sweatpants once to class. You'd have loved it, Winona. People wear tutus and the like ALL THE TIME.

Clara said...

I am getting ready to leave for college and my must-have were a pair of amazing boots. These ones to be specific:

Wisconsin here I come!


Pamcasso said...

Love this post! I would add to the essentials (depending where one lives) long underwear, an incredibly warm coat with a 'shell' and fleece, and fun shirts for going out.

Unknown said...

I went through 4 years of college & a year of studying abroad without ever wearing any kind of sweatpant/yoga pant/pajama pant/any other variation. It really doesn't take too much more time to throw on a pair of jeans & it makes a world of difference in how people perceive you.

And I don't quite get why the "ideal" things can't be the "reality."

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Unknown said...

Ah! Thank you so much for writing this. I've probably read it (and the comments) about five times already. Hilarious and informative, as per usual. Expect a question from me every six months until I become as fabulous as you.

p.s. You wrote randomly a year or so ago that you love to get ready to Suddenly I See by KT Tunstell. Yeah, me too. Sometimes I even kiss my pillow before leaving, pretending it's a hot male model.

Joey said...

Brilliant post! You should have come to uni in Australia, Winona - lots of little fashionistas wandering around my old campus!

I will have to 100% agree with the all the people saying 'LAYERS!'. It's practical, and you can have a lot of fun with it.

Shorts are a godsend in summer, combine with thongs (flip-flops), a cute tanktop, and a little jacket/shrug, and you're set. Cute dresses are a must as well, as are nice skirts and tops.

A quick word on the faithful denim miniskirt - save it for your nights out and your downtime. If you want to flash some leg, shorts are a better bet while on campus.

Might I also recommend capitalising on the maxi dress trend while it's still out there? Fantastic for when you're overdue to shave your legs, but it's still too hot/too boring to wear jeans, and incredibly flattering on most everyone.

Winter, I love stockings, long trousers, sweaterdresses, boots, jeans with a smart/casual jacket. Scarves add an instant element of chic to any outfit, and they're warm.

I'm also going to highly recommend hair things - cute hats, beanies, headscarves, hairbands, hair ties with cute accessories. Even on the days when I was running stupidly late and didn't have the time to do my hair properly or dress nicely, I would take the time to thread a hairband through and put my hair up in a messy bun or ponytail, and I would come to class looking polished and in control.

Experiment and have some fun - thrifting is a great way to get a good wardrobe happening for minimum price, while also getting some amazing looks. I once picked up a crocheted top with a lining sewn into the front. Very strange. But after I removed the lining, the top is a great layering piece with a bright blue strapless dress I own - the dress itself wouldn't have been entirely appropriate for uni, but with the top over it, it becomes cute, quirky and demure. Perfect for uni!

Bottom line, have fun! There is no right or wrong thing to wear (although, please avoid the pajama pants. It's for your own good!) and the the main thing is to wear what makes you happy. No one at university is going to do 'you' better than you can, so why not just be yourself, be pleasant, be gorgeous, and remember to smile.

Anonymous said...

I'm so happy you wrote this. The girls at my college are so not fashionable wearing PJ's and sweats to class everyday. I wish the girls at my college would read this post.

Sales Rack Raider said...

Awesome post! You totally cracked me up. I remember that my mom was aghast that people who are supposed to be the creme de la creme at what is supposed to be a top academic institution would be strolling to class in flipflops and PJs. But that was the reality.

I never like the sweat pants/PJs look, but then again, I had no style to speak of during college. Most people lived in the standard university sweater/jeans/flipflops combo. Likewise, I lived in jeans and sweaters, but I wasn't allowed to wear flipflops in half my classes because they don't want us to lose our feet to dripping toxic chemicals and stuff, so I wore colorful sneakers instead.

Your list covered the cute basics, but I'd add a couple of things: a cute messenger bag and faux leather jacket. Sometimes a girl just gets tired of the backpack and want something cute yet utilitarian. A faux leather jacket goes with everything and makes every outfit look more badass (well, maybe not the cloud-print pajama pants).

Cara M. said...

So I basically spent my freshman year of college looking like Lady Gaga and American Apparel jumped into a time machine and had a lovechild with Will Smith in the 90's. I did get some weird looks sometimes, but standing out is definitely a way to start conversations, and ultimately make a lot of friends.

PS. All the cool kids have an article of clothing from JAMS world. ;)

Anonymous said...

I go to school in a really cold area, but live in a really warm climate. (Bay Area, gotta love it)

So I usually have my medium warmth jacket and a pashmina that I need to drag with me every day.

I love pashminas because they add a bit of heat and color to your outfit and I usually buy them at my local consignment store so I don't pay an arm and a leg for them.

ella. said...

I recommend the moccasin flats, they're really cute and comfy, especially the ones with fluffy padding on the inside. ^^

rb said...

Hello, I graduated from college in 1986 so I must point out that you forgot the Ray Bans, the fingerless black lace gloves and the ripped leggings. (If it was good enough for Madonna, it was good enough for us.) And don't think a math major wouldn't wear this getup to her Calc III class, because she totally would.

Kat said...

I wish I had this when I started uni...
The only real suggestion I can make is invest in a good pair of footwear. Depending on the climate, this might not be so necessary, but if you go to a school like mine (snow from November to April or later), good boots are key.
Also, save one cute outfit for laundry day... you never know who you'll run into in the laundry room (if you live in res).

