Last summer I did a lot of research on university. I read countless articles on dorm life, searched every corner of the internet for information about college fashion, and scrolled through Pinterest for hours, pinning outfit inspiration for the year. Clothes had always been important to me, and I wanted to know what the fashion expectations would be like in university as apposed to high school. While I found some really helpful articles, many of them catered to universities with a different atmosphere than my own, and as I went through my first year, I realized that much of what I had read, did not apply at my school.
Because I go to school in a big city, student’s are rarely seen walking around in their pjs or workout shorts and oversized t-shirts (unless their coming back from the gym). Some schools value comfort above all else, but I love the fact that being in an urban centre pushes people to dress up everyday of class (yes, even for exams)! Girls wear makeup, and carefully put together outfits everyday, and guys do the same. While it might seem exhausting to some, I appreciate being surrounded by people who look good and prioritize their appearance, even during stressful times of the year.
So, I’ve decided to start a little series on University Fashion from a big city school point of view, and my first topic is about making that jump from a high school wardrobe to a university one.
As a kid growing up, there was no better time for me than back-to-school. Sure it sounds odd, but it was the end of summer, new adventures were on the horizon, and my parents would take me shopping just for school supplies and clothing for the new year. While some of the excitement has washed away, back-to-school remains one of my favourite times of the year, and buying new things to prepare for it is something I (and probably most people) still do.
In high school, my style was quite different from what it is now. I was a fan of bright colours and belted dresses. Big colourful necklaces and bright patterns. As my first year progressed, my style changed drastically. Classes were busy, and when I wasn’t in a lecture, I found myself in the library or a lab. I still wanted to look put together, but no longer had the time (or energy) to create the more elaborate outfits I’d worn in high school. Moreover, I found I no longer identified with that type of clothing at all. So, without even realizing it, my personal style became more minimalistic and based on the principles of a capsule wardrobe.
For those of you who have never heard about a capsule wardrobe, I suggest you google it and read up, because it’s total gold! Essentially, the premise is to pair down your closet to a set number of items, all of which can be worn and styled together. While I am not yet ruthless enough to take my wardrobe down to the numbers suggested in some capsule wardrobes (ranging between 15-35 pieces of clothing), I’ve adopted some of the same principles and it has really affected the way I dress and see fashion.
Bellow, you’ll read about how I suggest transitioning your wardrobe from a high school student, to a sort-of-adult student, and I hope you take away and apply some of the techniques I use in your own closet!
Clean Out Your Closet — The first step in transitioning your wardrobe from high school to university, is cleaning out your closet. This step might take a while, but if you dedicate an afternoon to the task and turn on some good music, I promise it’s really fun!
First off, take everything out of your closet, and I mean everything! Lay them out on your bed, in the living room or on the floor and take a minute to think about each piece. Separate them in to three piles: keep, donate, sell. If you haven’t worn it in a year, it doesn’t fit well, has holes you can’t fix, is the wrong colour, or is one of those impulse buys you made and never wore, out it goes! It’s really hard to be ruthless with your closet, but the more times you go through it (I typically do this four times a year, or more if I feel I need to) the easier it becomes to separate things you adore and wear over and over again, from those you don’t. Don’t be afraid to keep a few pieces you only wear for certain occasions. Wardrobes are made up of basics, but you also need some statement pieces to fill it out.
As you go through your closet take note (like physically write down) what styles you love, what colours you tend to buy and what shapes fit you best. This list will help you in the next phase of your closet makeover!
Know What Works — I’ve mentioned this in the step above, but we are all different shapes and sizes, so it’s incredibly important to know what suits you! A black body con dress might look awesome on one person and not so great on another. That doesn’t mean you’re what isn’t working, it just means you need to find your shape.
Knowing what works on your body is especially important when it comes to pants and dresses. If you have a pair of skinny jeans because they’re trendy but never wear them because they just don’t fit right, why keep them around? Invest in pieces and shapes that make you feel your best and are things you find yourself consistently reaching for. While it’s totally fine to experiment with different looks, it’s nice to have a basic you can fall back on.
