Dressed.So Back to School Guide On Dressing In College

Dressed.So Back to School Guide On Dressing In College

Dressed.So Back to School Guide On Dressing In College


In the summer before my freshman year of college, I thought to myself, “I’m an adult now. Time to start looking like it.” I was going to find myself in college and that meant finding a style that was cohesive, good-looking, and most importantly, true to my new adult self. Every August and September, there are hundreds of posts on the internet from future students trying to achieve their own adult style.

The problem is that there are no definitive guides to style- we all have different aesthetics. I go to school in New England so my style leans more towards Barbour and riding boots than Lilly Pulitzer and heels. Despite the diversity in styles, everyone grows and tries to find their adult self. Some of the life changing lessons from college can be applied to style as well. So here are some basic suggestions on starting to find a style you’ll keep through adulthood.

1. Embrace the designers triangle

The design triangle says that you have three options: fast, cheap, and good. Unfortunately, you can only pick two. That holy grail item that looks expensive, fits great, and only costs $20 is a myth. That piece does not exist. You simply cannot have everything you want. So if you want an item that’s a cheaper price, you might have to spend a lot of time comparison shopping and checking quality. If your idea of a good shopping trip is walking into a fast-fashion megastore and walking out with 4 items for $50, you cannot be surprised if they don’t look expensive or get ripped in the wash. If you don’t want to spend the time looking for a bargain in a thrift store, then be prepared to put down more money than you’re used to for a piece that was easy to find and looks great. College is about making your own priorities, and that also applies to style.

2. Care about maintenance, fabric, and laundry

So you’ve got that new expensive shirt or some nice new slacks and you’re going to do what? Throw them in with your Target running shorts and call it a day? All that money, time, or even sheer bulk of clothing means nothing if you don’t treat them right. That cute sweater will look boxy after two washes if you don’t pay attention to the care instructions. Does that mean sacrificing sometimes? Yes. Even if I love it, I won’t buy a dress that’s dry clean only. Most college laundry rooms actually have a sink in to do handwashing in and drying racks available, making taking care of your hand-wash only items easy. If you are unsure of what temperature to wash clothes at- hot water is best for whites or very dirty clothes, warm is for clothes with colors that won’t run and sturdy fabrics and cold is for delicates and bright colors that might bleed. The thing to watch for is bad quality washing machines so follow the symbols on the tags of your clothing which correspond to laundry directions.

3. Edit and budget your wardrobe

My college dorm room was so small you could take exactly two steps from the door to the bed. College closet space is quite restrictive. In order to get everything to fit I had to donate half my wardrobe, but thankfully it was the half of my wardrobe I never wore. If you’re struggle to reduce your wardrobe, my general advice is to separate your Spring/Summer and Fall/Winter wardrobe and start getting rid of things you don’t wear or think about after a month. Donate them to charity, sell them online or ask your friends if they need anything. It’ll be good for the environment and simplify your life. No more digging through old middle school shirts to find that one blouse you wear once a week. Another exercise is to try 30 x 30 challenges where you create 30 outfits out of 30 pieces, which will help demonstrate the versatility and cohesion of your wardrobe and challenge your creativity. Once in a while, institute a no-buy period where you just don’t buy any clothes so you are forced to wear and love what you have. Rather than try to work your wardrobe around newer clothes, buy clothes that already work with what you have.

4. Look for role models and try to emulate them

We have professional mentors and sometimes life coaches, and the same applies to fashion. Observe the people around you. Whether it’s the Zooey Deschanel doppelgänger in your biology class, the punk girl down the hall, or your TA with the nice ties- observe your companions and ask them where they shop. It’s a good way to figure out where to shop to get the look you want, and maybe you’ll make a friend from it. Everyone likes a compliment and a common interest. In addition, these are plenty of resources online. Create a Pinterest board of celebrities you like. Cross reference items through Polyvore to see more options. Follow bloggers with similar aesthetics to you, and let them do the heavy lifting with their itemized wardrobes. And as always we have a kind of LinkedIn of fashion in dressed.so where ideas and where each item is from is just a click away.

5. Embrace your age and situation

College is a time to experiment and find yourself. Take a philosophy class! Get a surprising haircut! Just like we don’t walk into college with a definitive career path, you can’t expect to walk out of high school like a character from Freaks and Geeks and walk into college like Claire Underwood. College is a time for transition and you can’t give up your youth just yet. Buy those crop tops and bro tanks from Forever 21. Buy some cheap shoes for the frat party or some green hair dye for Saint Patricks Day. College is the time where we think about a career during the day then play beer pong at night. So keep that pink rave tutu among your new pencil skirts or those “Sun’s Out, Guns Out” tank top with your button-downs. Because, and I say this without irony, YOLO.


For further inspiration check out the advice and fits of these dressed.so users!



Where do you mostly shop?
APC, Acne, and Ervell (Rarely pay MSRP.)

