Dressing For College 101: How to Dress Appropriately as a Student & Young Professional

As college students, we all love to dress to impress. However, dressing for class and dressing for the club are two different styles that shouldn’t overlap.

Many students grew up wearing uniforms in grade school, but what about in college, especially when it comes to bachelor’s thesis defense?

Many argue that college students are grown adults and should be able to have the choice to wear what they want.

While clothing is one of the ways we express to others who we are and what we are all about, some students have trouble finding the line between appropriate and inappropriate clothing.

What Not to Wear

We’ve put together a simple guide for you to keep in mind when dressing yourself for class each day so you can look appropriate and be taken seriously in class and on campus.

You don’t have to have a lot of money either to look appropriate; there are plenty of discounted stores and websites that can offer you fashionable, appropriate clothes for less. Find discounted items with daily deals from Groupon!

Skirts and Shorts

Many times, women get a bad reputation for the clothes they wear. Skirts, dresses or shorts that are too short, or shirts and blouses that are too low-cut.

Skirts and shorts shouldn’t have to be worn below the knees, but as a college student, one should have the good judgment to know when skirts or shorts are worn too low.

If you wouldn’t want to walk out of the house in front of your parents wearing whatever it is you chose to wear that day to class, then chances are, it’s not appropriate for class.


Now, this rule generally pertains to males: wear your pants at the waist! If you have to waddle like a duck to keep your hands from falling down or you tend to hold your pants by the crotch to keep them up, then chances are, they’re way too low.

Purchase a belt or simply buy pants that fit you so you underwear isn’t showing and you don’t end up holding your hands up all day long.

Some females have to be told the same as well: if you can’t bend over without your unmentionables showing, then your pants are too low.

Obscene Graphics

Attire that promotes immoral or illegal behavior or condones alcohol, drugs, sex, profanity or violence should be left to wear outside of a learning institute.

Such items are distracting not only to other students, but to the teacher as well. Do you really want your teacher to know you smoke weed or that you won a beer pong contest when they are trying to grade your papers?

In the work field, one wouldn’t wear a shirt that would offend their boss. Have the same respect for your teachers and peers.


I don’t know where the popular idea of wearing pajamas came from, but it’s pretty ridiculous.

If you’re too tired to change out of your pajamas in the morning, then maybe you should of stayed home.

What to Wear

Now that we have covered what NOT to wear, here are some things to keep in mind while dressing that ARE appropriate for class, events and walking on campus.

Dress for the Appropriate Weather

It’s not hard to decide what to wear at a learning institute. Before most students attend college, they usually pack for the season. Research you college’s city and find out if you’ll be wearing a coat or not for most of the year.

Flip-flop, shorts and tank tops aren’t the ideal attire for winter weather. Wearing clothes like that in the winter only brings negative attention and a bad cold your way. Don’t wear open toed shoes in a snow storm or leave home without a coat.

The same with the hotter seasons—wearing thick clothing or too many layers in the sumer can lead to exhaustion or dehydration.

Simply dress appropriately according to the season. Light colors and light clothing in the hotter seasons and thicker and more layers during the cooler season.

Clean Clothes

Select clothes that are wrinkle-free and clean. Your shirt is not a bib or a napkin; do not wear clothes with stains all over them or something you wore to the gym; no one wants to sit next to the dirty/smelly kid!

If you don’t like to iron, fold or hang up your clothes so that they’ll be wrinkle-free.

Or if it’s too much for you to hang or fold clothes, wake up a little earlier in the morning and toss your shirt and pants in the dryer for a few minutes. The heat in the dryer takes out the wrinkles.

If you’re a messy eater, buy a Tide to Go pen or baby wipes to quickly clean up any mess the spills on your clothes.


Select appropriate and comfortable shoes, you’ll most likely be doing a lot of walking. Some schools are bigger than others and some may have more hills to hike up than others; rocking a pair of stilettos isn’t appropriate or comfortable to be walking around in all day.

Business Attire

If you’ve never worn business attire before, invest in some. It is not uncommon for professors to require you to dress up when giving a presentation.

Buy a suit—typically black, gray or navy blue—with a collared dress shirt. Typically they’re neutral colored.

Have appropriate shoes. Ladies, open toes shoes are not business attire. Also, hosiery is usually worn with a business suit whether it includes pants or a skirt.

A tie and a belt will complete the attire. As for hair, guys should be clean cut and women, pull your hair back and out of your face.

Final note

They’re are many things students learn when they come to college.

Some students genuinely don’t know what is considered appropriate attire when they attend a learning institute.

Luckily, in college, there are people who will educate you on what to wear.

Find out what your campus dress code is. Many schools actually have strict dress codes and will send you home if you’re dressed inappropriately.

Overall, dress for success; dress as though you want your professors and peers to take you seriously, and they will!

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