Follow College Fashion on Twitter!

The New Classics: 20 Modern Pieces Every Girl Should Own – Part One


As members of the CF community, it’s safe to say we’re all pretty fashion-savvy. We know what’s in, we know what’s out, and most of all we know that most of the season’s “must-haves” come with expiration dates. Similarly, we’re all students. We can’t afford to buy into the latest designer whims- we can barely afford to feed ourselves! So what’s a stylish college girl to do? Reach for the classics, of course.

Whereas most “wardrobe classics” lists talk about items that have been popular for centuries, this post is about the new era of timeless pieces – OUR classics: the new wardrobe staples for this generation. While of course there will be some overlap with old-school “fashion classics” lists, this list will focus on the next generation of classics, and list some newer pieces that every modern girl needs to own, as well as a few items that have been in style forever.

1. The Plaid/Check Shirt

Katie Holmes in a classic plaid shirt
photo credit

Although this piece has only been hot for a couple of years now, it won’t be going anywhere for a while. The check shirt is easy, casual and fabulous dressed up or dressed down. If you need any help styling up this fantastically versatile piece, check out CF’s guide to rocking a plaid shirt.

2. Skinny Jeans

Kate Moss wearing skinny jeans
photo credit

Okay, I know not everyone is a fan of the ubiquitous skinny jean, but the truth is this style is here to stay. Whether you wear them with ballet flats or boots for day or sky-high heels for night, skinnies are a perpetual closet staple for every modern girl.

3. Big Sunglasses

Victoria Beckham wearing oversized sunglasses
photo credit

As with skinny jeans above, not everyone is a fan of big sunglasses, however, they’re a style we’re going to continue to see everywhere for the next few years. While other shapes and styles of sunglasses have been creeping onto the trend radar over the last couple of summers, big sunglasses are still a favorite. They’re effortlessly flattering and perfect for covering up a night of excess!

4. Bandage Skirts

Rihanna wearing a bandage skirt
photo credit

Although they’ve only been “in” for a couple of seasons, I’m prepared to go out on a limb here: bandage skirts are big news, and seem to be more than a passing phase. Flattering, wearable and simple all at once, every girl should own at least one of these in her wardrobe.

Need some help finding the right one? Check out our post on investing in a bandage skirt.

5. Trench Coat

Alexis Bledel in a classic trench coat
photo credit

Every girl needs a fabulous trench coat- it’s lightweight, versatile, timeless, and one of the few things I’ve invested in living in the rainy UK! When it comes to trenches, it helps to think outside of the beige box- bright colors and little details can really change your outfit. This post on trench coats has some great advice.

6. Ballet Flats

Olivia Palermo rocking metallic ballet flats
photo credit

A classic shoe from the Audrey-Hepburn-era; the ballet flat no longer means day off. These adorable shoes can give an cute, classy aesthetic to any outfit- without the awful pinching of heels! Even better, they’re versatile enough to wear to class, to an internship, and out for a night on the town!

7. Leggings

Jessica Alba wearing leggings
photo credit

No longer reserved for lounging and ’80s costume parties, everyone’s favorite childhood wardrobe staple, the legging, is back with a vengeance. As I’m sure you all know, with hundreds of different colors and styles to choose from, leggings can really make an outfit. Just make sure your shirt is long enough to cover your rear- leggings are not pants!

8. White Plimsolls

White plimsolls
photo credit

White plimsolls are the ultimate wear-with-everything shoe. These adorable tennis shoes give everything a sort of chilled out, summery vibe and look great with bare legs, tights or jeans. Just throw them in the washing machine to keep them super-white!

9. Opaque Tights

Lily Allen in opaque black tights
photo credit

I’m convinced you can’t go wrong with opaque tights. They are my number one wardrobe staple; I wear them pretty much day-in, day-out, except for the few days in summer when my fake tan comes out okay. They look great with shorts, skirts, dresses and pretty much everything else under the sun. Even better, they keep your legs toasty on those chilly nights!

10. White Shirt

Lindsay Lohan wearing a basic white shirt
photo credit

This piece truly needs no introduction. We all know it’s true: The classic white shirt knows no boundaries. Need some inspiration for how to wear yours? We’ve done plenty of posts on must-have white shirts and how to wear your white shirt here on CF!

On to Part Two!

EDIT: Read the second half of this post and find out what the final 10 items are by clicking over to 20 Modern Pieces Every Girl Should Own – Part Two. Enjoy!

What do you think?

What do you think of the list? What do you expect to see in Part Two? What modern pieces do you love and think will stand the test of time? Let me know what you think!!

