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Making a Stylish Comeback: Back-to-School Outfits To Rock On Campus

Call me strange, but I can remember what I’ve worn on the first day of school since I started kindergarten (well, mostly because my parents insisted on taking a picture of me on that day every year since I turned 5). But what you wear when you go back to school, not even just on the first day, is important: everyone is dying to see who’s made a transformation over the summer.  And don’t we all want to be THAT girl who people are whispering “She looks great!” about? Even if your physical appearance hasn’t changed (ahem, some of us don’t even get tan over the summer), you can at least come back in style.
Try one of these five back-to-school looks, divided into categories based on different styles, to make a statement but not look too over-the-top for your casual campus setting (leave your heels at home!). It will probably still be scorching out when you’re going back to school in August or September, but all of these looks can be worn in colder temperatures with the addition of a sweater, tights, or a scarf.
The Trendsetter
Do you love following the latest trends and goings-on in the fashion world? You are used to making a statement, so your peers will expect nothing less when you hit campus this fall.
The Staple: Long Skirt
Maxi and midi skirts have been big in the fashion world for some time now, but not a lot of college-aged girls are brave enough to rock the trend. Now is your chance to go for it! Try one of these solid-colored skirts for a sophisticated and class-appropriate fall look.

Chiffon Double-Layered Full Length Skirt
American Apparel ($58)

Calf-Length Mesh Skirt
H&M ($29.95)

Perforated Maxi Skirt by TV
Topshop (£90: $150 U.S. Dollars)

What To Wear It With
With this look, you want your skirt to do the talking. Tuck a solid white t-shirt into your skirt and cinch your waist with a skinny belt so your body doesn’t get lost in the volume of the skirt. Pair the look with interesting sandals in neutral colors and a long necklace. Getting chilly outside? Throw on a cardigan that complements the color of your skirt.


Trouvé Pleated U-Neck Tee
Nordstrom ($36)


Skinny patent belt
J.Crew ($34.50)


Contributor by Rachel Comey Colorblock Sandal
Urban Outfitters ($19.99)


Gold Pinnate Necklace
Anthropologie ($28)

Old-School Cool
Do you go gaga over the fashions of Mad Men and often complain about being born in the wrong decade? Try a look that’s old school but still up-to-date and appropriate on a modern-day campus. 

The Staple: Retro Dress 
Flaunt your feminine side in an über-girly dress. You can skip a trip to the vintage store with these dresses that look old-school but really are brand new.

Grey-tful to Be Your Dress
ModCloth ($54.99)

English Accents Dress
ModCloth ($79.99)

Take Action Dress
Anthropologie ($168)

What To Wear It With
Keep up the girly theme with dainty flats, and, if you dare, lace ankle socks! The last time you wore socks like those may have been 1994, but the socks-with-flats look is back in style, and sure to turn heads! Get class-ready with an elegant laptop case that resembles a big envelope clutch.


London Sole ($165)


Girly Lace Ankle Sock
American Apparel ($9)

Laptop Case

Kimchi Blue Turnlock Laptop Case
Urban Outfitters ($34)

Chilled Out 
Are you always on the move and do you have a low tolerance for clothes that aren’t comfortable? Focus your back-to-school look on key pieces that are laidback but don’t sacrifice style.

The Staple: High-Top Sneakers
To make a statement on campus, try a high-top sneaker. Steer clear of in-your-face neon shades to avoid looking clownish. Instead, look for a pair in a fall-appropriate shade (navy, grey) or a subtle pattern (see the Nikes below – they have the cutest floral pattern that you can barely see!).  

Bensimon® High-Top Sneakers
Madewell ($85)

Nike Floral Skinny Dunk Sneaker
Urban Outfitters ($110)

Champion LA
Keds ($70)

What To Wear It With
Complete the rest of your look with dark-toned skinny jeans and a cute but comfortable tee. Add a fun backpack and cool watch in the same color palate as your kicks.


Nautical Stripe Tee
Nasty Gal ($38)


Ankle Crop Jeggings
Old Navy ($24.50)


BAGGU ($24)


Rubber Chrono Watch
American Eagle Outfitters ($24.50)

The Scholar
Is your favorite part of going back to school the libraries filled with old books and tree-lined quads? If the ‘preppy academic’ look is your thing, look for updated versions of classic items that will bring you up to this season.

The Staple: Sleeveless Button-Down 
Take a break from your tried-and-true button-down for one of these hot sleeveless versions. The hip way to wear it is with it buttoned up all the way to the top – no cleavage-baring here!

Slvls Woven Shirt
Forever 21 ($17.80) 

Sleeveless Lawn Button-Up
American Apparel ($42)

Acne / New Wish Sleeveless Shirt
La Garçonne ($170)

What to Wear It With
Tuck your new shirt into a pleated skirt. To avoid falling into the ‘librarian’ look, try a miniskirt that shows off your thighs (but not too much!). Spice up the look with a long gold necklace – timepiece pendant optional – and flats in an eye-catching fall shade (I love mustard yellow). Stay in the academic spirit with a cardigan that has elbow patches.


Wyatt Olive Chiffon Short Accordion Pleat Skirt
Bluefly ($88)


Bubble Watch Necklace
Fred Flare ($34)


Cardigan with elbow patches
Zara ($35.90)


Eddie Ballet Flat
Tory Burch ($178)

The Edgiest of Them All
If you have a penchant for black clothes and edgy accessories, you’ll want a back-to-school look that’s casual enough for campus but still ready to rock-and-roll.

The Staple: Bright Skinny Jeans
Stand out from the pack in the ‘it’ item of the season: rainbow-bright skinny jeans. Stick with darker shades like red, blue, and purple and avoid lighter tones that won’t make it past summer, like lemon yellow or pale pink. 

The Skinny in Blueberry Wash
Joe’s Jeans ($158)

Red Skinny Jean
River Island ASOS ($68.94)

811 Mid-Rise Skinny Leg
J Brand ($169)

What to Wear It With
With all the attention on your legs, choose sleek black for the rest of your outfit. Try a cool sweater tank with a black bandeau bra underneath, and slip on ultra-hip black glitter loafers (a play on these Jimmy Choo men’s loafers for Fall/Winter 2011!). Throw your books in a black carryall, pop on your shades, and hit the pavement! Or rather, the quad.


Aldo ($70)


Sparkle & Fade Drop-Armhole Sweater Tank Top
Urban Outfitters ($44)


ASOS Boudoir VIKKI Lace Trim Jersey Bandeau
ASOS ($10.34)


Chain strap bag
Gap ($69.95)


Inés Sunglasses
Fred Flare ($12)

What will you be wearing on the first day of school this year?  Leave a comment!

Allie is a junior at Princeton University where she is majoring in English. A native of San Francisco, Allie loves living on the East Coast (but will probably never learn how to walk in the snow without slipping – or, more accurately, face planting). On campus, Allie is an editor for The Daily Princetonian, Public Relations Chair of her sorority, and a member of Princeton’s belly dance troupe. In her free time, Allie can usually be found scouting out local coffee shops, wondering if it's possible to be a foodie who doesn't cook, and pretending to get lost in cities (though she always carries directions, and is never, in fact, lost). Allie plans to pursue a career in magazine journalism and spent the summer as an intern for Surface Magazine in New York.  
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