Choose a Colour Pallet — A lot of you might find this step a little bit odd, but allow me to explain. It’s common knowledge that certain colours work on certain people while others don’t, and if you want to build a wardrobe where you can mix-and-match everything in your closet, it’s helpful if you stick with a general colour scheme. This will help you get the most out of your wardrobe, since everything can be worn together, so you’ll have a pretty large selection of possible outfits.
First, choose a few basic colours which you find yourself gravitating to again and again (mine are blue, black, white, and beige) and then choose a few colours for those statement pieces (mine change with the season, but tend to be pinks, red and canary yellow). Your colour pallet is not the end all be all of course. If you find certain things that deviate from your basics but are still styles are shapes that flatter you, don’t be afraid to add them to your closet. As I said before, while your wardrobe should mainly be filled with basics, you need statement pieces to round it out and tailor it to your personality!
Plan — Now that you know your shapes, styles and colours, you can go shopping and use these criteria to help you buy items that you’ll love to wear. Don’t go crazy with shopping right away though. Try out your new, smaller closet for a few weeks to see what works and what doesn’t. At the end of this trial period you might want to get rid of some other pieces, and you can make a more thoughtful list of the things you’d like to add or replace before heading out to do any major spending.
This is the point in your closet makeover where you can start planning your spending. You can choose items you’d like to splurge on (like a new purse or winter coat) or others that aren’t as necessary. This might seem like overkill, but as someone who is known to make a ton of impulse purchases, planning what I want to buy has been really helpful for me, and is a great way to make sure you’re staying in your budget.
Another plus is that you’re essentially making a wish list, so the next time your parent’s ask you what you want for Christmas or your birthday, you’ll actually have something concrete to give them!
Invest In Basics (but don’t go crazy) — We are but lowly university students, so this next step has to be taken with a grain of salt. Basics are so important. A fantastic pair of jeans, white blouses, and little black dresses are items that can be styled millions of ways and mixed and matched with most things in your closet.
So many posts I’ve read about wardrobe basics emphasize splurging on these items and making sure that they’re the best quality you can afford, but I’ll be honest with you, I don’t exactly think that’s realistic for students. University is expensive enough with crazy tuition and living costs. You don’t need to add expensive basics to your list. Once you’re settled in a paying job post-grad, it makes more sense to start investing in pieces from higher end brands, but until them, buying your basics from places like Forever 21, The Gap (my go to store for jeans) or Old Navy is more than ok.
If you’re using a spending plan like I mentioned above, splurging might be more feasible, but curating a wardrobe full of these higher end basics will take longer. It all has to do with your priorities and what you’re comfortable with at this point in your life!
My go to basics include: dark wash skinny jeans, light wash boyfriend jeans, white blouses, black blouses, a little black dress, a little white dress, motorcycle jacket, jean jacket, striped long sleeve top, trench coat, white button down, and a white t-shirt. Though my closet is significantly larger than this (I have a slight clothing obsession) these are the pieces I often build an outfit off of (and they’re all endlessly versatile)!
Be True to You — This is probably one of the more important points of this post, and at the same time, it might be one of the most difficult to implement. Trends come and go, but your personal sense of style is forever! It can be daunting, especially in a time in your life where you are constantly meeting new people and doing new things, to fully embrace the style that you feel the best in. There’s so much pressure from the media to look and dress a certain way and when our personal style doesn’t exactly line up with what we see in the magazines, it can be hard to stay confident and rock what you like.
If there’s anything I’ve learnt in my life, it’s that it really doesn’t matter what people think, and this is especially true when it comes to what you wear on a day to day basis! If you like a certain trend, rock it! But don’t feel you have to just because every celebrity is seen wearing the same thing. Be uniquely yourself (which is so much harder than it sounds) and I assure you, you’ll be rewarded!