Posted on on July 23, 2010 / Filed Under: Fashion Tips / Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Blog Widget by LinkWithin

75 Responses to “The New Classics: 20 Modern Pieces Every Girl Should Own – Part One”

  1. 1
    July 23rd, 2010 at 2:48 pm

    This post is amazing! I agree with everything on this list. Everyone, regardless of their personal style (classic, girly, rocker, glam, sporty, etc) can benefit from having these items. There is so much versatility that anybody’s style can easily adopt these clothes.

    Keep up the good work :)

  2. 2
    July 23rd, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Great post! I feel that anybody, regardless of their personal style (girly, rocker, glam, sporty, classic) can easily incorporate these clothes into their daily wardrobe.

    Good work :-)

  3. 3
    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:24 pm

    very nice post. Skinny jeans are my fave! I just love them. They’re very flattering and comfy.

  4. 4
    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:34 pm

    Plaid Shirt — Check
    Skinny Jeans — Check
    Big Sunglasses — Check
    Ballet Flats — Check
    Leggings — Check

    Guess I’ve got some shopping to do. In the Bahamas we call Plimsolls “sweet waters”. No clue why.

    Thanks for yet another awesome fashion guide!

  5. 5
    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:36 pm

    In regards to the show department, A pair of genuine leather flat/low heeled boots is a must. They can be styled to accommodate weather in every season. You can wear them with tights, leggings, jeans or even bare legged with a dress or skirt. For the summertime my new personal favorite would be my carmel leather boots with my worn in Levi shorts and a white button down tucked in.

    I’m not sure if you are taking accessories into account in your 20 modern pieces, but I must say a slightly oversized menswear watch can be paired with almost any look. They come in varying price ranges so they are affordable for everyone.

  6. 6
    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    So I’m not one to usually comment on a post unless I feel very strongly so consider this one of those times! I love this post with a capital L! It really showcases all the important staples that women should have in their wardrobe. I own most of these things and the rest I plan on purchasing soon. I really adore all these pieces, especially the white shirt, skinny jeans and leggings.

    But really, I’m done gushing! This was an amazing post that I plan on revisiting often!

  7. 7
    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:37 pm

    *shoe not show!

  8. 8
    July 23rd, 2010 at 3:45 pm

    I like how the pieces you picked don’t necessarilly point to one particular style. Whether you’re a Forever 21, ModCloth, or Anthropologie girl, I think that all of these pieces can apply to your wardrobe.

    I’m especially interesed in posts like this since I’ll be buying a new wardrobe in a year and am already planning what to buy! Can’t wait for the next installment.

  9. 9
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:08 pm

    i have pretty much everything on this list, i am a big fan of classic fashion it’s easy for lazy days and depending on what accessories you pair with them you can jazz it up or down. great list and great first article! welcome to CF! :)

  10. 10
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:11 pm

    Great list!
    I just need a trench coat and a bandage skirt ;)
    Can’t wait for the next installment!

  11. 11
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:26 pm

    Great list! I agree with almost everything on it, and I have a lot of those pieces too. Can’t wait for part two!

  12. 12
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:27 pm

    I’m missing the trench, the bandage skirt and the plaid shirt.

  13. 13
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    I loved this post, the items apply whatever your style. Looking forward to seeing more

  14. 14
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:30 pm

    Great list! Skinny jeans are definitely a classic item now! Thanks to Kate Moss!

  15. 15
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:56 pm

    Great article! I agree with everything except the plaid shirt, I do think they look adorable on others, but I could never see myself wearing one.
    I look forward to your future articles :)

  16. 16
    July 23rd, 2010 at 4:59 pm

    Great Post! These really are the perfect staples for our generation! I can’t wait to see the next installment.

  17. 17
    July 23rd, 2010 at 5:01 pm

    Yay! I love looking classic instead of trendy, but STILL I go crazy at F21 all the time and then totally regret it. I’ve been needing a list of updated classics so I can stop rationalizing keeping my ponchos from 2004… and this was it! :)

  18. 18
    July 23rd, 2010 at 5:04 pm

    I love this article.
    I would love to see some great examples of these staples that are available currently in stores :)

  19. 19
    July 23rd, 2010 at 5:28 pm

    I’m not so sure about the plimsolls being something everyone should own. They’re cute but I think a pair of chucks or any other white tennis shoes would suffice.

    Everything else I am on board with :)

  20. 20
    July 23rd, 2010 at 6:11 pm

    This is a great post! Classics are what I live by. As others have said, I think my favorite part of this post is that these appeal to all styles–and that’s what makes them classic pieces.

