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How to Wear a Chambray: 20 Ways

If you haven’t received the memo, a chambray is one of the coolest must-haves for collegiettes. Wait, a cham-what? We’re talking about those fabulous denim button-ups worn by fashionistas like Ashley Greene and Alexa Chung.  Though it makes more of a statement than your average oxford shirt, a chambray is surprisingly versatile. “I feel like I can throw it on with no effort and it looks good,” says Jaime Morgen, a junior at Tufts University. But how are you supposed to wear a chambray? We’re glad you asked!

Whether you’ve never owned a chambray or shamelessly have a dozen in your closet (don’t worry, we’re not judging), every collegiette needs some pointers on this emerging trend. Luckily, we’ve compiled a list of our favorite denim tops (plus 20 ways to wear them).

Are you a chambray virgin? If so, we suggest this Madewell shirt ($75). It may be simple, but it will quickly become a staple in your wardrobe. If you’re craving a chambray with a feminine touch , try Superdry’s romantic take on the chambray ($90)—the ruffles are to die for! In the event you’re already looking for a summery take on this sartorial phenomenon, try J.Crew’s beachy tunic ($70). For those who are absolutely obsessed with chambray shirts (guilty as charged), give your growing collection a funky twist with J.Crew’s polka-dotted denim top ($88). A versatile take on this must-have trend? We approve! With so many options, think of a chambray shirt as a potential boyfriend—there’s one out there that’s perfect for you!

1. Rock the Canadian Tuxedo

Some call it the “Canadian Tuxedo,” others call it the “Texas Tuxedo,” but we think of this ensemble as effortlessly edgy. But before you throw on your favorite pair of skinnies, make sure your jeans and chambray are two different shades. There’s a fine line between “effortlessly edgy” and “Britney Spears at the 2001 American Music Awards”. And trust us, you do not want to cross that line. For a finishing touch, add a red lip and toss your hair into a messy bun.

2. Keep it chic with black jeans

If the “Canadian Tuxedo” is a little too… out there for you, keep your ensemble polished with a simple pair of black jeans. “The contrast of the light blue and the black prevents a denim-on-denim disaster,” notes Kate Moriarty, a junior at Skidmore College and HC Contributing Writer. For a dash of pizzazz, add a statement necklace or a trendy pair of shoes.

3. Pair with printed pants

A favorite among most style trailblazers, this ensemble requires loads of confidence. The poppy print coupled with the attention-grabbing denim is courageous and stylish at the same time. Let’s not forget that it’ll instantly make you one of the best dressed collegiettes on campus. Since this duo commands enough attention for one outfit, finish this look with a simple pair of flats and dainty jewelry.

4. A jean-ious cover up

Since you’re probably too busy trying to score that impressive beach body or find the perfect bikini, allow us to help you find the perfect cover-up. Lucky for you, styling an oversized chambray with your adorable bathing suit is so beachy chic. Add some sunscreen and a pair of your coolest shades and you’re ready to hit the surf in style.

5. Add a pop of color

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: a chambray top plus colored jeans equals sartorial bliss. Since this outfit is packed with color, complete this look with basic ballet flats. Whether you opt for a pair of orange pants or bordeaux jeans, this outfit is collegiette-approved all year round.

6. Look polished with a short skirt

If Blair Waldorf were to sport a chambray shirt, we can only imagine that she would pair the trendy top with a flirty mini skirt. Of course we’re not talking about a super tight mini that you’d wear to frat row. Instead, keep it classy—an A-line skirt, for example, is ideal. We love this look because it’s tame enough for class and quirky enough for a coffee date with your girlfriends. Unleash your inner queen bee even more with a pair of funky tights. But hold off on that headband—it’s so Blair at Constance.

7. Boho chic with a maxi skirt

Take a fashion note from Mary Kate and Ashley’s boho era and style your trusty denim shirt with a maxi skirt. But won’t all that fabric make you look like you don’t have a figure? Accentuate your waist by knotting your chambray. In addition to looking like an Olsen twin—because, deep down, you’ve been dreaming of that since you watched Full House—you can actually wear this getup all year round as long as you wear a season-appropriate maxi: heavier fabrics are winter-worthy while cottons and silks tend to be more suitable for the summer. Don’t forget to add proper shoes for the season—boots for the winter and sandals for the summer.


8. Layer up

Since layering is always a style do (unless you’re treading through the Sahara desert), don a cozy sweater over your chambray! The preppy look is all the rage among fashion’s finest; however, incorporating your chambray will set you apart from the rest.  If you want this part of your getup to stand out, pair your top with simple skinny jeans and ballet flats.

9. Throw on a vest 

Speaking of layering, a cool outfit can be as easy as styling your chambray with a vest. Whether you throw on a puffer vest or a faux fur one, this edgy ensemble is too cool to resist. Keep the rest of your ensemble simple by adding a pair of jeans and tall boots.

10. Bring on the graphics

If you’re not a fan of patterned jeans, but still want to add a fun print to your outfit, pair your chambray with a graphic tee. When Avianne Tan, a sophomore at NYU and HC Contributing Writer, pairs her chambray with a graphic tank, she loves to spice up her ensemble with some stellar accessories. “I add a cute messy bun or colorful necklace for a quirky, yet comfy look,” says Avianne. Creative and comfy? We approve!