Brande said...

I found a brand new Lord & Taylor 100% cashmere sweater at the salvation army for $3 last fall. It's hands down my best thrift-find yet.

ambika said...

I have those flats and am now addicted to that brand. So comfy and so cute.

Annie said...

So, my campus floods about once a month. We are UNC-Atlantis, unofficially.

The unbeatable combo of cheap-o rubber rain boots and rainbow sandals should get you through the rainy season.
It's hard enough to get up and go to class anyway, and rainy days just seem cruel. What freshmen never realize is that you have to WALK in the rain to class, not drive

Also: an extra-large golf-style umbrella will make you lots of friends, and usually come with extra-sturdy handles in case you need to defend yourself against tour groups/military recruiters/people asking you to sign petitions.

And people leave these things behind all the time in stores, restaurants, and cars (thats how I got mine :))

Christina said...

I want to 4th, 5th, thousand-th whoever it was that said layer!
Living in Chicago, where the weather is honestly schizophrenic, layering saves my life. We've literally dropped 30 degrees in one day, in a few hours.
Spring/Fall (the two months total we have of those two seasons) - I live in dresses, cardis, tights/leggings(tastefully I promise!), and ballet flats/boots, depending on how cold it is. I'm proud to say I've never been outside in sweatpants - yoga pants don't count since those only go on when I'm living (literally not kidding) at the library during Finals week. Most of finals week consists of leggings and Hanes, a pashmina, and a leather jacket tho.

I have to say my first instinct, espesh if you're going to school in the Midwest, is to buy pashminas. I must have dozens, in every color of the rainbow. I'd advise tossing one (you really only have to have long as it's not a mishmash of patterns/colors) in your bag whenever, wherever. Or if you're in a warmer climate, then go for silk scarves.

Winters - everyone sort of gives up in Chicago. I've lost count of the number of shoes I've lost to the salt and the snow. During the winter, you need a really good ankle length all-weather coat. Walking on campus is so much easier when you've got that. And do invest in good waterproof winter boots. Not the regular cheapie rubber kind you get at Target, the real deal. And stock up on hats and gloves. You'll thank yourself later.

I lived in skirts, sweaterdresses, and layered leggings this winter. Jeans don't cut it when the windchill makes the weather feel like it's -40 degrees F. Layering leggings works, I promise. Bonus if you're wearing thermal leggings!

Hope this helped! Sorry for the long post. :D

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Kathleen said...

I was a freshman ten years ago but reading your list brought me back like it was yesterday! I can say that I never wore crazy pajama pants to class...but I did wear those matching velour hoodie and pants combos that were all the rage a few years back. Oh, and track suits! Who could forget those? Ah, the mistakes of college fashion, I'm glad those days are behind me.

To your list I would add a few different types of handbags:

1) A cute cross-body messenger bag or two for hauling around your heavy books and notebooks--it's much more fashionable than a backpack

2) A canvas or corduroy hobo-ish bag for everyday use

2) A black or brown leather handbag for interviews or looking smart

4) A black, brown, or metallic clutch for your nights out at the bars or clubs

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Evie said...

Great post!! Totally agree about your "ideals" and seriously ppl- it's not that hard to throw on some decent clothes in the morning!! I was a commuter, so I came to school fully dressed with some semblance of makeup on. However, school sweatshirts were a saving grace when I didn't feel like making up an outfit. I swear, if I wore the same button-up shirt two days in a row, ppl would look at me like I'm dirty, but you can get away with wearing the same college logo sweatshirt everyday for a week and no one would bat an eye! :)
To add to the "reality" list (And I'm not saying I agree with this!), if you're going to college in any sort of cold-weather area, get yourself ready for some serious Ugg sightings. I went to college in Buffalo, NY and the amount of girls stuffing their character pj pants into the tops of those hideous boots was alarming. I suppose they're easy to throw on and keep your feet warm when it's snowing and below zero. Sad, but true.

Evie said...

Great post!! Totally agree about your "ideals" and seriously ppl- it's not that hard to throw on some decent clothes in the morning!! I was a commuter, so I came to school fully dressed with some semblance of makeup on. However, school sweatshirts were a saving grace when I didn't feel like making up an outfit. I swear, if I wore the same button-up shirt two days in a row, ppl would look at me like I'm dirty, but you can get away with wearing the same college logo sweatshirt everyday for a week and no one would bat an eye! :)
To add to the "reality" list (And I'm not saying I agree with this!), if you're going to college in any sort of cold-weather area, get yourself ready for some serious Ugg sightings. I went to college in Buffalo, NY and the amount of girls stuffing their character pj pants into the tops of those hideous boots was alarming. I suppose they're easy to throw on and keep your feet warm when it's snowing and below zero. Sad, but true.

Guy Faux said...

I go too school in Montreal, and most of my classmates are loaded/extremely attractive, so the swaetpants and flipflops thing doesn't work at all. I wear V-necks and pants or a skirt and typically find myself thinking I look decent (my socks match! I'm wearing underwear! I brushed my hair!) until I sit down next to the size 00 model girl in Prada kneehighs and a cashmere dress, upon which I'm shoved back to reality.

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