Closet Staples Every College Student Needs

Closet Staples Every College Student Needs

Whether you’re a freshman spending your first year in a dorm, a senior living off-campus, or a non-traditional student commuting from work to class, building a wardrobe of versatile clothing staples is a smart move. With your focus on education, and well, the rest of your busy day-to-day, why spend precious time worrying about your outfit? Stock your closet with well-made, durable pieces that will last four years and beyond.

Basic Tees

We all have a drawer full of T-shirts that range from oversized to “shrunk in the wash and should have been purged three years ago.” But we’re not talking about those relics of sports teams and school outings past — we’re talking about well-fitted, 100% cotton wardrobe building blocks. Every college student needs a handful of neutral women's T-shirts to jumpstart their daily look.

In the spring and summer months, a basic tee can stand alone. Tuck a crisp white T-shirt into high-waisted jeans or shorts; pair a heather gray tee with bike shorts or a simple skirt. As the weather cools, pair T-shirts with cardigans, button-ups, flannels, or denim jackets for a layered look. Classroom temperatures are notoriously difficult to regulate, so dressing in layers is also a practical survival tool in a lecture hall that suddenly grows too hot or too cool.

Chambray Shirt

A chambray shirt is the “new cardigan,” perfectly suited to play the role of a stylish cover-up. While chambray resembles denim and is available in a range of washes, it’s lighter and softer to the touch than your favorite pair of jeans. Wear a chambray shirt over a graphic tee and leggings for a casual feel, or over a summer dress for a more feminine fit. For the perfect vintage vibe, tuck a buttoned-up chambray into jeans or corduroy pants. The garment’s lightweight construction offers the right amount of coverage for seasonal transitions without sacrificing style.

Flannel Shirt

With roots in workwear, flannel brings a dose of practicality and authenticity to your look. Flannel shirts are cozy, comfortable, and can double as outerwear in spring and fall. Pair with leggings, joggers, jeans, overalls — you name it. From the lecture hall to the hiking trail, a quality flannel shirt is ready for anything.

Cashmere Sweater

We know what you’re thinking. “Cashmere on a college student’s budget?” But hear us out! Splurging on a nice women's cashmere sweater is an investment that will certainly pay off over the course of your college career. This sweater will be your go-to look for class presentations, advisor meetings, job interviews, and date nights. A cashmere sweater and pencil skirt combo? You’ll be unstoppable in any professional setting!

Denim Jacket

When it comes to versatile outerwear, it doesn’t get much better than a classic denim jacket. Most varieties are lightweight enough to incorporate into your daily look like you would a sweater or cardigan. For enhanced warmth and true outdoor coverage, check out fleece-lined options that can be worn well into the fall season. Available in a wide range of washes and fits, denim jackets aren’t one-size-fits-all garments — find the jacket that best suits your personal style.

Denim Bottoms

Blue jeans (whether or not they’re actually blue) are an essential part of any college closet. Our only rule? They have to actually fit. And we won’t be listening to any excuses as to why you’re holding onto a pair of pants that haven’t properly worked for your body or your lifestyle since 2012. So, whether you choose a dark wash or a light wash, a skinny leg, or a straight leg — take the time to try on women's jeans in-store and be honest about what works. If you don’t love ’em, you won’t wear ’em.

OK, now that the tough love portion is out of the way, here are our recommendations. Number one: High-waisted denim is back and you should absolutely give it a go. Wear with cropped sweatshirts or T-shirts for a casual, slightly retro look. Or, tuck in regular-length sweaters and flannels to highlight the jeans themselves. Number two: Flares and bell bottoms, baby! While skinny jeans will probably stick around, flared options are also making a bit of a comeback. Avoid long, tunic-style tops with flared jeans; instead, stick to shirts that fall around the waistband to keep your silhouette streamlined.


Dresses almost feel like cheating — one item of clothing and you’re ready to go. For those mornings when you really don’t have time to think about clothes, a simple T-shirt dress is a lifesaver. Colorful, patterned summer dresses transition nicely from class to happy hour at the local college bar. A few dresses in your closet can go a long way; layer your favorites with a chambray shirt, cardigan, or jean jacket for more fashion mileage.


You may think you’re not the spring break type, but you never know! Having a swimsuit on hand will save you the trouble of last-minute shopping if the need arises. Keep a swimsuit in your closet and be ready for day trips to the lake or backyard sunbathing.

Winter Coat

On every college campus, you will find one student wearing five sweatshirts at once, instead of investing in a quality winter coat. Don’t be that person! Especially if you intend to walk or bike to class, you’ll want to be protected from the elements. A well-made winter coat should get you through four years of campus commutes, and then some.

Staples for the Win

College life can be overwhelming, but your closet doesn’t need to be. Investing in timeless pieces that fit well makes dressing for the day a breeze. Mix in trendy accessories, like scarves and jewelry, to keep your look fresh without spending a lot of money on clothing styles that might not last. Now, don’t you have some studying to do?


Related Articles