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Piece by Piece: 3 Cute Looks Inspired by Schoolgirl Essentials


Piece by Piece Schoolgirl inspired looks
Product Info: Backpack, Hair Bow

Piece by Piece breaks down the equation of great style on a real college budget. When we love a look, we do the work by scavenging the internet for the absolute best-priced items, then recreate it for you! No trend is too extravagant, no look is too lavish, and no fashion moment is out of reach for the stylish College Fashion reader.

I got a shock the other day when I walked into my Pullman Shopko and almost ran into a back-to-school supplies stand. I’m not done with the pool yet! I don’t know where to begin to look for my planner!

To recover from the trauma, I did some online shopping. And to force myself to get into the “school days” spirit, I created ensembles inspired by the hectic schedules of college students.

Each outfit functions for a day of multitasking, and each one includes three classic schoolgirl essentials: a backpack, some squeaky new sneakers, and hair bows. Scroll down to check out all three looks:

Class And Crunch Time

Stylish athletic wear
Product Info: Notebooks, Sneakers, Backpack, Headband, Top, Shorts

So, I don’t actually go to the gym, but I hear that’s a thing people do. Here’s something you could wear to your crack-of-dawn class and your campus fitness center before you head home.

For those who, like me, prefer to stretch and nap on their yoga mats and call it good, this is still a really comfortable look. The notebooks are for class or to jot down your people watching observations at the gym. Don’t look at me like that. We all do it.

The backpack, sneakers, and headband are a more sporty take on the schoolgirl theme. Though practical, each piece has a fashion-forward vibe which amps up an otherwise pretty standard on-campus outfit.

These bright sneakers hail from the Nordstrom Sale, which I strongly advise my fellow students take advantage of. I can’t stress enough the importance of a quality pair of sneakers, and these puppies will pay for themselves in style, comfort, and functionality alone.

Coffee and Errands

Casual and cute school outfit
Product Info: Backpack, Sneakers, Sweater, Red Hair Bow, Floral Hair Bow, Necklace, Mug, Shorts

This outfit is reminiscent of the classic schoolgirl look I had in mind while shopping around for pieces. The plaid backpack is so cute for a casual day spent running errands, and it would be the ideal carry-all to take to class as well.

I’m a little obsessed with these high top sneakers – the quilted and stud detailing freshens the style up, and I love how they look with jean shorts and a slouchy top. On their own, the hair bows are precious, but layering them together at the end of a braid or on a ponytail makes a fun statement.

Dinner and Dancing

Dinner and dancing look
Product Info: Hair Pins, Sneakers, Backpack, Ring, Lip Crayon in “Hot Red”, Dress

For the times when we need to get a little fancy, we’re pairing classy-looking bow bobby pins with a fresh take on classic white Chucks, and a backpack that is so sleek it’s practically a purse.

A stand-out ring and a bright lip crayon add a little edge, but don’t compete with the three accessories this look is based around. Just try not to take anyone out with that ring.

Nasty Gal has some really great dresses on sale right now. Usually their dresses are just a bit too pricey for me to rationalize on my working girl budget, but most of the dresses in the sale section are under $30, just like this red hot number.

Your thoughts?

What think you of these schoolgirl-inspired looks? Do they make you want to head for the halls? Give me your thoughts on any and all of the items, brands, and ensembles above!

Filed Under: Shopping / Tags: , , , , ,




Looks from Books: Outlander


Welcome to the latest edition of Looks from Books, which aims to prove that you can look smart, while still being book-smart, too. Fashion inspiration can be found between the pages of your favorite stories, on well-designed book covers, and in your favorite characters… if you read closely enough.

This week, I’m taking on a recommendation from a regular “Looks from Books” reader, and branching out of my comfort zone with a historical multi-genre romance… and boy, did I enjoy it. Here’s Diana Gabaldon’s Outlander!

Outlander Cover via Amazon

Inside Cover

The Outlander series, by Diana Gabaldon, is a work of historical romance fiction that was published in 1991.

