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10 Must-Have Items for College Theme Parties


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Every college girl knows that theme parties can be some of the most fun events to attend during your four years. And while the parties themselves are great, the act of dressing up and creating a costume can often be the highlight of the night.

We all know the importance of building a wardrobe full of basics for mixing and matching, but in college, creating a “dress up drawer” with a few key pieces for costume parties can prove just as useful. The best part? You probably already have some of these theme party “essentials” in your closet. Read on to see our top ten picks!

1. Animal Ears

Animal Ears

What Party: Anything with a “wild” or animal theme (e.g. hunter and hunted, jungle), or any party that requires a quick and cute costume.

How to Style it: There’s a reason animal ears are number one on our list of essentials! They’re cute, take up virtually zero space, make your outfit costume-like in two seconds, and are super easy to style. Search for a pair of ears in the children’s section around Easter or Halloween or order online year round! Pop a pair on with your go-to outfit and you’re automatically a cute kitten/sexy mouse/sassy bunny. Boom.

2. Camo-Print Top


What Party: Anything with a country, Army, or hunter/hunting theme.

How to Style it: Another easy pick, your camo piece can be styled with almost anything you already own. Grab a cheap camouflage shirt or jacket from a thrift or Army-surplus store, add jeans and boots, and you’re good to go! An even simpler alternative? Top off a basic outfit with a camo hat.

3. Neon Leggings

Neon Leggings

What Party: ’80s, blacklight, highlighter.

How to Style it: Though any ridiculously bright bottom works for these parties, if you’ve ever coveted the neon leggings at American Apparel, this is a great excuse to get some. Since they’re your biggest piece, your leggings will be the focal point of your outfit (as they should be, since theme parties are potentially the only time it’s borderline socially-acceptable to wear leggings as pants!), but remember to go equally bold and bright with the rest of your look if you’re dressing for an ’80s or blacklight theme! Make sure to check eBay for deals!

4. Fake Glasses


What Party: High school stereotypes, office/business/career theme, or anything that requires you to look “nerdy” or “sexy.”

How to Style it: Trendy oversized non-prescription glasses work notoriously well for a “nerdy” look, while sleek or cat-eyed styles give off a sexy vibe when paired with pencil skirts and up-dos. Even if you already wear real glasses and could just use those for party, having a cheapie pair of fake-outs insures that your actual lenses won’t get lost or broken. AND, since the both styles have become quite trendy (they’re all over Forever 21 and Urban Outfitters), you’ll be left with a cute, fashion-forward accessory to rock post-party.

5. Men’s (or oversized) Button-Up Shirt

Button up shirts

What Party: Risky Business, pajama jam.

How to Style it: Channel Tom Cruise with tube socks + wayfarers, belt it and add heels for a sexy look, or pair with girlie PJ shorts and a cami for flirty nightwear. But you don’t have to necessarily buy this one – raid the closet of your boyfriend or hallmates for a genuine (and totally free!) party option. An outfit centered around an oversized button-up is also a great last-minute Halloween costume.

6. Mini Dress.


What Party: Jersey Shore.

How to Style it: A total classic, the ridiculously tacky, brightly-colored mini dress deserved a place on this list simply because it’s inexpensive, works for a variety of themes, and is easy to style for a variety of party themes. Seriously, who hasn’t been to a Jersey Shore party during the past few semesters?! For one of these, check out cheap clubwear at stores like Forever 21 or Wet Seal!

7. Plain White Tee

Plain White Tee

What Party: Graffiti/highlighter.

How to Style it: SO. SIMPLE. Wear whatever you want and add the shirt! Since graffiti and highlighter parties are based around collecting interesting doodles/names/numbers on your tee or making hand-drawn decorations glow in special lighting, the rest of your outfit doesn’t call for much concern. Check out a three-pack of Hanes in the men’s department of Target or Walmart or grab a more feminine, fitted option from your store of choice.

8. Cowboy Boots

Cowboy boots

What Party: Anything with a country theme.