    While I used to resist skinny jeans and leggings, I concede that they are now classic looks. And there are definitely flattering ways to wear them. But most people don’t wear them in flattering ways.

  21. 21
    July 23rd, 2010 at 6:29 pm

    I definitely have to keep these in mind when I go back-to-school shopping. I’m missing a few pieces, but I’ll be on the look out. I have a question though: how do I wear my plaid shirt during summer? It’s cotton not flannel, so the problem isn’t the weather. Even though I have a yellow/red plaid shirt, I feel awkward wearing it when it’s not autumn! Any ideas? :)

  22. 22
    July 23rd, 2010 at 7:11 pm

    I’m 8 for 10… I better step my game up

    -Bandage Skirt – I never can find any, anywhere!!!
    -Trench – I waiting for the perfect one to come along… Probably will never happen so I better just get one. Thanks CF for pursuading this purchase ;)

  23. 23
    July 23rd, 2010 at 7:43 pm

    Sari, wear it instead of cardigan (plaid shirt looks great on short jeans and white/black t-shirt) or roll up your sleeves and tie the ends so you show a bit of your belly -not too much thou =)(again, it looks awesome paired with shorts)

    as for the article : I love it… especially since I own 10 out of 10 =) My favorite are the plaid shirt, skinny jeans and trench..I can’t decide if I like leggings or not, i own a pair or two but rarely wear them..i just prefer skinny jeans or black tights

    I think the aviator glasses, leather jacket and black suit jacket would also qualify as a must have classic pieces.

    keep up with the good work guys!!

  24. 24
    July 23rd, 2010 at 7:58 pm

    I absolutely loved this list! Great photos and truly classic pieces. I agree that every girl should have a white button-up shirt! I have been dreaming of a fabulous trench coat but haven’t found one in my budget yet.

    Keep up the great posts!

  25. 25
    July 23rd, 2010 at 8:05 pm

    Great post. Have most of these, though I prefer a bodycon dress over a bandage skirt.
    Some suggestions for part 2:
    – Black tank/razorback: I have at least 5, and still think I need more!
    – Blazer.
    – Flirty sundress.
    – Pep toe pumps.

  26. 26
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:17 pm

    1. Really want one
    2. Want to (only) wear with boots. My bootcuts bunch over
    3. Have and LOVE!
    4. not practical for my everyday life
    5. Been looking and looking for the perfect one
    6. Just bought the cutest black and blue leopard print ones from Payless on sale for $11
    7. No
    8. Never heard of these
    9. yes :)
    10. Just bought two-one short sleeve and one 3/4

  27. 27
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    SO TRUE!
    I have yet to acquire the bandage skirt, white shirt (i have not yet found the perfect model), and trench. should do that ASAP!!!

    what i would include as my own personal basics are:
    1. a well cut blazer
    2. pumps
    3. black tank (i have 5, at least)
    4. LBD!!!!!!

    i have to say, today they try to do the lwd and lb(lue)d, and sure these are good too, but nothing, NOTHING beats an lbd. it’s just fail-proof!

    i love that you include the plaid shirt, it’s so true! i throw it as a shirt over shorts, use it during winter with a warmer jacket, leggings and tall boots, use it as cover-up for the beach, use it as a ‘jacket’ over some dresses…. it’s perfect!

    great great post, congratulations!!

  28. 28
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:36 pm

    I’m a little confused as to why it says 20 modern pieces, when there’s 10….

  29. 29
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:39 pm

    I’m not one for long comments, but let me just say I think this is my favourite CF article ever!

  30. 30
    July 23rd, 2010 at 9:42 pm

    I loved.! I think a flats boots is necessary too

  31. 31
    July 23rd, 2010 at 10:11 pm

    LOVE THIS! I’ve read other must own classics articles, but I always feel like those are super outdated or geared towards 30-50 year-old professional women. Some stuff I would suggest for part two,

    Flat heeled boots – like everyone said basically
    A cross-body bag – This seems like the must have accessory for every college girl I’ve seen for the past year or so. It is such a versatile bag to own.
    Leather/Faux-leather jacket – A long lasting jacket will give a little edge to any outfit.

  32. 32
    July 23rd, 2010 at 11:39 pm

    love vthis post
    i have everything except White Plimsolls, bandage skirt(will get one soon) and trench coat(really need to get it fr the cold weather in aus)

  33. 33
    July 23rd, 2010 at 11:51 pm

    The white sneakers and white shirt aren’t really my style and I haven’t really felt the same way, but other than that, this post was awesome! Everything is on point and I loved it.

