20 Clothing Essentials For Your College Wardrobe

As someone who loves fashion, cutting down my wardrobe can be pretty difficult when it comes time to pack up for school—third times the charm, right? Trust me, you’re not going to need as much as you think you are. If you bring too many clothes it can get frustrating because they just sit in your room and take up part of your already minimal space. To help you out, here are 20 clothing items that you absolutely need — and none that you don’t — for your college wardrobe.

20 Clothing Essentials for Your College Wardrobe

1. A Good Pair Of Jeans

I probably wore jeans every day of my freshman year. You’re going to want to bring at least 4 pairs of jeans, that fit you well, to keep in your college wardrobe. Any pair that you don’t wear anymore should be left behind at home. My go-to are dark-washed skinnies, but I recommend that you bring whatever cut and color that you feel most comfortable in. I’d bring at least one pair of high-waisted jeans to pair with a crop top for an easy outfit to go out on the weekend in. My favorite stores to look for some sturdy jeans in are MissguidedPretty Little Thing and boohoo.

I love this jeans outfit!  I love this jeans outfit!

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2. Denim Shorts

A couple pairs of denim shorts will also come in handy when the weather is still warm in the Fall, and to hang out in the dorms.

I love this denim cutoff shorts outfit!   I love this denim cutoff shorts outfit!

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3. Leggings

If I wore jeans every day of freshman year, then I definitely wore leggings every day of sophomore year. I was super late to the game on leggings, but I can’t live without them now. If you’re like me and wear leggings often, you’re going to want to bring a bunch of pairs with you to college. Leggings are extremely versatile and can be worn with almost anything to create an awesome outfit (as long as you wear something long enough over them and always check the camel toe situation…). You can wear basic leggings, but also prints and leather/denim ones! Find tons of basics and leggings for low prices.

I love this casual leggings workout outfit!

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4. Basic Tops

With limited storage and closet space you’re going to want to make the most of your wardrobe. Basic tops in neutral colors like white, black, and gray give you so many options to work with. Bring different cuts — tank top, V-neck, long sleeved, and t-shirts in each of these colors to stretch your closet even further.

This basic casual outfit is so cute

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5. Professional Outfit

This is totally more than one piece of clothing, but it’s a single outfit, so just bare with me! I don’t care what your major is — you need to be able to look like a professional at any time, especially when you start interviewing for internships and jobs. Even as a freshman, you may be required to dress up for presentations, and to attend a conference or networking event. Keep a crisp white button up or blouse and some nice pants at the back of your college wardrobe.

This professional outfit is so cute

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6. Sweatshirts

If you don’t have a hoodie with your school’s name and logo on it then do you really go to that college? A sweatshirt and leggings is the easiest outfit to go to class in. You’re going to want something super comfortable to lounge in your room in or wear on late nights in the library — a sweatshirt is a college wardrobe must have in these situations. Forever21 has tons of cheap sweatshirts and hoodies.

I love this Adidas hoodie!

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7. Crop Tops

I didn’t figure out how to wear a crop top until I got to college and saw everyone else wearing them out on the weekend. Some people are a little scared off by the idea of showing off their stomachs, but you can easily wear a crop top more conservatively. Pair your favorite crop top with some high-waisted jeans or shorts for a more casual look or dress it up for a night out by wearing it with a skirt. If you have a cropped sweater you can layer than on over a maxi dress for a comfortable, relaxed look. For the perfect cropped tops check out boohoo and lulu*s.

This white crop top and jeans is such a cute summer outfit!

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8. Day-to-Night Item

Your schedule can load up fast at college. One day you may just have class from 12 to 1 and on another your whole day will consist of classes, meetings, and homework. Then someone will invite you to come out right when you’re done with your night class and you won’t have time to change. It’s a good idea to keep a day-to-night piece in your college wardrobe for these occasions – just switch from flats to heels and add a cute necklace and you’re done!  I like to have a simple, versatile dress or romper that I can dress up or down depending on how my day looks.

This slip dress is perfect for staying casual or getting dressed up!

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  9. Cardigans & Sweaters

Depending on your style, the type of cardigans and sweaters you bring to school with you will be different, but nonetheless, it’s still a necessity for any college wardrobe. It doesn’t hurt to own a couple different cardigans so you’re not stuck ready to go out looking for one in your (messy) dorm room. A cheap Forever21 cardigan is perfect for dorm room parties (where all the coats will be thrown in a giant pile on someone’s bed). If you can’t find it at the end of the night it’s not a major loss as opposed to an expensive Northface jacket.

This cardigan outfit is so cute and cozy!

