There’s something about back-to-school season that can make you crave a dramatic change. Whether it’s a new hairstyle or a fresh makeup routine, you deserve to start the year feeling amazing. However, you don’t have to max out your credit card on a new wardrobe or drastically change your hair color to update your look for the fall. To help, I spoke with beauty and style experts to learn how to revamp your back-to-school look (without breaking the bank).
Keep it simple
Amber Zhaoyang Wang, a high fashion model who has been featured in Vogue, Glamour, Harper’s Bazaar, GQ, and more, knows a thing or two about how to refresh your look. As a 2021 graduate of Penn State University, Wang also knows firsthand that navigating back-to-school style is all about efficiency. She tells Her Campus that the key to revamping your back-to-school look is to keep it simple and not overcomplicate things, especially if you’re a college student on a budget.
“Revamping your look does not always require a lot of extra accessories or high-end brands,” Wang says. “My advice is to keep it simple. For example, a classic shirt, jeans, and Converse can look laid back, trendy and cool. Find a few items you love and mix and match your outfits.” The same goes for makeup and beauty brands — you don’t have to drain your wallet in order to revamp your look. It’s all about finding what works for you.
Find inspiration online
Robin Sutherns, the Editor-in-Chief and resident style expert at Galtelligence.com, tells Her Campus that reflecting on your personal style and finding inspo online can be a fun way to get started. “First, you have to consider your current style,” she says. “Do you want to make minor changes? Do you want to look completely different? You may want to check Pinterest or Instagram for the kind of style you want [to achieve].”
Before heading back to school this fall, make a mood board that you’re obsessed with, and focus on how you want to feel this semester. Maybe you want to reintroduce denim into your wardrobe after a year of rocking athleisure (no judgment) or start introducing different colors into your closet. The creative process of making a mood board can help you get a clearer picture of how you’ll revamp your look, whether it’s through style, fashion, makeup, hair, beauty, or all of the above!
Shop vintage or try DIY
Sara Shah, the co-founder and co-CEO of Journ, says that thrift shopping can be a good way to revamp your back-to-school look on a budget. “Not only are vintage and secondhand clothing stores kind on the wallet, but they’re good for the environment, too!” Shah says.
Kate Day, the editor of College Fashionista, agrees, and says that revamping your look doesn’t have to mean a complete closet overhaul. “I’ve always found myself wanting to overhaul my style as I approach a big life event — be it back to school season or the first day of a new job or internship — but a complete wardrobe redo has never been feasible or sustainable,” she tells Her Campus. “Lately, I’ve been really into clothing rental services as a way to test out styles outside of my usual comfort zone without the commitment! For me, I’ve found it easier to take bigger risks with my style knowing that I can send back whatever doesn’t work.”
Shah recommends Pinterest and TikTok as reliable sources of DIY inspiration, and says that they can give you ideas for how to repurpose pieces you already have in your closet. “Transform your favorite scarf into a stylish crop top, and style with some DIY jewelry!” she says.
And whether it’s vintage or otherwise, accessorizing is another efficient, low-cost way to revamp any back-to-school look. “Try finding a few accessories that you can wear regularly like a hat, unique sunglasses, a special bag, or fun socks you can show off with rolled up pants,” Shah tells Her Campus. Butterfly clips and bucket hats — looking at you.
Experiment with a new haircut or style
An easy, yet noticeable change to revamp your look for back to school is to change your hair. However, the update doesn’t have to be super drastic; if you’re feeling hesitant, try simply switching up your part! If you have a side part, shake things up by switching to a middle part. You’ll be surprised how much this change can highlight different facial features and give you a fresh new ‘do without the cost of a professional styling job.
You can, of course, get a fresh haircut, muster the courage to rock curtain bangs, or switch up your hair color — something that, for Bridget Anderson, a student at Baylor University, has become a regular back-to-school ritual. “Dye your hair any color you want!” she tells Her Campus. “That’s what I do every semester. I love the drama of changing my hair — I’ve gone from red to bleach blonde to pink, and it’s so liberating.”
Whether you chop six inches off the length, opt for subtle highlights, try extensions or a wig, or simply add a cute scrunchie, the possibilities are endless when it comes to revamping your look. If you have longer hair to work with, you can always try a ponytail, braids, bouncy curls, or loose waves, and see which look helps you feel your best.
Have fun with makeup
Heading into fall means the chance to rock new makeup, too! If you’re ready to take a break from the bright coral and neon shades from summer, now is a great time to incorporate darker, bolder shades in your makeup routine. Get inspired by emerging fall makeup trends and experiment with products and looks that feel great with your skin tone and complexion. Whether it’s putting your own spin on the reverse cat-eye trend or trying that “faux freckles,” trend you keep seeing on TikTok, have fun with it — you’ll be on your way to revamping your back-to-school look in no time.
Start with small details
“I’m a creature of habit when it comes to my beauty routine, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel the urge to switch things up when a major life change approaches,” Day tells Her Campus. “Sometimes, something as simple as booking a manicure appointment or haircut (even if it’s just a trim) before the first day of a new role does the trick for me!”
The bottom line: Revamping your look for fall doesn’t have to be drastic unless you want it to be. Try playing with different ways to update your look, including non-permanent ones, like manicures and pedicures, learning how to do an at-home blowout, trying a new skincare routine, wearing new jewelry, or trying another subtle change that can help you ease into the semester while still feeling like yourself.
“Try out different looks!” Wang recommends to any college student who wants to revamp their style for back-to-school. “If you don’t like [something], you can always change it.” Who knows, maybe after some experimenting, you’ll want to make a semi-permanent or more permanent change, like a piercing, tiny tattoo, or otherwise.
Remember, it’s all about confidence
“If you look good, you tend to feel good, and vice versa,” says Wang, who has a passion for empowering new and veteran models to feel their best. “Don’t worry about what other people think,” she tells Her Campus. “When you are confident, others will gravitate toward that energy. Your style should be a reflection of you.”
“I believe that reinventing your sense of style is a journey to self-discovery,” says Sutherns. “Often, we want to change up our style and looks because others do it as well. We want to fit in. [But] there’s one thing that I wish I’d known during my college years: do it for yourself, not for others.”
Don’t be afraid to expand your comfort zone
Whether you’re rocking a new hairstyle this year or totally upgrading your wardrobe, know that college is a great time to expand your comfort zone. One day in the future, you’ll probably look back at your college years and be proud of the risks you took — or even regret the ones you didn’t take.
“College is a great time to learn about yourself and your style,” says Wang. “It can be nerve-wracking to get out of your comfort zone, but don’t be afraid. Who knows what you can discover if you take that leap of faith and try something new?”
Before heading back to school this fall, take some time to reflect on how you want to feel this semester. Just a couple of changes here and there can give you a brand new look, and I’ll bet that everyone at school will notice your new look and your confidence. With fall semester approaching soon, start revamping your style and expanding your comfort zone. After all, isn’t that what college is all about?
Robin Sutherns, Editor-in-Chief, Galtelligence.com
Sarah Shah, Co-Founder & Co-CEO of Journ
Bridget Anderson, Baylor University