Outfits for College

I’ve been getting a lot of questions about specific outfits to wear while at school. I know a lot of college campuses are very different in terms of what’s “normal” attire for class. At some schools it’s completely socially acceptable to show up in baggy shirts and athletic shorts. Every school differs. Georgetown (from what I gather) was in the minority in terms of what people wore to class. I’m not kidding, pretty much everyone gets dressed (like really dressed, not just pajamas or workout gear) for class. Unless you were on a sport’s team, sweatpants in class was pretty much unheard of.
While I do believe you should dress the way you want to, I always perform better when I feel great. Simply putting together a cute outfit can turn around an otherwise “blah” day. In my opinion, there’s a fixed time associated with getting dressed in the morning. It’s worth the extra three minutes to wear a cute skirt instead of running shorts and a blouse instead of a shirt better suited for sleeping in.
(I mean, honestly, I can’t think of many things more embarrassing than being in pajamas in public.)
The Library Look
Whenever I went to the library, I knew I was in for the long haul. I’d pretty much expect to spend at least four hours, but more like six-eight camped out in some quiet nook. The library, in my opinion, means business. I did make sure that I was comfortable in the library since I knew I would be spending so much time in there. But comfort doesn’t necessarily mean you have to look sloppy.
Libraries are also notorious for being freezing. (Who’s seen the episode of Law & Order called “Hothouse”? Just in case you were wondering… it’s my favorite ever.) Wearing layers and long pants are pretty much essential for comfortable studying. I always liked to wear my favorite pair of skinny jeans. They were basically like leggings (aka comfortable) and looked great with whatever top I was in the mood for wearing. Plus, jeans don’t show coffee stains… I would know.
The Class Look
Again, just because an outfit looks super cute and put together doesn’t mean it took forever to get dressed in the morning. Wearing button ups is an instant way to look like you spent thirty extra minutes getting ready. They’re easy to wear and just look good. I wore button ups to class all the time. Roll the sleeves up once for a cut, chic look. Roll the sleeves two or three times for a comfortable “oh what? this old thing?” look. Pairing with a bright skirt will make you feel like you’re on your A-game (literally) all day long. Accidentally overslept? French braid your hair, wear your geek chic glasses, slip into jeans, and roll the sleeves up on a loose fitting button up. Bing, bang, boom.
The Presentation Look
Is there anything more nerve-wracking than presenting a project in front of a class. Even though I am a pretty good public speaker, I still get horrible nerves. Especially when I’m speaking in front of my peers! Leading up to the presentation, I would always be super preoccupied doing last minute run throughs, sprucing up the final power point, and numbering my flash cards… The last thing I needed to worry about was how I looked! Avoid being “that girl” who shows up to class in a bandage dress and a blazer!!! (Just putting a blazer over a dress does not make it more appropriate.) Classic pencil skirts and a button down is all it takes to look professional. Wear minimal jewelry and low heels for a clean look. Don’t let your clothes distract from your presentation or take away from all your hard work.

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M. Michelle

So true! Clothing standards definitely vary by school. I'm very into button-ups so now I have to find bright skirts to pair them with for class. Thanks for planting the seed!


Carly, I love your glass frames you have been wearing lately. Could you please share the brand and style? I noticed you provided a link for glasses but I wasn't sure if that is where yours came from. Thanks!


I really wish those outfits were acceptable at my school! Everyone pretty much ostracizes you if you don't wear workout clothes.


People on my campus are generally more laid back but you get a good mix of everything. The library look is what most people wear to class. In the winter you see more and more sweat pants around.


I love all three outfits! I like to dress up to class everyday. It is VERY RARE that you will ever see me in workout clothes in class (read, finals week). But some kids at my school wear Pjs and I have no idea why! I just can't imagine!! Even if you're running late, throwing on jeans and a shirt is better than pjs!

Portuguese Prepster

UVA has the same culture of generally dressing for class. You'll see girls in Norts a t shirt but that's about as casual as things get. Love your library suggestions-very similar to what I wear and your right..It's always freezing!!


As a former college student now three years removed, I see both sides of this spectrum. I often threw on the norts/sorority-tee combo because it was so hot and humid (as you know), and trekking across UF's large campus sometimes felt like a mini workout. I could not deal with the thought of putting together a nice outfit to only sweat in it, and sit in class that way. Plus, we had soo many tees which I have now recycled or donated. Who knows what the girls wear today, though. Also, on a college clothing budget, I put my funds towards going-out clothes, trips, events, etc.

Now, in the real world, I look back and can't believe I wore that all.the.time. I only wear gym shorts when working out, and haven't worn a sorority-tee in ages. That comes with having a real budget and income, most likely.

Mackenzie {Design Darling}

The best part with all three of these outfits is you'll find a time and place to wear them after graduation! The first look is pretty much my uniform for fall (and winter with boots). Love, love, love! xx

Katherine Diane

I love all three looks. I hate not feeling put together, even in the library. My school is full of gym clothes and PJs and I wouldn't be caught dead in public in my PJs unless I'm sick. 😉


couldn't agree more with the presentation look. and really, it's crazy what people qualify as business professional these days!! bravo, for keeping it real 🙂


One of my high school teacher's brothers (who is also one of my prof.'s son's) was a writer for Law and Order for quite a while and I'm pretty sure he wrote that episode 🙂


Cute outfits, but not at my super large university. You do so much walking and sweat. I would hate going to class all sweaty in these clothes. I'll stick to my cute athletic wear 🙂

Julia D.

"Comfort doesn't necessarily mean you have to look sloppy." SO TRUE! It seems so obvious, but is something that people seem to overlook, like it is a choice between being cute or being comfortable. The clothes you wear should be a reflection of who you are or want to be and since THAT is something you should be comfortable with, so should your clothes. Coincidentally, the library outfit is also my favourite (even though they are all gorgeous). I really love these posts!