The beginning of each school year is riddled with new beginnings: new classes, new dormitories and new faces. However, I feel that one often overlooked category is the opportunity for a new wardrobe.
When returning to college or coming to Swarthmore for the first time, the choices that you make in your wardrobe can have a big effect on your year. Your wardrobe alone can set the tone for a fresh start. I know that for me personally, I feel most confident when I am wearing an outfit that reflects my individuality and makes me feel good about myself.
For this reason, back to school shopping is one of my favorite activities of the year. It is a chance for me not only to purchase items that will make my life easier at school, but also to enhance my wardrobe, to keep it in trend, and to keep me feeling confident. However, for many people, shopping for clothing to wear at Swarthmore can be a daunting task. The climate ranges from hot and muggy to cold and snowy, all within a few months’ time. There is also the issue of all of the different activities that most Swatties participate in throughout a typical day. It is challenging to find an outfit that is appropriate for class, a campus job, sports practice and Pub Nite.
Through trial and error, as well as being a Pennsylvania native, I have picked up some key tips on how to successfully dress at Swarthmore. In my opinion, it boils down to staple pieces and accessories. Listed below are some key staple pieces to surviving Swat:
Jeans: Although they are seen as a staple of wardrobes everywhere, jeans are particularly essential to the Swat wardrobe. In high school, I hardly ever wore them because I found them to be quite uncomfortable and boring. After spending some time at Swat, however, I learned just how important they are. The key reason is their versatility. Jeans transition easily from day to night. If I have a busy day and I know I will not have much time to change in between events, I’ll put on a pair of jeans in the morning and just change my shirt before going out at night. They are also perfect on those windy fall days where it is too cold for leggings or tights, but you still want to look nice and not wear sweatpants.
Jeans also do not have to be uncomfortable or boring. After searching for years for the elusive “perfect” pair of jeans, I stumbled upon H&M jeans. Not only are they insanely comfortable, but they are also affordable and come in a variety of colors. This allows me to add depth to my wardrobe without breaking the bank.
Shoes: I often fall victim to the saying “fashion over function”, but when it comes to my shoe selection for Swarthmore, I have to have both. With all of the walking that we do here on campus, as well as the rain and snow that we frequently experience, it is important to find shoes that are comfortable and durable as well as cute. Last fall, I purchased a pair of Steve Madden leather combat boots that I adore. They are on trend, comfortable, and have worn well. I can wear them with sundresses and well as wool sweaters, so they are also versatile.
Another shoe essential for this campus is rain boots. They are perfect for navigating the muddy fields in front of Mertz, and great for the many rainy days that the Swarthmore bubble sees. I wear a pair of Lucky Brand rain boots that are neutral enough to go with most of my wardrobe and have been very durable. Another trusted brand for rain boots are Hunters, which come in a variety of fun colors and are quite comfortable.
Layering pieces: The art of layering has been essential to my survival at Swarthmore. There are so many days where it starts out rainy and ends up hot and sunny. In order to dress properly for these changes, you need to layer. In my back to school shopping this year, I picked up a few basic cardigans for this exact situation. They are lightweight enough that I can carry them in my backpack and have them on hand for when I get cold in class or when it starts to rain. I also purchased a Shep Shirt from Vineyard Vines in navy blue. It is the perfect lightweight jacket, and goes with just about everything. I have found that lightweight jackets or pullovers are great for the fall and spring at Swarthmore. Another great brand for jackets is The North Face. They sell a variety of jackets that range from lightweight to heavy, and they also have a lot of different color options. My final key purchase for layering this year was a maroon pea coat. It has a simple cut and a neutral tone, which I tend to look for in all of my purchases. I have had great success with my pea coat the last two years at school, especially during the winter months. You can find a great pea coat at any major department store or by simply searching online.
Accessories: Once you have purchased the simple staple pieces necessary to create a well-rounded wardrobe, accessories are the place to really express your individual style. For this semester, I purchased a few statement necklaces, some earrings, scarves, headbands and purses. I tend to take more risks in these items than I would in something like my pea coat. My accessories cover a wide range of colors, shapes and textures, and they are essential for taking my outfits from plain to fabulous. For anyone who is looking to spice up their look on a budget, accessorizing is an easy way to do so.