The first novel of the eight book series, Outlander (published in the United Kingdom as Cross Stitch), follows the story of Claire Beauchamp, an Englishwoman on a second honeymoon after WWII with her husband, Frank Randall, in Inverness, Scotland.

After a time-bending experience at the stones of Craig na Dun, Claire finds herself thrust into a battle between the English “lobsterbacks” and Scottish clansmen in the 18th century, and is unable to get back home. However, when a handsome young highlander named Jamie McTavish catches her eye – and her heart – will Claire even want to?

The book was a success upon its release, and won the Romance Writers of America RITA award for Best Romance of 1991.

A Fashionable Literacy

A promotional poster for the new Starz adaptation

The popular novel has recently been adapted for television by Starz network, and stars Caitriona Balfe as Claire and Sam Heughan as Jamie. Tobias Menzies also stars as Black Jack Randall, the ancestor of Frank and merciless captain of the British Army, who is after both Jamie and Claire. The season has already gotten rave reviews from major critics, and will run for sixteen episodes. The first episode it set to premiere on August 9.

The costume direction will be true to the series, if the designer has any say in it: on September 2nd, 2013, designer Terry Moore took to Diana Gabaldon’s Facebook page to profess her love for the books, as well as offer the fans some reassurance as to how the adaptation will go, saying, “My husband is Ron Moore [the writer and producer of the series], and he will do the books proud. If he doesn’t, he lives with a die hard fan who will not feed him anymore.”

How to Add Claire to Your Wardrobe

By integrating key elements from the novel into your own wardrobe, you, too, can have a look that is perfect for adventure and romance… good luck finding that time-traveling portal, though.

A Good Love Story Takes Time ( -Travel)

Outlander fashion inspiration
Product Information: Necklace – 1928, Tank – Bloomingdales, Headband – Modcloth, Maxi – H&M, Sandals - Asos, Bag – Modcloth.

Outlander takes the form of many different kinds of stories, from sci-fi and historical fiction to action, fantasy, and everything in between; however, at its heart, the novel is a romance, focusing on the relationship Claire has with Jamie. While their adventures take on a grand scope of a country’s history, the dynamics of their relationship – and their relationships with others – take center stage.

Integrate this celebration of the lovelier things in life with romantic fabrics, like lace and chiffon, pretty details, and airy silhouettes. A floral crinkled maxi and lightweight tank lay the floaty groundwork, while intricate detailing comes out in a lace-paneled saddle bag, woven sandals, a long flower necklace, and headband.

Antiquated Outdoorsmen

Fashion inspired by Outlander
Product Information: Jacket – Old Navy, Necklace – Bluefly, Shirt – Modcloth, Bag – Urban Outfitters, Shorts – H&M, Boots – Wet Seal.

Claire’s transition into pre-1800s life is not an easy one. War is brutal and bloody (and nearly everywhere), superstition crowds religion, and neither one of the two necessarily means strong moral judgement. Worst of all, these horseback travels to faraway places are like the world’s worst camping trip. Getting acclimated to a much more rough and rugged life than the one she left behind means adopting a whole new set of beliefs, protocols, and wardrobe.

Channel Claire’s transition to the antiquated life of 18th century Scotland by bringing in some roughness of your own with hardy fabrics and tried-and-true basics. Distressed denim and an adventure-inspiring tee are basic enough, but are amped up for summer with a utility jacket and foldover boots. A canvas hobo bag is easy to travel with, while a gun necklace harkens to the tools Claire must learn to use to protect herself in her new setting.

Nurse, Healer, Witch

Outlander outfit inspiration
Product Information: Scarf – Levis, Dress – Modcloth, Earrings – Asos, Purse – Debenhams, Oxfords – Modcloth, Rings – Asos.

Claire starts her journey well-versed in the life of a nurse, having served her country on the fields of WWII; this kind of ability is helpful, and just a wee bit more difficult, as she makes a new life for herself in Scotland. Taking cues from the healing properties of plants and animals and relying on homemade remedies, she applies her skills to a new century well… a bit too well. Her aptitude, taken from the ’40s, might just raise some eyebrows in her new home.