Advice for people who want to emulate your style?
I prioritize my clothing hobby over other hobbies that cost money (like video games, for instance), prioritize what pieces you want (saving up for a pricier jacket over several smaller items), and prioritize the categories of your wardrobe. For instance, I wear basically the same pants everyday (black Uniqlo skinny jeans, even in summer) so I barely spend any money on pants. That frees up clothing money that I can use on shirts or shoes.

What advice do you have to incoming freshman?
“It’s said again and again, but take your time. When you get to school you’ll feel a rush to change everything to become a different person [but] The clothes I buy now are aesthetically very different than they were two years ago.”




1. Levi’s – 510 Sung Blue
2. Nike – Blazer Mid Suede Vintage



3. MAKR – Farm Ruck Sack
4. APC – Wool Moto Jacket



S/S Fit: http://dressed.so/post/view/51539e46c404e
F/W Fit: http://dressed.so/post/view/51539ec2215df

Where you do mostly shop?
I shop primarily online on secondary markets. For tees or other basics, I either go to Target or Uniqlo.

Advice for people who want to emulate your style?
Whatever you wear, make sure you feel comfortable in it.. [and] they feel appropriate to you. And try to make the most of as few items as you can. That’s a good thing to know how to do, living in a dorm or a small apartment.

How did you develop your style?
I realized that I felt incredibly uncomfortable wearing things like button downs under sweaters, or wearing Bucks. I constantly caught myself fidgeting with my clothes. It felt like an ordeal getting dressed every morning, and I wanted to not care and throw something on that felt like less effort, and still looked good. With trying some new things, I figured out that what I really enjoy are very simple items. Since then, I’ve invested mostly in items that could be described as “minimal,” that I find interesting, but without standing out. I learned by making mistakes, and making lots of them.





1. Reigning Champ x Club Monaco Hoodie
2. Rogue – Territory Supply Jacket in Camel
3. Rogue Territory – SK Jeans



4. 3Sixteen – 5 Panel Cap
5. APC – Bomber Jacket



S/S Fit: http://dressed.so/post/view/539f22cc15b96
F/W Fit: http://dressed.so/post/view/52d411eb49093

Where you do mostly shop?
Most of my clothes are from j. crew, madewell, loft, zara, and everlane. I have a few exciting or “statement” pieces that are really just basics with some additional element of interest. I get most of those from lower-cost designers like helmut lang or smaller ones like ovate and kaarem.

Advice to people who want to emulate you?
To people who want to emulate me, I would say, “What? Why?” All jokes aside, I would tell them that it is really helpful to have a lot of versatile basic clothes. I think everyone starts out wanting to emulate another person and then gradually changes what they want and winds up looking even cooler than they had originally planned. Do not go out and buy everything I own (or everything any of the other awesome users of d.so owns, or everything your favorite blogger owns, or whatever). The cool thing about personal style is finding things you really like and then tweaking them so that you like them even more.

How did you develop your style?
Even when I had this idea of what I wanted to look like, I had a really rough trial and error period actually executing it. Mostly for a while my thought process was “Look! A black thing! Let me spend money on it!” and I bought a lot of stuff that looked dumb. I think planning and observing first is important – like if I’m constantly thinking that I wish I had a grey skirt then I should make a note of that and buy one.





1. Ebbets x Atlanta – Crackers Ballcap
2. Everlane – Ryan Tank
3. GAP – Broken In Linen Pants




4. Madewell – Sightseer Sandals
5. J-Crew – Toothpick Jean
6. Doc Martens – 1490 Boots


snazzyfitS/S Fit: http://dressed.so/post/view/53ed5ba148e86
F/W Fit: http://dressed.so/post/view/53ed5d0744696

Where do you mostly shop?
I mainly shop at H&M, Ann Taylor Loft (they have a great petite section), Express, and Anthropologie for splurge items.

Advice to People who want to emulate you?
I would see outfits I liked on bloggers from all over the internet and try to imitate them on an individual basis.  This resulted in a closet full of contradictions and lots of clothing that really didn’t feel like “me”.  When college started I became more selective with my wardrobe, having a big clean out and focusing way more on having a cohesive style.

How did you develop your style?
My style has actually become more subtle. In High School I thought that the only way to achieve an aesthetic was to style it to the extreme. My love for the vintage and pin-up look lead me to wear some costumey outfits that I was never quite comfortable in.  While I do still love lots of vintage silhouettes I don’t do head to toe pin-up anymore.





1. Delia’s – Taylor Jeans
2. Anthropologie – Tortoise Shell Glasses
3. Old Navy – Striped Button Down




Stella7Gem | Writer
Nightwing | Editor
LadySyrupp | Shopping List
Bhoka | Graphics
Letttigre | Interviewee
 ThaiToast | Interviewee
InsatiableRealist | Interviewee
Snazzyscallywag | Interviewee

Photos by Death To Stock


Next Post:
Previous Post:
This article was written by

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>