11. A midsummer’s jacket

If it’s too hot for a normal coat, yet too cold to ditch the jacket altogether, keep warm with a chambray. Whether you’re sporting a sundress or a romper, using the denim top as a jacket will give any ensemble a casual twist.

12. Cozy up with leggings

Calling all lazy girls: it’s time to celebrate! Give your casual ensemble a stylish kick with this denim staple. “I like to wear mine with a white tank top, black leggings and boots,” says Alicia Thomas, a sophomore at Penn State and HC’s Career Editor. “It’s comfy and practical, but still really cute!” Though this trend is super cozy, make sure you sport opaque tights and shirt that covers your butt. As much as we love a comfortable ensemble, you should always keep it classy! With those style guidelines in mind, this look will make the perfect study attire.

13. Turn an oversized chambray into a dress

For an easy outfit, steal your tall boyfriend’s shirt (it’s a unisex piece for a reason) or buy a really large one yourself. It’s the perfect way to score that “just threw on my boyfriend’s shirt” look without necessarily having a boyfriend. Give this outfit a feminine touch with a pair of wedges. Just remember to belt your chambray—you don’t want to look like you’re sporting a denim garbage bag!

14. Internship-ready with a pencil skirt

When styled correctly, you can wear your chambray to your internship. Though the denim top may scream “too cool for the office,” pairing it with a tailored pencil skirt offers a polished twist. Unfortunately, this look isn’t appropriate for all internships. To avoid a major intern faux pas, we suggest that you wear this ensemble to a more creative internship—you probably won’t receive fashion kudos if you wear this look at a finance company. Complete your intern uniform with comfortable heels and a statement necklace. Can we say “new-age Mad Men?”


15. Toughen up with leather

If your trusty leather jacket is like your second skin, why not pair it with your oh-so versatile chambray? The casual denim and tough leather will create a sartorial force to be reckoned with. To prevent a fashion mishap, keep the rest of your ensemble simple.

16. Keep it hip with flannel

Since we adore chambrays and flannel button-ups, pairing the two is clearly the next obvious step. Yasmeen Gharnit, a junior at Boston University, loves styling this dynamic duo to look like a reversible shirt. “I like to throw a flannel shirt over a buttoned-up chambray,” says Yasmeen. “For a hint of chambray, I cuff the sleeves.” For a relaxed vibe, add a simple pair of skinnies and desert boots.

17. A little D.I.Y. never hurt anyone

Getting a little sick of your long-sleeved shirt? Grab a pair of scissors and create a sleeveless take on the trendy top. Whether you wear it as is or throw on a boyfriend blazer, your chambray 2.0 is perfect for any time of the year. Feeling extra crafty? Add some fun fripperies to your chambray. Give your hair regime a D.I.Y. feel with a fun fishtail braid.

18. Get grungy

Channel your inner ‘90s child by tying your shirt around your waist. From Kimmie Gibbler to Cher Horowitz, all the great style mavens of the decade sported this trend.  “I love tying shirts around my waist,” Yasmeen comments. “It’s very grunge.” Alas, we’re in 2013. So it’s now a fashion faux pas, right? Believe it or not, Kaelen’s Fall 2013 Ready-to-Wear collection had a slew of shirts tied around the models’ waists. Cue the sigh of relief. Go the extra mile by adding a pair of combat boots. If this doesn’t scream Angela Chase, we don’t know what does.

19. Throw it over a mini dress

Looking for an occasion to sport that new mini dress? Dress it down by throwing your trusty chambray over it. Jaime Morgen, a junior at Tufts University, loves donning her denim shirt over a sequined dress. “It makes it more casual and a little more edgy,” she says. For a finishing touch, add a pair of tights and ankle booties. Perfect for hitting the bar or even a mixer, don’t you think?

20. Shine on

Don’t fret, collegiettes, you can still dress your denim up without throwing your chambray with a mini dress. Add a splash of drama with a sequined skirt.  Everyone from Blake Lively to Glee’s Jayma Mays has been doing it, so why shouldn’t you? If you want to make a statement with your chambray, sport the denim top with a black sequined skirt.  After throwing on a pair of tights and some booties, you’ll be ready to paint the town red. 

So, collegiettes, how do you wear your chambray? Sound off below! 

Kelsey is a senior at Boston University, studying Magazine Journalism  in the College of Communication. As a magazine junkie and fashion fanatic, she loves being a part of the Her Campus team! At BU, Kelsey is president of Ed2010 at Boston University.  She has interned for Time Out New York, Lucky, Anthropologie, and Marie Claire. Kelsey also has a fashion blog, The Trendologist, where she covers the latest trends, fashion shows, and red carpet reports. When she isn't busy, Kelsey loves hanging out with her friends and family, shopping, reading style blogs, going for a nice jog, listening to music, creating baked goods in the kitchen, watching movies, and eating tons of frozen yogurt and sushi! After graduation, Kelsey hopes to work as an editor for a fashion magazine. Follow Kelsey on Twitter and Instagram at @kmulvs and don't  forget to check out her "Catwalk to Campus" blog posts!
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