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10. Scarves

Having a few scarves in your arsenal will really help to extend your college wardrobe. Scarves in bright colors and different patterns will bring new life to a t-shirt and sweater combo — for every scarf you wear, it looks like a totally different outfit. On chillier days in the fall, having a scarf on allows you to add a little more warmth to your outfit without any bulk. You can get some cheap scarves at Charlotte RusseRomwe or Forever21.

I love this multicolor scarf!

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11. Hats

If you live in a cold state, you will need a couple of winter hats to get around campus. You will most likely lose some, so no need to get anything too fancy – you can stick to Forever21. If statement hats fit you, then they are an amazing way to completely change an outfit, and bring out your personal style.

This brim hat is perfect with this fall outfit look!

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12. Mini Skirts

Bring your favorite black skirt with you to school as one of your go-to clothing items. A  high waisted skirt  and a crop top is a perfect outfit to go out, while a maxi skirt and a tee works great to go to class. While dresses are great to look put together with minimal effort, skirts allow you to have so many more options for different clothing combinations.This suede mini skirt is so cute

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13. Jacket for Going Out

You’ll need a few different jackets at school for the winter, spring, and fall but you’re also going to want to have a jacket that you don’t care so much about. Pick up a cheaper jacket that you’re not super invested in to wear out on the weekends. If someone grabs your jacket by accident or you lose it while you’re out then you won’t be too bummed out about it. Go with something neutral or a color that you wear often so that this jacket doesn’t ever clash with any of your outfits.

This leather jacket outfit is so cute!

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14. Flannel & Chambray Shirts

A worn flannel shirt is perfect for an extra layer when the weather isn’t too hot or cold. I have a thicker flannel specifically for this purpose that I use as a jacket in the spring and fall. Pair a flannel with a vest and riding boots for the quintessential fall outfit or wear it oversized to lounge around in the dorms with your friends. Chambray shirts are another college wardrobe essential because they look great with black leggings and tan boots for another go-to Fall outfit.

I love this chambray shirt outfit!   This plaid flannel shirt outfit is so cute!

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15. Boots

Riding boots: I don’t think I know a single college girl who doesn’t have at least one pair of riding boots, which have become the focal point of any Fall look. Invest in a good pair of riding boots (in black or tan) at Nordstrom or DSW, then get a cheaper pair at Charlotte Russe for rainy days around campus.

These lace up riding boots are so cute

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Rain boots: Unless you live in sunny California, you need a pair of rain boots. They might be a bit bulky but you will be happy you packed them when it’s time to walk to class in a torrential downpour. Some of us swear by Hunter boots to look stylish on rainy days. Others will prefer a cheap pair from Charlotte Russe or Target.

I love this casual rainy day outfit with the hunter boots!

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16. Tights

Black opaque tights are a staple in my closet, and should be for any girl’s college wardrobe. Pair these tights with a cute skirt, cardigan, and some boots for the perfect spring and fall look. When the winter comes around, wear a pair of tights under your jeans for some extra warmth or grab a pair of fleece lined tights to pair with your dresses and skirts.

This casual black dress with the tights is such a cute outfit

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17. Spandex

I feel like spandex shorts make my life so much easier. Whenever I have spandex on I’m less worried about my dress riding up from rubbing against my backpack or the inevitable moment that my skirt gets tucked into my underwear. Obviously, I’m still embarrassed in these situations, but I feel a little bit better knowing that everyone I just walked past didn’t see the bottom of my cheeks. My favorite place to pick up a pair of spandex is Forever 21 because they’re so cheap and comfy.

These Nike Pro spandex shorts make a cute workout outfit!

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18. LBD & Cute Dresses

You need a little black dress and a couple of cute dresses to go out to parties. Also bring an appropriate dressy outfit in case you go to dinner to someone’s house or to an internship/job event. LuLu*s has an amazing selection for dresses and the quality is always great. For frat parties and dorm parties, a couple of cheap options from Romwe or Forever21 will be enough and you won’t care if you spill punch all over it.

This little back dress is so cute with the back detailing!

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 19. Slippers

You’re probably not going to want to walk barefoot around you dorm or hall. I know it’s your own personal living space but there’s still something skeevy about that carpet. You’re going to need to have a pair of slippers that are easy to wear when you’re doing homework or hanging out in your room with friends. Whenever I feel too lazy to put on real shoes, I head to class in my cozy moccasins instead.

This pajama outfit is so cute with the slippers!

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20. Cross-body Bag

A small cross-body bag has been a necessity for me since I’ve come to college. This holds everything you need – keys, student I.D., a little bit of cash, and your phone — without you having to fumble around trying to carry it all yourself. Bring this bag with you when you’re just running to the dining hall or when you’re going out to a party on the weekend. I like to throw this bag in my backpack when I go to class so I have everything I need in one easily accessible place and not lying at the bottom of my bag.

This look is so cute with the crossbody bag and ballet flats!

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