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
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, NordstromReally, 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.
Truck Jeans Stretch Wide Leg Jean, $39.50, Alloy.com
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, Forever21Really, 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!
Sandra Ingrish Stripe Pintuck Blouse, $44.90, Nordstrom
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, Delias.comReally, 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
- Colorful scarves
- Little black dress (cliche, but priceless)
- Jewelry, jewelry, jewelry!