More than 19 million students attend colleges and universities across the country and make the transition back to school every fall. That change often includes moving into a smaller apartment, which generally has much less storage.
Finding the balance between having what you need and fitting it into your new space can often be tricky. Especially when it comes to your wardrobe! There are so many facets to being a student, you want to make sure you can dress the part for all of them, even with limited options.
Related: Custom writing service reviews from real customers. Find out what other students are saying about these essay services.
We’ve created the best guide with twelve wardrobe essentials you need to cover all your college outfit needs!
1. Comfortable Shoes
For most students, college involves a lot of walking throughout the day. First from their apartment to the campus and then all around to their various classes. Not to mention getting yourself to the events you want to attend or a job after school.
Having comfortable, but fashionable, shoes is a key to a successful college wardrobe.
Start with a good pair of tennis shoes. If you can get a pair in a neutral color with a stylish shape, you can wear them in all different settings while avoiding sore feet! Next, work on finding a pair of booties and dressier shoes. When you have comfortable shoes that look great, you’re giving yourself a solid foundation to work with!
2. Special T-Shirts
So much of college life is casual and laid-back, which means you’ll likely be drawn to wearing t-shirts on a regular basis. They work for going to class, the game, just hanging out, or an after-party.
Even though the t-shirt is the most basic closet staple, doesn’t mean they have to be boring and lame!
Choose t-shirts that are a step-up and can add some interest to your outfit. Graphic t-shirts are a great way to show your personality while staying comfortable. If you’re into anime, you can add a couple of anime t-shirts in your wardrobe to show off your otaku side. Texture or interesting materials can also elevate this closet staple to something more interesting.
3. Well-Fitting Jeans
Nothing is more of a closet essential than a good pair of well-fitting jeans. Everyone owns at least one pair of jeans, so it seems silly to be essential for cute college outfits. But the right pair of jeans can be a complete game-changer.
We recommend having a few different styles of jeans to help make your wardrobe as versatile as possible.
The key to making jeans really shine is making sure the fit is impeccable. No matter which cut you’re drawn to, proper-fitting jeans have the ability to make your whole outfit look more expensive and fashion-forward.
4. School Rep Gear
Obviously, no college wardrobe is complete without at least a few pieces that rep your school. You want to be ready to head to a game or pep rally at a moment’s notice!
Going all-in on your school colors makes the whole experience more fun. You feel more connected to the people around you and like you’re a part of something bigger. Nothing builds school pride like decking out in their colors from head to toe!
Sometimes these kinds of wardrobe extras can seem too expensive to invest in since you won’t be wearing them every day. There are a lot of ways to be creative and make your own versions through techniques like screen printing. Get more information on that from experts to see what you can come up with!
5. Professional Outfit
While there are a lot of purely fun aspects to the typical college life, there are some more serious parts as well. There are a lot of opportunities that could have an impact on your future career path, so you’ll need wardrobe pieces for that.
Chances are you’re not going to have space for a whole host of suits. So we recommend sticking with a power blazer instead. This can be added to any dress or skirt you have to make a unique, custom outfit while still looking professional. The best blazer is neutral to go with a variety of options but fits perfectly.
Having a designated outfit for college interviews helps you feel confident and ready to impress!
6. Fun Accessories
The limited space of a college apartment closet can feel stifling to your creativity when getting dressed. Accessories are the best way to spruce up any outfit without the need to store more clothing.
Think about adding things like hats, jewelry, and hair accessories to your basic shirts and jeans. They can take everything from blah to exciting with just one addition. Accessories are also a great way to stick with the constantly updating trends without spending all of your funds as well.
7. Breezy Dresses
Sometimes you want to look the part and feel cute but don’t want to put in a ton of effort. Let’s face it, a lot of college happens at night and you’re going to be tired! That’s where a nice, easy dress comes in.
Wearing a dress automatically levels up your outfit but is actually so much easier since you don’t have to make sure everything goes together. Having a few of these one-and-done outfits at the ready will come in handy more often than you think.
Not to mention how dresses are perfect college party outfits!
8. Versatile Jackets
And when it gets to be too chilly out for a dress or special graphic t-shirt, bring on your jackets! A good, versatile jacket can make it so you don’t have to have a completely different wardrobe for the changing seasons.
If you only have the budget or room for one jacket, we suggest a jean or a neutral canvas jacket. These make great additions to any other pieces of clothing without detracting or competing. They are foundational pieces that will last you for years and give you a lot of options as you move into colder months.
9. Going Out Leggings
Guaranteed, you are going to have some times where you absolutely have to go out and be presentable, but you feel like doing anything but that. Those are the times when appropriate leggings are the right choice.
Thick, high-quality leggings make it so that you look pulled together but are also fully comfortable without restrictions of jeans or a dress.
The key is finding a pair that isn’t see-through, doesn’t look like athletic wear, and that will hold their shape throughout the activity. Add a longer sweater or t-shirt with some interesting shoes and you’re ready to go!
10. Lounge Outfits
Along a similar vein, there will be times in your college experience when you just want to stay home and hang out with your roommates. Even in those times, you’ll want to look cute in case anyone drops by!
Luckily, lounge sets have become a popular wardrobe staple in the last few years. You’ll be able to find a set that makes you feel cozy and adorable all at the same time.
Don’t forget the slipper or comfy house shoes to pull the whole thing together!
11. Weather Necessities
Depending on where you’re going to school, you’ll have different weather needs to add to your closet. If you’re an incoming freshman make sure you do your research on the local weather so you can be prepared. Nothing is worse than being caught off-guard when it comes to weather gear.
If you live in a place that rains a lot, you’ll want to invest in a good raincoat and boots. Same with a place that gets a lot of snow.
Even if your new home doesn’t get a lot of extreme weather, it’s a good idea to have some warmer basics on hand just in case. No one wants to make a freezing walk to school because they don’t have a good winter coat!
12. Cute Backpack
Even though so much of the college experience is all of the fun things outside of actual school, the main purpose is to get an education by attending classes. No cute college outfit is complete without a cute way to carry all of your books.
College students can spend a great deal on their required textbooks and school supplies, so you want a way to have them available when you need to study. But definitely don’t want it to ruin your outfit either. There are so many trendy backpack options available to you, just be sure to pick one that will hold up to your load!
College Outfit Essentials for Fashion and Function
When you’re in college you want to be able to do all of the things; go to school, have a job, attend parties and sporting events, work towards your future career, and have fun with your roommates.
Having these college outfit essentials will allow you to look the part for everything while being able to fit it all into your smaller closet. The key to finding success is bringing clothing items that are versatile and work well in a few scenarios. Those pieces will be the key to managing all of your dressing needs!
If you’re in need of more fashion and beauty inspiration while creating your college wardrobe, check out our other articles today!
Iskra Banović is our seasoned Editor-in-Chief at BlueFashion. She has been steering the website's content and editorial direction since 2013. With a rich background in fashion design, Iskra's expertise spans across fashion, interior design, beauty, lifestyle, travel, and culture.