How to Style it: Another easy essential that you likely already own, cowboy boots add a fun and flirty “country” vibe to any outfit. Whether you tuck your skinny jeans into them or simply let the toes and heels peek out under frayed flares, you’ll create an obvious nod to country-girl style. Need a last-minute fix for a pop culture party? Rock your boots with a sundress à la Taylor Swift!

9. D.I.Y. Toga

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What Party: Greek gods and goddesses, “end of an era”, toga!

How to Style it: Whether you choose to go old school and use an extra bed sheet or elect to head down to a fabric store and pick out a fun print or pattern (I recommend anything with glitter!), creating your own D.I.Y. toga for Greek-themed parties is the way to go. Don’t know how to do it? Get inspired (and read instructions!) here, here, and here. Keep things stylish and body-conscious by adding a belt and a pair of gladiators from your collection.

10. Puffy Paint

Puffy paint

What Party: Homecoming, Greek Week, anything requiring a team!

How to Style it: Though technically not a clothing item, puffy paint is an absolute essential for any outfit that calls for extra personalization! Decorate those white tees, rock a cheeky slogan, or show some team spirit on game days with this versatile medium. Just remember to have a couple of colors on-hand to maximize your options!

Your thoughts?

So… what do you think?! What are your theme party essentials? Do you have a collection of go-to’s for special events? Did we miss anything? Let us know — leave a comment!

Posted on on March 30, 2011 / Filed Under: College Life / Tags: , , , ,

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14 Responses to “10 Must-Have Items for College Theme Parties”

  1. 1
    March 30th, 2011 at 11:13 am

    This article is perfect, and all of these items are definitely essential for anyone living on campus or involved in clubs, Greek life, organizations, or just for the girls who like to have fun!! I have used every single one of these items this year between socials, parties, and theme nights at bars!

  2. 2
    March 30th, 2011 at 12:52 pm

    Can you list the links for the cowboy boots? I particularly liked the cream colored pair.

  3. 3
    March 30th, 2011 at 1:18 pm

    I’ve literally attended more themed party in college than I can count on two hands, but I can definitely confirm that these items can be reused over and over again. I have a sorority social tonight and the theme is “80s workout” so I will be rocking neon leggings.

  4. 4
    March 30th, 2011 at 2:32 pm

    I have a “dress up” section of my closet too because in college, it seems like there’s always a new theme party to attend last-minute! Another tip I have is to hang on to your old Halloween costumes – you can usually repurpose them for theme parties, but they’re also good to have on hand to swap with your friends (if you’re the same size). It beats having to go out and buy a new one every year!

  5. 5
    March 30th, 2011 at 4:03 pm

    HAHAHA love this post. Definitely very true!! I would also add hawaiian like a sarong or something.

  6. 6
    March 30th, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    I love this! I have hideous gold lame leggings from american apparel that I always find some reason to wear–80’s parties, rave parties, and one time I was an ice dancer haha. I also bought a navy men’s workshirt and belt it over khaki’s, and found a kiddie cop hat, badge, and handcuffs a few years ago and have worn it at least 3 different times. Love recycle-able costumes!

  7. 7
    March 31st, 2011 at 4:51 am

    hi what is the link for the pink drapey sweetheart dress in mini dresses section please? its soo cute. thank you so much =)

  8. 8
    April 1st, 2011 at 11:47 pm

    I love this!! Since my school doesn’t have Greek life, we don’t have theme parties that often, but this list still makes perfect sense. And it’s practical too!

  9. 9
    February 17th, 2012 at 1:20 pm

    Great suggestions, thanks! Having a collection of clothes and accessories to wear to a theme party is a fun idea. You never know when you might need that special something!

  10. 10
    June 29th, 2012 at 8:36 pm

    awesome hats !! bed sheets for toga harry potter wound

  11. 11
    August 16th, 2012 at 8:03 am

    Tutus!! Best mixer theme! We have ordered frat colors/sorority colors- team colors! Tons of laughs and lots of fun!

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