  34. 34
    July 24th, 2010 at 12:01 am

    I liked this post! I have all of the items you mentioned, except for the trench coat and sneakers. My plaid shirt and white shirt are both short sleeved though. I can’t wait to see part 2!

  35. 35
    July 24th, 2010 at 12:27 am

    Awesome post! Probably one of the most helpful ones I’ve seen. I love the idea of a being a part of a modern movement. Very well written.

  36. 36
    July 24th, 2010 at 1:03 am

    Loved this very much. I figured all the comments would be arguments saying that certain items shouldn’t be on there but I’m pleasantly surprised!

  37. 37
    July 24th, 2010 at 1:20 am

    This was a fab post and I can’t wait to see part 2! I would disagree about the skinny jeans. While they are a fashion staple now, they can’t be worn by all body types and look flattering, like everything else on the list. I think for something to truly be a modern classic, every body type should be able to wear it in a flattering way. I say this because I have super athletic legs and skinny jeans do not flatter my figure or any other girl that may have larger or shapelier legs.

  38. 38
    July 24th, 2010 at 3:40 am

    This has to be my favorite article ever! I can’t wait to read the next installment!

  39. 39
    July 24th, 2010 at 3:55 am

    The clothes matching in 2. Skinny Jeans & 7. Leggings are great!

  40. 40
    July 24th, 2010 at 4:05 am

    I still don’t have trech coat and white plimsolls (and wanna own nude bandage skirt like one rihanna wears)-guess it’s time to go shopping!

    can’t wait for part two!

  41. 41
    July 24th, 2010 at 5:46 am

    I have to admit, I don’t understand the idea that skinny jeans are universally flattering. They just… aren’t. How could something that emphasises wide hips be flattering? IMO, skinnies look good on people with narrow hips and long legs, not us hourglass/pear shaped ones. I own one – dark, which probably has something to do with it – pair I like, but otherwise it’s bootcut all the way (and as high-waisted as possible to give a more hourglass shape). I love the skinnies+flats look and have tried it many times, but I just look disporpotionate most of the time. I guess “classic” body shape = classic jeans shape.

    I mean, I know they’re in style, but it doesn’t mean they fit everyone. Everyone sure are welcome to wear them, good on folks who’re less self-conscious about this than I am – but universally flattering? Hmm.

  42. 42
    July 24th, 2010 at 7:17 am

    agreed with everything! can’t wait for the next one!

  43. 43
    July 24th, 2010 at 8:26 am

    Great first article for CF! It’s so great to see someone from the good ole Midlands writing on my favourite website (bar Facebook) so I wish you good luck and I cannot wait to read more articles!

    PS. I’m considering applying to Uni. of Birmingham, anything I need to know?

  44. 44
    July 24th, 2010 at 9:25 am

    I would say what could be added are converses, a clutch, and maybe a hobo or just plain big bag. I love this post and think you should do more than just 20 classics for modern day. These are things we are going to be telling our children some day about which is exciting and this check list helps me feel fashion forward on a low budget. Keep it up please!

  45. 45
    July 24th, 2010 at 9:56 am

    I definitely agree with the commenters about the skinny jeans issue. As a runner with hips and extremely muscular legs, the skinny jeans won’t even fit around my calves. Perhaps it would be more appropriate that instead of skinny jeans, you can say, “a pair of dark rinse jeans that fit”. J.Crew has an amazing pair of bootcut jeans. All in all, great article, but keep in mind all your readers.

  46. 46
    July 24th, 2010 at 11:32 am

    totally agree. white shirt is the most classic thing. it’s always perfect to wear.

  47. 47
    July 24th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    I have all but two of these. I don’t have big sunglasses because my head is too small for them.

  48. 48
    July 24th, 2010 at 11:37 am

    Love it! Think I gonna use this as a checklist to fall back on for my next shopping trip (:

  49. 49
    July 24th, 2010 at 12:24 pm

    SO great Charlotte!!!! I own everything except the white shoes–they’re not as common in the states. They’re so cute though, a pair is definitely on my to-buy list :)

  50. 50
    July 24th, 2010 at 2:08 pm

    i’m not sure I agree with the plaided shirt and the bandeau skirt… i would have chose a pocket-skirt instead.

    but all the other items are a definite necessity!

  51. 51
    July 24th, 2010 at 2:50 pm

    Priya- Hi there!! Birmingham is absolutely stunning. There’s a bit about it on my blog :]]] I’m originally from near Manchester but I would recommend the University of Birmingham to anyone. I literally can’t praise it enough. It’s one of the most beautiful universities in the country :]]] If you can find any footage from the third politcal debate that was filmed at my uni, and they definitely do it justice!!

