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GOING TO COLLEGE?  What excitement!  But even the most privileged fashionistas are going to have it tough this year, mainly because money is tight and mom and dad aren’t going to be all that happy about laying out a lot of cash for trendy and status clothes that may well be outdated by next year. Take heart.  You can still get The Look you want without major expense. It will just take a little more work.  And shopping savvy. 


First think about what you’ll need. NEED.  That’s an important word!

   –I am reminded here of just how simple or complex that can be. Some years back I was at an exclusive health spa and I had with me a wardrobe of different fashion pieces, aimed at covering every social possibility I might encounter.  A very pretty young woman fresh out of Vassar College shared a cottage with me.


                                          Aran Island Sweater


It was autumn, and the first day she wore a pair of tight jeans, a T-shirt, and a heavy knit white Irish fisherman’s sweater, one of those great looking, admittedly expensive, sweaters they hand make on the bleak Aran Islands off the Irish  coast.  She looked terrific!


The thing is:  The next day, and the next, and the next, she wore the exact same thing!  And every day she looked as good, if not better, than the day before.  The end of the week, still wearing the same outfit, she packed up a tiny little duffle bag, probably from Louis Vuitton, and headed off home, easily leaving behind a reputation for being the best dressed woman there.


It takes a rare kind of talent to pull something like this off, which I didn’t have.  But this young woman was from a level of money I could only dream of, and there was a message there for me.  You, too, can learn from it!     Keep the story in mind while you plan your college purchases.


                                            Economics I


You can start your list of things to take to college with some obvious basics.  Sunglasses, for instance. Prada has a dynamite-looking pair of sunglasses with plastic tortoise shell frames, big, dark lenses, very Jacqueline Kennedy-esque.  You can buy Prada, or buy a smart copy.  Either way, you get a lot of fashion mileage for the money.  A watch is an absolute necessity.  Maybe three or four. This is an accessory you can accessorize, with more bracelets surrounding it.



  • This round watch case has a stunning metallic green face and is styled for changeable bands. Trendy!





A laptop with a carrying case and cell phone are two more essentials.  An MTV player is wishful thinking:  Put it on your Christmas “want” list.  Boots are also “must haves.”  Cozy boots for cold climes, and stiletto-heeled high black boots for Saturday night action. What loving parent could deny you?  Some more ideas:


SCHOOL BELLS START WITH DENIM. This is where to put your money.  Get a good pair of tight-legged pants that fit you perfectly and that will wear and wear and wear.  If you can’t afford designer jeans, opt for Levi’s, still classics. If they are dark blue and anything but skin tight, put in a crease.  It makes them look classy and costly.  Washed denim is another wardrobe item to put you high on the college social ladder.  Rip them, shred them, work them through until they look disastrous.

–To go with denim?  A t-shirt wardrobe, in long and short sleeves.  You can get these anywhere.  Think discounters like Marshalls and TJMaxx. 


THE PERFECT LITTLE BLACK DRESS. It’s in every high fashion publication every autumn, and it is an essential. This is your entry into society! Make it simple, with a not-too-short hemline. Dress it up, dress it down.  Add a jacket.  Add a scarf. Play with jewelry.  Wear it with stockings or leggings.  Match it to great flats, and super high, high strappy heels.  Never wear it to class.  This is strictly for Saturday Night dates and special awards ceremonies (you’ll hopefully be center stage at many).  


   —At this point, like my Vassar friend mentioned above, you’ll really have everything you need.  But here are a few more ideas, anyway:


                                      Haight-Ashbury, Revisited


SEPARATES like mini Prairie skirts (that allow you to go flouncy during the week), a tube skirt, a couple of pair of wear-with-everything leggings (make at least one black), a pair of short shorts, and a white shirt:  these are the makings of an impressive 2009-10 college wardrobe. Get very personal with a couple of offbeat choices, like a great silk skirt in a graphic African pattern.  You can also dip back into the 60s for a Haight-Ashbury long skirted flower child look. It’s fun!  Pick up a scarf at a thrift shop!


A REALLY GREAT BLAZER, preferably classic, double breasted (but it’s your choice) will spice up almost everything you own.  You can go very bohemian here, with roll-up sleeves, a brown textured basic material, and leather buttons.


A LIGHTWEIGHT, TIGHT-KNIT CARDIGAN works where jackets and coats don’t. If you can get one of the terrific French ones that sometimes come on the market, it’ll handle all situations.  Can’t locate one?  Get a European boyfriend and “steal” his. 


A HOT TRENCH COAT is a really good investment. Keep this as iconic as possible, preferably very WWII London blitz-style. Color it tan, and be sure it has a tie belt, unless you’re 20 pounds or more overweight.     


                                    Accessories That Talk


Probably the smartest thing you’ll have to learn during your first few months on campus is how to accessorize everything to make it Talk.  Because that’s what you want your outfits to do: Talk about You.  You want them to say you’re:  Hot.  Edgy.  Scholarly.  Romantic.  Intellectual. Traditional. Way-Out-There-Modern.  Classy.  Reserved.  Hard-to-Get. Easy-to-Love.  You choose it.  Then choose the outfits and accessories that’ll promote the image you want.


–This, again, reminds me of a story about a pretty young Jewish girl I knew in college who dressed in the most exotic fashion, as if she just left Bombay.  Everyone just assumed she was a Hindu princess; who would imagine she came from the Bronx?  But that’s a story for another day.  In the meantime, what about those accessories?  Here are some ideas:





  • This hot little go-everywhere evening clutch comes in shiny faux croc and the newest modest size. Choose from several trendy colors. Use it day and night.
Comments (0) Posted by Mary McGarry on Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

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