Pay homage to Claire’s orderly occupation with elements that tie together her feminine ’40s wardrobe with her new job as Castle Leoch’s resident healer. A prim tie-front blue dress and white ballet-inspired oxfords bring 1940s fashions into the present day, while a plaid scarf, floral rings, flowery earrings, and a similarly-bedecked messenger bag add on the viewpoint of her new job (though they’re a bit more glittery than usual).

What Do You Think?

Have you ever read Outlander, or any other books in Diana Gabaldon’s series? Do you have any intention of watching the television show? What do you think of having so many genres in one novel? What do you think of the outfits and styling tips? Let me know in the comments below! 

Filed Under: Inspiration / Tags: , , , , ,




CF’s Ultimate Dorm Room Shopping Guide – Part 1


Ikea shopping cart sign
Photo Credit

I would like to take this moment to point out that hints of pumpkin spice lattes are already cropping up all over Pinterest and Tumblr and it is still July.

If fall’s most iconic scent (and caffeinated beverage) is already making its sneaky way back into our consciousness, then so should one of the most hectic seasons of the year: back-to-school shopping.

A few years’ experience of navigating through crowds at IKEA, Bed Bath & Beyond, and Target has helped me get a better idea of which retailers are best for specific furnishings and decorations, but I doubt even a lifetime of back-to-school shopping would stop me from gazing soft-eyed at miniature panini presses and extravagantly overpriced Anthropologie sheets.

As the academic season slowly but surely rolls around to us again, it’s our job at CF to guide you through the perils of the preparation process.

This guide to back-to-school dorm room shopping will cover the basics: making your shopping list, figuring out which stores to attack visit first, and which stores to wholeheartedly avoid. Let’s get started!

Before We Begin: Make Your List

Packing list
Photo Credit

Grab your favorite set of markers* and a cup of coffee or tea, because while making a comprehensive (and accurate) list will certainly take a while, it is time well spent and will save you loads of money in the long run.

I can’t stress this enough: stick to your list. If it’s not on your list, don’t buy it. However: if you happen upon something that you simply can’t tear your eyes away from, and your budget is flexible enough, see if you’re still thinking about it a few hours (or days) later. If you are, go for it. If you hesitate, even for a millisecond, it’s not worth it and you will regret it. 

Many retailers provide ready-made lists that seem to include every appliance and bed accessory under the sun. Get a bunch, cross off what you don’t need, and consolidate them into one list that is tailor-made for you. The lists made by Target, Bed Bath & Beyond, and DormSmart are all good places to start.

*Color-coding your list is both therapeutic and helpful. 

Part 1: Where to Shop


Photo Credit

Rule of thumb for good color and style coordination in a dorm: start with the fabric.

Navigating the ocean of dorm room bedding is tricky, so check out CF’s Splurge or Save?: Dorm Room Bedding post from last season. Once you’ve figured out how much you’d like to spend on your sheets, determine where you’re most likely to hit the jackpot.

If you’re on a budget, check out discount retailers like Marshall’s or TJMaxx first. They often have great quality designer fabrics for a fraction of the cost, and especially around dorm season, they get overrun with Twin XL sheets and duvet covers. I personally scored a Ralph Lauren Home down comforter for a huge discount here, as well as a Ralph Lauren Home mattress pad and Egyptian cotton sheets.

If you have money to spend, you can’t beat the selection of comforter designs at stores like Macy’s or Urban Outfitters. Gorgeous, trendy, and often extraordinarily comfortable, higher-end retailers have plenty more choices than your typical discount department store.

And if you want something basic, your go-to shops are IKEA and Target. Target’s Room Essentials line has good, simple bedding and jersey sheet sets for cheap, and IKEA’s selection has not yet met its match.

Avoid thrift shops and consignment stores when you’re shopping for bedding. Sure, you might save loads, but there’s no telling what happened on those used sheets. If you’re really strapped for cash, try to get a set of linens from home.