Accessories Make All The Difference — Shoes, purses, jewelry, scarves, hats, and sunglasses. These are the things that can ultimately make (or break) an outfit. You can wear a simple jeans and t-shirt look and then style it four or five different ways just by switching up which accessories you use!
Call me a stereotype, but I can’t help myself, I LOVE shoes…and purses, and jewelry, and scarves, and hats, and sunglasses…but especially, shoes. There is so much potential in a good pair of shoes. They can dress up an outfit, or make it more casual. A spunky pair can add personality to the simplest of dresses, or take the edge off of something a little more risqué. Shoes, in short, are a fashionista’s secret weapon!
There are of course the basic shoes you should have in your closet, like sneakers, flats and pumps (I think I might have to make a post on this at some point), but I love shoes, because they provide a perfect opportunity to add a little je ne sais quoi to a look. They provide a perfect chance to be adventurous! So, while there are the obvious basics, I like to go for shoes that are a little different, shoes that are brightly coloured, or have fringes etc. These often serve as the statement piece in my outfit, and are so fun to play around with.
All this to say, that accessories (especially shoes for me) are your chance to play around. Don’t stick to just the basics here, go for things that you love, things that are quirky and a little different. This is what will mark your personality on an outfit and give you a chance to be creative and playful in your closet. Patterns are great for shoes, so are metallics and bright colours. They serve to add dimension to the basics we talked about above. Anyone can wear jeans and a t-shirt, but making jeans and a t-shirt interesting and fashionable, is all in the way you accessorize, and no-one accessorizes quite like you do!
Learn The Joy of Thrifting — Ah, thrifting, my favourite pass time. As a kid, my mother and I frequented Good Will and Value Village, on the hunt for unique pieces and good deals. We always found something, and to this day, thrift shopping is my favourite way to shop. It’s good for the environment, is usually better for your wallet, and the whole hunt for something spectacular is way too much fun!
Thrifting is sometimes seen as taboo in our consumer culture. Buying second hand clothes and accessories is often looked down on, people tend to want brand new items. I however, strongly believe that thrifting is the way to go. You often find really unique pieces (vintage sweaters or dresses) and your creative side gets a work out! As a student, thrifting is especially important because of our general lack of funds, and honestly, hunting through a second hand store is a great way to work off school anxiety.
Make Room For Business Wear — While it’s likely you won’t be working an office job until after post-grad, it’s important to start making room in your closet for versatile business wear pieces. You don’t have to go crazy here (a fancier white blouse, black pencil skirt and blazer will do just fine) but as job interviews and internships do come up, you’ll have to be able to dress the part!
Make sure that these pieces are easily integrated in to the rest of your wardrobe so that they aren’t just hanging in a corner of your closet waiting for Google to call you in for an interview. A blazer should pair just as easily with a t-shirt and jeans as it does with your blouse and slacks, and your pencil skirt should be able to do double time as a work place staple and dinner date statement!
Essentially, when all this advice is taken together, your wardrobe should become smaller, but more versatile. You’ll be able to make more outfits out of less pieces, and because these pieces are all ones you love, you’ll look great no matter what. As a student, life gets crazy hectic, and sometimes picking out an outfit for the day is daunting because we don’t have the energy or time to thoughtfully put something together. If your wardrobe is only full of pieces you love, that work together, choosing a killer outfit takes no time at all, and you’ll feel comfortable in the styles and shapes you love.
Personally, my style has evolved to be more minimalistic and simple. I focus on adding personality through interesting shapes and accessories and tend to wear the same three or four colours every day. Someone else’s capsule-esque wardrobe might be entirely different, focusing on bright colours and patterns. Either way, if you love what you’re wearing, that’s all that matters!
So this post was incredibly long and detailed, almost like an essay about closets, but I enjoyed writing it so I hope you enjoyed reading it (and hopefully you learned something or got some ideas about how to work with your wardrobe).
It is so incredibly hot today in Portugal, but I hope you’re all enjoying your summer, and are having a lovely day!