Shorts, T-shirts, ascot, sunglasses, phone laid out on picnic table

8 Fashion Basics Students Need to Bring to College

Being intentional and fashionable on a college budget is possible if you have a good foundation. Here are eight fashion basics to have in your closet.

Whether you’re a first-year student or returning to campus, bringing a versatile wardrobe to college is a must. However, this can easily lead to overpacking. Just imagine loading a ton of clothes only to find out they don’t fit in your tiny dorm room closet. To prevent this from happening, check out this list of essential fashion items every college student needs.

1. Plain T-shirts and tank tops

There are some things you just can't live without in a dorm, and a comfy tee is one of them. It’s something you could wear every week in your daily life—from class to the gym to lounging around. Basics such as white, black, and navy are standard, but you should also go for other brighter colors like yellow and lavender to brighten up an outfit while still having the same simplicity and comfort. If your campus is balmy, make sure to bring an array of tank tops as well and opt for various colors to create different looks. Tees and tank tops can be paired with jeans, leggings, skirts, and shorts to work for just about any occasion!

2. Comfy, easy-wash sweaters and hoodies

Keep yourself cozy during autumn and winter with a couple of comfy sweaters. Plain-colored sweaters are best for mixing and matching, but designs will look good with other college fashion essentials to create more intriguing outfits. Just avoid bringing sweaters made of cashmere or wool, as these will cost you a lot of time (and money) on dry cleaning. For colder climates, hoodies are a must as well. Again, plain colors offer versatility, but if you have a favorite print or design, don’t hesitate to take it.

Two people walking on campus in casual, nice clothes on college campus
via Getty Images

3. Easily styled dresses

Dresses are perfect for times when you want to look cute or dressed up with ease. Casual and plain-colored dresses are the best because they’re easy to style with jackets and cardigans. But then again, packing one or two formal dresses wouldn't hurt. Who knows? You might need to attend an upscale function or ceremony at school; then you’ll have the perfect outfit for the occasion.

Related: Top Tips to Upgrade Your Style and Wardrobe for a New You in College

4. Various jeans and trousers

A college wardrobe is not complete without several pairs of jeans. To create varied looks, make sure to bring a few different:

  • Styles: Skinny, straight leg, flared
  • Lengths: Cropped, Capri
  • Washes: Light, dark, black

If you’re tired of wearing your usual jeans, you can always count on trousers to help you channel a sophisticated style. Tailored trousers are perfect for days when you want to look more dignified, like when you’re presenting in front of the class. Cotton chino pants, meanwhile, are great for keeping cool during sweltering days.

Group of diverse students in casual clothes sitting on stairs with phones, coffee
via Getty Images

5. Lightweight leggings and sweatpants

Some pants are stiff and unpleasant to wear. If you’re looking to stay comfy during class, be sure to bring some leggings to campus. Again, plain colors are ideal, but also bring different lengths for some variety. Students on snowy campuses should bring lined leggings as well to keep warm and cozy during the fall semester. The best thing about leggings? They’re super lightweight, so even if you bring a lot, they won’t take up a ton of space in your dresser. And whether you’re athletic or not, keep a pair (or two) of track pants in your closet. Not only are they suitable for activities like working out or hiking, but they’re central to a relaxed, comfortable style at school.

6. Season-shifting skirts and shorts

While skirts and shorts are often worn during spring and summer, these pieces can also be styled for the colder months by layering them with tights and boots. Again, pack a variety of mini, knee-length, or maxi/floor-length skirts. Plain-colored skirts are best for versatility, though striped or plaid styles are great for adding some fun. Pack denim and casual walking shorts for going out and hitting the town with classmates and roommates. Don’t forget to bring some biking or workout shorts too, especially if you plan to go to the gym or run around campus regularly.

Related: The Key Categories of Packing for College

7. Everyday shoes and bags

It’s tempting to bring all your shoes to college, but for packing purposes, limit yourself to your core supportive shoes and maybe one fancier pair. These could include:

  • Ballet flats
  • Comfy sandals
  • Sneakers or athletic shoes
  • Slippers
  • Boots
  • Heels or dress shoes

Whether you bring a laptop to class or lug heavy textbooks, you need a good bag to carry everything. A reliable backpack avoids muscle strain by distributing the weight across your back and shoulders. A midsized tote or shoulder bag is another good option for bringing a few small items to the classroom or if you’re going out with friends.

Three college students in casual clothes with bags walking on campus
via Getty Images

8. Versatile outerwear

Layering is the name of the game during the colder seasons. To keep yourself cozy and chic, be sure to add outerwear into the mix. A denim jacket is a college staple that’s perfect for a casual look, while a blazer is excellent for dressing up. A windbreaker or waterproof jacket is ideal for breezy and rainy days, while some students will need a full-on winter puffer to fight the December chill.

Related: 10 Things You Need for College in the Northeast

From tees to bags, every college student needs these key fashion items. They can be easily mixed and matched to create various styles and help you save a lot of closet space. In the end, it’ll also help you save some hard-earned money by sticking to your basics!

Looking for more advice on living your college days to the fullest? Look no further than the blogs and articles in our Student Life section.

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About Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli

Tess DiNapoli is an artist, freelance writer, and content strategist. She has a passion for yoga and often writes about health and wellness but also enjoys covering the fashion industry and world of fitness.


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