Couch and wall decor
Photo Credit

This is a good practice in self-control. Furniture shopping is quite a large commitment, but with a bit of judgment and communication with roommates, you can expertly bypass mishaps and furnish your dorm or apartment with ease.

For previous posts on the topic, check out our Splurge or Save post on furnishings, a how-to guide, and tips for creating a dorm room layout.

If you’re on a budget, keep your ear to the ground for garage sales, school clean outs, or news of stores that are going out of business. You’ll always find the best (and most unique) deals when people are trying to get rid of things. Pick up a copy of a local newspaper that reports on going-out-of-business sales and devote an afternoon to shopping around.

If you have money to spend, great furniture and IKEA are usually not synonymous. There are exceptions, but if you’re planning on graduate school or living in an apartment for a while, there are definite advantages to splurging on a great piece from Crate & Barrel or Etsy. Check out eBay and Craigslist for deeply discounted items, like (my favorite) CB2 Peekaboo Coffee Table.

And if you want something basic, much is to be said about IKEA’s “LACK” and “EXPEDIT” lines of tables and shelving, respectively.

As for what to avoid, Walmart furniture is the only thing you can count on to be tossed into the dumpster come May, every single time. (At last count, I spotted six Walmart futon frames in the same trash bin outside my dorm.)

What do you think?

Where do you shop for bedding and dorm furniture? What do you think of our tips? Have you had any good or bad experiences with the stores listed above? Let us know with a comment!

Also, stay tuned for the next installment of back-to-school dorm room shopping, which will cover decor and storage.

Filed Under: Dorm Room / Tags: , , , , ,




Looks on Campus: Mariana – Federal University of Rio de Janeiro

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According to Mariana, who attends college in Rio de Janeiro, “People go to class in shorts and flip-flops, and bikini straps are a common sight,” because students are ready to leave for the beach as soon as class is done. However, when I met with her in our hometown, São Paulo, where the weather is a little cooler, she rocked a very classy, business-like outfit that rings true to her personality.

Pairing her black-and-white blazer with a black satin blouse and burgundy trousers, Mariana’s outfit serves as inspiration for those looking for a polished ensemble. Whether it’s an internship, a job interview, or a business day at school, there are many opportunities for college students to dress up.

Mariana 101

Federal university of Rio de Janeiro street fashion

Name: Mariana

College: Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro (Federal University of Rio de Janeiro)

Hometown: São Paulo, Brazil

Major: Law

Age: 20

Year: Sophomore

Let’s Talk Fashion

Who or what inspires your style? “Actors and actresses in movies.”

Where do you like to shop? “A Brazilian store called Handbook.”

How would you describe your sense of style? “[I have a] classic sense of style.”

Why did you choose this particular outfit? “For my mother’s birthday celebration.”

What fashion advice would you give other college students? “Always [have] good fashion sense and wear what makes you feel comfortable.”

What are your favorite trends? “Colorful pants!”

What do you do for fun? “I play sports for fun. My favorite one is basketball.”

If you could raid anyone’s closet who would it be and why? “I would have Angelina Jolie’s closet because she is always elegant and always looks comfortable with what she wears.”

Elements of Mariana’s Outfit

1. Gold Jewelry

College fashionista wearing gold statement jewelry

The gold jewelry Mariana chose adds a touch of glamor and sophistication to her look. She paired the gorgeous patterned bracelet and ring with a faux stone ring for a mix of bohemian and cosmopolitan styles.

2. Cutout Shoes

Trendy cut out flats and colored skinny jeans

Mariana kept her look grounded with these dainty black flats. Despite their color, they are a far cry from the classic black flat! This pair has a delicate floral cutout pattern, which adds a feminine vibe to her outfit.

What do you think of Mariana’s business look?

Would you wear this outfit to an internship? Do you love her pretty flats and delicate jewelry? What do you wear to keep professional during summer? Let us know what you think!

Filed Under: Looks on Campus / Tags: , , , , , ,

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