Four diverse students in nice casual clothes with bags, computers in library

How Clothes Can Boost Your Self-Confidence in College

Fashion plays a big role in many students' lives, and it can be a major source of self-comfort. Here's how you can find your style and your confidence.

Clothing can impact and embody so many facets of our lives. It can exemplify personality, camaraderie, and heritage. It can be a source of worry for students who don’t feel comfortable in their clothes. But clothing can also be the antidote to that struggle, as finding comfort, self-expression, and empowerment are all factors in boosting your confidence in college. Let’s break down exactly how clothes can boost your confidence and help you feel your very best whether you’re in class, at work, or just hanging out on campus.  

Dressing your best self in college

Your best self is a projection of where you want to be and where you’re going. You’re not there yet, but you know your destination. So dress like it! Aspirational dressing helps shift your mindset, supporting your first steps toward gaining confidence. Clothes that boost your confidence move you toward your goals. Sure, it’s a trick of smoke and mirrors, but the real effect on your confidence will amaze you!

Clothing is often seen as an extension of our personalities. It serves both certain utilitarian needs and personal identity needs. When shopping for clothing, keep in mind what will not only look good but feel good. You can build your confidence out of a comfortable closet that makes you feel good in your own skin.

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

Building a confident closet

Let’s pretend for a moment that your closet is sentient: What would it need to feel its very best? Well-fitting, stylish clothes that represent your individuality and make you feel good should cover the racks and fill up the drawers. Everything should be nicely organized for ease of use, and you’d have well-curated accessories.

Cut the clutter

We all hold onto things we should let go of—a dress that doesn’t fit anymore, old band T-shirts you never reach for, and even things that belong to exes. If you’ve heard of Marie Kondo’s KonMari declutter method, you’re familiar with the practice of not keeping anything that doesn’t “spark joy.” Go through your closet piece by piece and let go of what no longer serves you. Your campus may have donation bins or a “store” where you can drop off items that other students need.

Know your size

Sizing can be extremely difficult; you could be one size at one store and a completely different size elsewhere. Get yourself a measuring tape and acclimate yourself with the sizing charts at your favorite retailers. Prioritize the clothing that makes you feel the most comfortable. If you’re comfortable in your clothing, you are going to feel better and radiate confidence.

Find inspiration

Maybe you’re not sure where to look for fashion inspiration. Fashion guides, editorials, runway shows, the internet, and even walking around your city can help inspire your fashion journey. Put together a vision board and tape it up on your closet doors so that every time you get dressed, you’re keeping your style vision in the forefront of your mind.

Embrace your individuality

Jane Birkin (of the famous and exclusive Birkin bag) used to carry around a signature straw bag to tote all her necessities. When her bag was damaged, she brought a different one on a flight and spilled its contents all over her seat. Serendipitously, she was sitting next to Jean-Louis Dumas—the Chief Executive of Hermès. He later designed a catch-all bag for her that came to be known as the Birkin bag. The point here is, never stray away from something that speaks to you simply because you’re not sure if it’s fashionable right now. Personal style should be just that: personal.

Foster professionalism

For job interviews and internships especially, it’s important to know how to adapt your wardrobe to make what you already own look more professional. Minimal jewelry, hair pulled back off your face, and clothing that levels up your casual looks (like a tailored jacket and pants that are cropped at the ankles) can form the basic template. Corporate offices skew toward uncluttered looks that don’t interfere with the business at hand, so wear things that signal modernity, tidy respect for the protocols of business, and competence. Looking the part at an interview or internship will not only boost your confidence but may also help you get your foot in the door.

Dress for success on campus

At college, it can be tempting to just roll out of bed on the way to early classes. But the way you present yourself affects not just your confidence but the perceptions of those around you. No matter what you’re studying, upgrading your wardrobe from pajamas to something just a little more polished is simple. Trade sweatpants for leggings or dressy casual pants. Trade a sweatshirt for a tunic or collared shirt. Ditch the worn trainers in favor of simple but presentable booties or loafers. Present yourself as a serious person who’s self-aware, confident, and going places, and you’ll inspire your peers to do the same.

Related: 8 Fashion Basics Students Need to Bring to College

Other ways to boost confidence in college

Confidence can be tied to so many factors that affect different parts of your life. Your social life, the media you consume, and the people you look up to can all contribute. When you’re surrounded by negativity, you may find yourself being sucked into a trap. Avoid that with these additional comfort and confidence tips:

  • Social life: You may be on a journey to self-acceptance, but that doesn’t mean everyone is on the journey with you. If you have a close friend who’s speaking negatively about themselves, try to guide them to more mindful, positive thoughts. If you feel yourself getting sucked into negative self-talk, consider what resources you can use to help yourself and them.
  • Positive media: We look at screens all day long, and the way you spend your screen time can have a negative effect on you. Take time to understand who you follow. Only keep accounts on your feed that inspire and encourage you. You can make media work for you when you’re deliberate about what you consume.
  • Positive habits: Setting routines for self-care is a key way to boost your confidence. When you’ve cared for yourself the way you deserve to be, it shows. Simple habits like getting up a little earlier to do skin care or even hitting the gym a couple of times a week bear major fruit. When you develop positive habits, you’re claiming space for the importance of your mental and physical wellness.
  • Role models: Not everyone in the public eye is a positive role model. While you can have sympathy for them, that doesn’t mean you have to consume their content. Choose to follow role models who make you feel uplifted.

As you can see, many factors come into play when living a more fulfilling life. Choose to spend every day bringing others up and not tearing anyone down. When you think of what you wear as being an extension of yourself, you can bring confidence into every facet of your life. And when you’re able to bring that confidence into your everyday life, it shines through to others.

Related: How to Be More Confident Freshman Year of College

Clothing can be many things: Sometimes it can feel like armor, or it can feel like a form of self-expression. When you reframe the role clothing has in your life, you’ll open yourself up to so many new opportunities. Suddenly, clothes are a source of joy, inspiration, and confidence. If you are what you wear, be sure to wear something that makes you feel good.

Another great way to boost your confidence is to build skills that promote feelings of self-worth! Check out these 8 Leadership Qualities All Students Should Have to find more strength in your abilities.

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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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