Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Building a college wardrobe

The summer’s winding down fast, and I don’t know a single girl who isn’t prowling their closets and running to the mall to fill in gaps they find in their wardrobes. College is the perfect time to start defining your style and building a “real” wardrobe.

A rule of thumb of mine is quality over quantity; define what you need and find the very best fitting and best quality of that item. Spend a little more, save a lot in the long run. But this is just one strategy of shopping, another is to run into mall and buy stuff that is pretty and shiny and the next week find your dress’s strap has broken… Save yourself the time, money, and frustration. Buy stuff that will last.

Anyway, I've compiled list according to my own closet and I've added wardrobe advice from my own freshman year. I hope it will be helpful to you-

Socks & Underwear – Bring lots of these. Personally I hate doing laundry, so I like to make sure I have 4 weeks worth of socks and underwear on hand. For socks I would recommend ankle-highs so you can wear them with either jeans or shorts. For underwear look for something that fits, doesn’t bulk up or leave lines, and try to match the colors up with your shirts as much as possible.

Bras- I’d recommend maybe 10 bras that fit well and are comfortable for everyday. If you’re not sure what size you are go in and get fitted, the right size bra makes all the difference to the outfit. At least one of these bras should be something that works under your dressier clothes. Also, make sure you don’t forget about sports bras and comfortable bras for around the residence halls.

4-5 Pairs of Jeans in various washes- Jeans are a college staple. If you get about 4 pairs of good-quality jeans in various washes you can rotate them. Oh and no one will notice if you wear the same jeans twice in a week, I promise. TJ Maxx is having HUGE sales right now as many college students have already left for school. I just picked up quality brands like DKNY and Lucky Jeans for $15 a pop. It was, in a word, amazing.

4-6 Basic, 100% cotton tank tops- Get a variety of different colors for layering. I recommend cotton over spandex and polyester blends simply because with pure cotton you won’t get the strange clinginess that you often do with blends. Look for something that isn’t see-through so you can wear it alone if you so choose. If you like lace keep your eyes open for tank tops that have lace edging, they look really nice when you’re layering.

At least 3 Cardigans – Personally I will be bringing about 10, but cardigans and sweaters are pretty much my middle name. Old Navy has some GREAT cardigans out right now for about $10 each.

Warm Sweaters- These are great to have if you ask me.

Formal wear- (for interviews and the like) At least 1 pair of dress pants, 1 Button-down dress shirt, and 1 pair of formal shoes, ideally black pumps since they will go with everything. The key with these dress shoes is to go for both quality and comfort, if you find the perfect pair they will last you many years. You’ll probably want a few dressy tops on hand for semi-formal events. Also, if you plan on attending many formal events during college, now would be the time to invest in a blazer or, if your in something like forensics, a full suit might be more appropriate. This can be pricy but it's an investment, especially if you're going into something like business.

A Bag- Look for a good quality handbag that will hold everything. I’d say your best bet is TJ Maxx. Go for a style and color that you can carry day or night and will last you throughout the seasons.

A backpack- Maybe it’s so obvious that you forgot to pack it? :-P

2 winter coats- I say 2 just in case you plan on getting into any major snowball fights, in which case you’ll want a spare handy in place of the drenched one. And I mention winter coats because I’m moving 5 hours and will not have a chance to go home outside of breaks. If you live closer I’d recommend picking up your coats once it gets cold to save precious closet space.

1 pair of winter boots- Look for a pair that is meant for walking, you do a lot of that in college. I found a great pair from Northface that only weighs a pound or two a boot; so they’re incredibly light but still cute and VERY warm. Plus I’m fairly sure they’ll last me all of college and beyond.

1 Rain Coat- Unless you like getting you and all of your stuff wet, bring a rain jacket and possibly an umbrella. I also have rain boots, but I’m an avid puddle-jumper.

**Keep in mind that umbrellas often direct water flowage directly onto one’s backpack. And if you’re paranoid like me, you might even consider sticking your laptop in a large ziplock inside your backpack on such days, just in case.

1 light jacket for the in-between seasons- I splurged a little and sprung for a London Fog trench coat off Overstock… I highly recommend London Fog. My mom one in college and I think someone somewhere is still wearing it. They’re cut great, water resistant, and built to last.

A pair of casual flats- It’s always nice to have another option in place of heels just in case you’re not up for them, or if you’ll have to do a lot of walking. Plus these look very cute with jeans.

Cute Sweats- These are great for wearing around the residence halls and working out, but wear with caution, you don't want to be wearing them to class a lot.

Shower Flip Flops- Unless you like feet funguses and standing in who-knows-what, don’t shower barefoot... I like Havaianas, they're a squishy sort of comfortable and they last for years.

Tennis shoes- Necessary, you’ll wear them often. I recommend Earth tennis shoes. They feel weird at first since your heels sit lower, but if you do a lot of standing or walking they’re amazing to your ankles and back, I promise. My chiropractor recommended them to me and I haven’t bought another brand since.

Slippers- optional, but cozy

Bathrobe- optional, but very very nice in the middle of the winter when you’re room’s cold and you’re all wet. Remember, you have a roommate, and she might prefer living in a climate slightly different from what you are used to. It’s always good to have warm things like robes and sweatshirts and blankets on hand to counteract such unexpected climate changes.

A random side note- Do not put a banana in your backpack, just don’t, it’s a death wish. It might seem like a good idea when you get that banana, but you will forget about that banana, and when you do you'll find yourself looking at a pile of gooey papers and a wet backpack.


  1. This is a very extensive list, I am a senior in college now and I have never and still do not own all the items listed above. As nice as it would be to have all that, I don't think I would have the space... or the funds for some of that. I feel like the most important thing to remember is to be yourself, be comfortable and study Hard!!! College is about learning first and formost! I wish you all the best! I remember how exciting that first year away was, it was the best, the hardest and totally worth it! Enjoy!

    -Senior UWM student.

  2. Thanks for your input! I completely agree that college is about studying first and foremost. It just seems like everyone I know, including myself, is using these last few days to sort through their closet and buy a few last-minute items before moving, so it seemed like an appropriate topic.

    I didn't necessarily mean it as a nitty gritty packing list, just ideas for what to look for if you're looking to build a wardrobe that will last you through college and into the real world. Many of the items you can absolutely get away without and many of the items depend on your own personal sense of style.

  3. lol Tina you and I have practically the same clothes! Too bad we're not roommates. Love your list!

  4. I second the rain boots! I don't know what I'd do walking to class without my polka-dot wellies. Nice list, thanks!

  5. No problem, glad you liked it :)...I love how fun rainy day gear is!

    Also, if anyone is bringing an umbrella be gentle with it and make sure you have a needle and thread nearby... Umbrellas are pretty useless in the wind if even just one of the wires isn't attached to the cloth.