How to style collegiate fashion

Jenessa Williams 12 May 2022

Do you catch yourself feeling nostalgic for your university days? Here's how to incorporate the collegiate trend into your wardrobe 

A staple of runways for several seasons, the collegiate trend is still very much in fashion, embracing all the fun of being young and carefree on campus. If you’re looking to make thoughtful, trend-forward additions to your wardrobe, our styling guide is full of key pieces that won’t give you the varsity blues…

Sporty

Sporty collegiate fashion style inspiration

Outfit: Gill Rodriguez Bodysuit, Monki Hat, Peace Minus Jogging Bottoms, Zara Denim Jacket, Lucy & Roo Hoop Earrings, Tommy Hilfiger Trainers

When the phrases “collegiate” or “varsity” are used, the common connotation is one of sports. If you’re not quite ready to don a football jersey or pom poms, try thinking like a cheerleader-in-training; jogging bottoms, comfort bodysuits, simple hoop earrings and trainers. Don’t be afraid to play with proportions; an oversized denim jacket and bucket hat balance out any flesh that might be on show, adding a fashion-forward hint of androgyny. Steer clear of cuffed jogging bottoms as well; a flare fit is much more flattering, and can even be semi-formal with the right accessories.

Summery

Summery collegiate fashion style inspiration

Outfit: Sandro Paris Cardigan, Ganni vest, United Colours of Benneton Skirt, Basketroom Bag, See by Chloe Sandals

A good student wardrobe is one that takes you from lectures to late-night parties in one fell swoop, offering a degree of playfulness and personality. If you’re worried about the collegiate trend seeming a little too costumey, try an embellished cardigan; the monogram letter will evoke imagery of pep rallies without having to go all out on the expense and bulk of a full varsity jacket.  

"A good student wardrobe is one that takes you from lectures to late-night parties"

Jeans and a t-shirt will pull the look together in a pinch, but if you’re feeling more experimental, try a vest and tube skirt instead. They’ll be much more comfortable in heat, and give you the opportunity to clash colours with a statement bag. Given that much of the current trend is inspired by American 00s teen movies, subtle nods like buckled sandals and rattan bags feel Y2K without being OTT. 

Scholarly

Scholarly collegiate fashion style inspiration

Outfit: Marks And Spencer Top, Maje Skirt, Fenella Smith Bag, Lanx Shoes, Busby & Fox Hairclip 

Amidst all the large slogans and athletic fits, it’s easy to forget that the college experience may also include study. For days in the office (or formal presentations), a more pared back take on the trend might be appropriate, putting a modern twist on the vintage, secretarial fashion that is often associated with Ivy League education.  

A sensible tweed skirt and brogues are a must, while a fuss-free kidney bag and hairclip speak to sophistication without adding fuss. Instead of a blouse and blazer, ease into spring with a button-up knit. Worn completely done up, it is more interesting than a jumper, but still nods to the feminine style that is often seen in nostalgic media depictions of college campuses. If you’re looking to dress the look down on a warm day, you can also wear it open with a camisole underneath, boosting the cost-per-wear versatility. 

Beachy

Beachy collegiate fashion style inspiration

Outfit: Gant Shirt, Warehouse Shorts, Issey Miyake Socks, Arket Shoes, Haki Bag

Spring break is upon us, and it’s time to hit the beach. A rugby-stripe top is a great investment piece for the collegiate trend; choose your favourite colour, and team with jeans, skirts, pinafores or even as a dress, depending on your purchase's length. For the ultimate preppy-carefree look, buy oversized and tuck loosely into a pair of belted chino shorts, topping off with socks and chunky “dad” sandals.  

"A rugby-stripe top is a great investment piece for the collegiate trend"

This look suits all ages, but if you’re worried about feeling too childish, pare back the colour and pattern until you feel a little more comfortable. Even a plain rugby-fit top will still suit the trend, and can still be colour-clashed should you wish to re-style it in the future.

Touristy

Touristy collegiate fashion style inspiration

Outfit: Marks & Spencer Dress, Pull & Bear Jumper, Ralph Lauren Backpack, New Balance Trainers, Abott Lyon Necklace 

Whether you’re on a campus tour or playing adventurer in your own environment, there is no spring-summer pairing more comfortable than an oversized sweater and midi dress. A vintage slogan version from your alma mater might be most appropriate, but the high-street is awash with imitation versions that speak to academic institutions, sports teams and more. Champion a beloved holiday destination or a family members’ school, and you will feel a closeness to your selection even if it wasn’t somewhere you attended yourself.

"As always, comfort is key"

As always, comfort is key. A good sturdy backpack from a reputable Americana brand is perfect for lugging library books or a warmer jacket for later, while chunky athletic trainers offer good arch support without ruining the simplicity of an outfit. Choose a white pair with minimal detailing—if you look after them, you’ll find that they last a great many semesters to come. The same goes for jewellery; who needs a class ring when you can customise a necklace with a sentimental graduation year?

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