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It can be overwhelming trying to figure out all the clothes you’ll need for college. You’ll need clothes for going out, for going to class, and more. And you’ll need to fit them all in your tiny dorm furniture. This post is to help you figure out what you’ll definitely want to bring and what you should leave at home. I hope I have reinforced some items you were already considering bringing, as well as provided you with some new ideas.
Tips for Deciding What Clothes to You’ll Need:
- Don’t bring two of the same thing. This means two items that have the same concept and serve the same purpose, such as two black strapless dresses.
- Keep the climate in mind. Kind of obvious. If you know you’re only going to have decent weather for two months, don’t bring a suitcase full of shorts and tank tops.
- Versatility is key. You will have limited space, so pieces that can serve multiple purposes become very valuable.
- Don’t overestimate yourself. You may have aspirations of wearing super cute outfits to class every day now that you have escaped your high school dress code. Many have tried and failed. You need to prepare for the possibility of resorting to laziness (which can still be cute btw).
Now on to the all the clothes you need to bring to college.
CLOTHES FOR GOING OUT
These are a MUST. I bought a pair of Stan Smith sneakers right before my freshman year and completely wore them out between going to class, tailgating, and going out. Having shoes with leather exteriors makes them so much easier to clean, especially when you’re obsessed with the white shoe trend. Literally just a paper towel and some water and good as new! Nike Air Force 1 shoes have also become a super popular white sneaker option this year.
I have a secret. You can wear the same pair of black jeans over and over and no one will even notice. Therefore, you’re better off buying one or two pairs of pants you really love. My favorite pair is the Topshop ripped Jamie jeans. I love that they are stretchy so they can be form-fitting and comfortable at the same time.
If you go to school in a warmer climate, you may want to pick up a few cute miniskirts. A good black skirt—whether denim, suede, or leather—is a staple you can pair with a bodysuit and black booties for a simple look. Printed skirts are also adorable and come in many different styles.
A Leather Jacket
This is an item I neglected to buy prior to starting college. BIG mistake. A leather jacket is a perfect way to dress up any outfit and will definitely make you look more mature. You should opt for a faux leather over real leather, as it is cheaper and easier to clean if something gets spilled on it. It also is practical as it will keep you warm (kinda) when you go out in the winter time. Well at least it’s better than just wearing a tank top.
Lots of Tank Tops
Tank tops are by far the most versatile items you can have in your wardrobe. They can be worn with skirts and denim shorts in the fall, or pants and a leather jacket in the winter. Everyone seems to have those little tops from Urban Outfitters, which is a good place to start, as they are affordable and come in a variety of colors. If you’re looking for something a little bit more unique, you can check out online boutiques like Nasty Gal and Princess Polly.
Chances are, you have a box sitting in your closet full of random outfits from homecoming dress-up days, dances, and more. You probably thought you would never wear any of those things again, but I’m here to tell you they have a use again! Themed parties are super common in college because, well, everyone likes to dress up. It’s not a big deal if you don’t dress to theme, but even having a few accessories makes a difference if you have them.
A Couple Dresses
If you’re planning to rush, it may be obvious that you need to bring some dresses for formals and date parties. However, there are opportunities to wear a dress outside of Greek life. Most schools will hold formals within your college, major, or class. Clubs can also organize “informal” gatherings, which are basically semi-formals. Remember, you can always borrow dresses from your friends, so don’t feel the need to bring them all.
Two Pairs of Heels
Please please do NOT bring your entire shoe collection from home. All you’ll need is two pairs of heels—one black and one nude. You may end up having to walk halfway across campus on your way to a dance, so you should consider a style that is a little more comfortable. I prefer a block heel with a platform for extra height, and I can wear these all night long.
A Denim Jacket
This can serve as a more casual option to the black leather jacket. I bought an oversized one from the men’s section at Forever 21. A denim jacket can be thrown on over almost any outfit to keep you warm, especially if you’re planning on being outside.
CLOTHES FOR CLASS
These will be a staple in your college wardrobe. Leggings can be dressed up or down, depending on your style. They are a great way to stay super comfy on your long class days, while making it look like you’re putting an effort into your outfit (as opposed to sweats, which are perfectly acceptable in my opinion).
Not only will these come in handy for your workouts, but also for everyday use. While jeans may be a moderately comfortable alternative to leggings, I do not recommend wearing denim shorts to class for four straight hours. Seriously. Plus, wearing athletic shorts makes it really easy to change if you plan on going to the gym after class.
No matter the size of your campus, you will be doing a TON of walking. My campus isn’t even that big, and I still find myself walking five miles on any given day. Running shoes will offer you support and be a great option to wear on the days you have class in that one building all the way across campus.
I kind of have a sweatshirt obsession. Hoodies, crewnecks, quarter-zips—I don’t discriminate. You can get super cute sweatshirts from the bookstore (and probably already have one your parents bought you when you visited). You can also buy vintage sweatshirts online from resale websites like Depop and Poshmark. This is nice because you can find a unique design that no one else will have, in contrast to that one logo crewneck everyone and their mother has from the bookstore. If you don’t know what I’m talking about, you will soon.
Oversized sweaters are a sneaky way to look like you’re trying to look nice, while having the same comfort as wearing a sweatshirt. They can be paired with leggings or jeans, depending on your style. Just throw on some jewelry and voila—you’re good to go.
I kind of have a thing against jeans, but I will admit there are times when you’ll need them. Maybe you’re giving a short presentation for your group project. Maybe you’re meeting your professor for coffee. Or maybe your boyfriend’s parents are coming to town and taking you out to dinner. Wearing your black jeans with rips in the thighs is probably not the first impression you want to make.
If you go to school in the Northeast or Midwest, you should plan on a decent amount of bad weather. The worst thing ever is stepping in a puddle and having your shoes soaked through for the rest of the day. Short rain boots are good because it’s less awkward if you wear them and it doesn’t end up raining. Plus, you probably won’t encounter a knee-deep puddle anyway. For snowy weather, I love my L.L. Bean boots.
This is something I wear every single day from the beginning of November to mid March. You may have gotten away with wearing more stylish, less practical jackets in high school, but you were probably only walking a couple hundred feet outside at the most. In college, you’ll definitely want something to keep you warm walking from class to class and for those late November football games (Brrr, it makes me cold just thinking about it). Canada Goose parkas are super common at my school, but you can find other options at the North Face and Eddie Bauer.
You may be seeing a common theme. Outerwear is kind of important. If you go to school in the South, you won’t need a parka but you should consider getting a decent rain jacket. While an umbrella can be good for emergencies, you’re going to want a rain jacket to actually stay dry on stormy days. I’ve had my rain jacket from the North Face for like four years now and it still works like a charm.
A Professional Outfit
This is something I had no idea I needed when I went to college. Turns out, most professors expect you to wear formal attire for presentations (not just jeans and a cute top). You can get away with a knee-length skirt or trousers and a blouse, but you’re going to end up wanting a full suit for the career fair and interviews later on. I love my suit from Ann Taylor, but you can find more affordable and casual styles at its sister store, Loft.
If you’re like me, you may see this on the college packing list supplied by your school and wonder, what the heck do people need a swimsuit for in the middle of nowhere? But, when everyone else’s moms has to ship them all their swimwear from home right before your spring break trip, you’ll be glad you brought them along.
If you’re even thinking about playing a club or intramural sport, which I highly recommend, you should definitely bring along any equipment you might need. For example, I brought shin guards, cleats, a pinny, and my stick from when I played field hockey in high school.