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How to Dress to Success: A Guide for the Broke College Student

This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at Hamline chapter.

They say that you should dress for success, but dressing nicely (or decently) while in college often gets put on the backburner with each ongoing day of the semester. However, dressing well isn’t just for those who have the time or for those who have the money.

Here are five easy tips to learn how to present your best self to the world:

1) Find Your Style:

Once you figure out what looks and feels like you, getting dressed in the morning and feeling good about it will become a breeze. The easiest way to do this is by figuring out what your staple of clothing is. This should be 1-2 things that you already wear most often (or want to wear more), and should also be something you are comfortable and confident in. This  could be button-down shirts, scarves, cardigans, or baseball caps. Once you figure this out, work on incorporating a select few different colors or styles of these staples. After that, it’s all about adding different things everyday to your signature item to create subtle variations of outfits. Once you get this down, all of your outfits will have a touch of consistency and personal flair. That, my friend, will be your style.

2) Create Balance in Your Outfit:

The best outfits are the simplest yet most versatile. Balance is key to everything in life. Are you looking like you rolled out of bed? Make that plain colored t-shirt pop by adding a jacket or blazer with a fun geometric print. Are you looking too “formal” in that dress? Dress it “down” by throwing on an oversized sweater on top and cinching  it with a belt at your waist. Easy. As. Pie.

3) Style Your Outfit Around 1 Piece:

No need to be overwhelmed with your closet. Don’t overthink it. Pick one article of clothing and put it on. Black jeans? Okay, now which shirt will look good with those jeans? A maroon t-shirt? Okay, now what will bring out the maroon color of your shirt? A gold accessory? Now add a cream-colored sweater to bring together the warm tones of the gold accessory and the maroon shirt. Then throw your hair in a quick ponytail, put on your favorite boots and maybe a touch of tinted lip balm and you’re out the door in 10 minutes.

4) Shop in your Mom’s Closet:

You can take this as literally as you like. What I mean is see if you can borrow or exchange things from others; it could be a friend, a sibling or your mom if you really want to. Even if it’s a funky-patterned scarf or a dainty necklace, a simple new addition to your wardrobe can make all of your usual outfits look like something new.

5) Learn to work with things that are too big/too small:

This may help with #4 above. Trust me, you don’t need everything you wear to fit you like it was made for you. Oversized and even undersized clothes can still add a lot to your wardrobe. You just have to get a little creative.

If a shirt is too big, wear a belt around your waist and scrunch excess material to the back, then throw on a flowy cardigan over it to hide your secret.

Make oversize in your style. Sleeves too long? Fold them up to your elbows and call it your thing. Skinny jeans too long? Try this trick:


Grab a section of the excess material from both sides of the leg. You can do this by either laying the jeans on a flat surface, or by simiply wearing them and grabbing the jeans from two sides around your ankle.


Bring up and tuck the excess material neatly underneath the section you just folded


Then reach underneath the fold and pull out the bottom hem just until the stitching is visible


Pants technique photos by Sabrina Majid.

Ta-da! You have successfully shorted your pants and  created the illusion of a perfect hem without a tailor. You’re welcome.

Shirt too short? Throw on a loose flowy tank top underneath of a flattering pattern/color, and suddenly you’ve custom-made a new personalized top. Jeans too short? Make it look intentional. Role them up a few times and show off your ankles with a pair of low-rise socks and sneakers. Or if it is too cold for that (isn’t it always?)… throw a pair of knee-high socks over them and long boots. Boom. No one will know.

Life is not just about looks. However, how you feel on the outside will have an effect on how you feel on the inside. So take these tips into consideration the next time you are getting dressed to tackle your busy college life. It will be worth taking a few extra minutes for yourself.

Sabrina Majid

Hamline '19

Sabrina Majid is a senior at Hamline University studying Psychology. She is also a visual artist and photographer, with other life passions in fitness, philosophy/theology, self-care, and writing.
Skyler Kane

Hamline '20

Creative Writing Major, Campus Coordinator for Her Campus, and former Editor and Chief for Fulcrum Journal at Hamline University