    Chelsea- I think I realised white pumps weren’t common when I was researching pictures for this article!! They’re huge over here!! Maybe I’ll start a revolution when I move to the states!!

    Thank you for all the wonderful comments everyone!!

    Charlotte xxx

  52. 52
    July 24th, 2010 at 5:15 pm

    Didn’t you say there were 20 modern pieces we should own? Where are the other 10 ??

  53. 53
    July 24th, 2010 at 5:30 pm

    Am I the only one who finds boot cut jeans to the LEAST flattering on curvy girls? I feel like I’m alone here…

    I think skinny jeans are flattering on everybody (I’m pear shaped)…although I do have to admit that I usually buy skinny jeans in a size too large for me so they don’t squeeze my legs and/or look painted on, haha.

    Awesome article, btw! :)

  54. 54
    July 24th, 2010 at 5:36 pm

    This is a fantastic post and I cannot wait to see the second part of this series! I also really like how you linked another posts within this post, it really put a lot of useful information in one place and brought attention to them for when people start to look for fit/ style and how to incorporate them into outfits.

  55. 55
    July 24th, 2010 at 6:20 pm

    Also- to the people that have asked, this is part one and features the first 10 pieces. Part two will feature the second 10 to complete the list of 20 pieces and will be posted soon!!

    Charlotte xxx

  56. 56
    July 24th, 2010 at 7:27 pm

    This is such a great post. And thanks so much for reminding people that leggings are not pants!! I kind of want to make a card with that on it to hand out to people who clearly haven’t heard that!!

  57. 57
    July 24th, 2010 at 7:34 pm

    AMAZING! Nothing else. That is all.

  58. 58
    July 24th, 2010 at 11:55 pm

    Awesome article…………eagerly waiting for Part 2

  59. 59
    July 25th, 2010 at 8:16 am

    Awesome article.

  60. 60
    July 25th, 2010 at 8:19 am

    I couldn’t agree more. Also, a few tank tops and a blazer are much needed.
    Waiting for the part-2.

  61. 61
    July 27th, 2010 at 3:23 am

    BANDAGE SKIRTS – No, but I want one in black.
    TRENCH COAT – It’s too warm where I live!
    WHITE PLIMSOLLS – I’ve never even heard of these.
    WHITE SHIRT – I NEED one of these.

  62. 62
    July 30th, 2010 at 4:01 pm

    I have everything except the glasses and the trench coat. Looking forward to purchasing one this winter.

  63. 63
    July 31st, 2010 at 7:54 pm

    love, love this article! need to get the white plimsolls, a trench, bandage skirt, opaque tights, and oversized sunglasses. looks like i have some shopping to do! if you love this website, the check out mine

  64. 64
    August 1st, 2010 at 2:51 pm

    So, where is part 2?? i only have a few things on the list and i’m really excited to find out about part 2, but where is it??? Plz help

  65. 65
    August 2nd, 2010 at 11:54 am

    Some of these make sense, but some of them are just seasonal fads. I do agree that every girl needs a white shirt, a pair of jeans (not necessarily skinny), a trench coat (unless you live in the tropics), and a big pair of sunglasses. I don’t know about a plaid shirt, a bandage skirt, or white shoes. These things seem more like fads than staples. I mean, I’m no fashion expert, but I do put on clothes every day and even buy them occasionally. The plaid thing (and the white shoes) were both big in the 1990s, and recently came back into style, like maybe a season ago. I just don’t see them lasting that long before they go out for another ten years, you know?

  66. 66
    August 4th, 2010 at 4:09 am

    Alright so I love this post and have anxiously been awaiting part 2!!! when’s it coming, school shopping time is right around the corner and i want to have all the modern day classics in my closet!! Again though, really awesome post!

  67. 67
    August 4th, 2010 at 4:28 pm

    Hey guys – Just wanted to let you know that Part 2 of this post is up now! Check it out here:


  68. 68
    August 8th, 2010 at 11:47 am

    I beg to differ: big sunglasses are fugly. You should have just written “stylish sunglasses” or something. I personally prefer aviators.

  69. 69
    August 9th, 2010 at 7:33 pm

    I think this post was definitely going in the right direction, but I personally didn’t agree with a lot of the stuff on the list. Just because something’s been in style for a few years doesn’t necessarily make it flattering or classic. Honestly, some of it was a little fashion-victim. I’d rather see stuff worth investing in that are easy, throw-it-on-every-day staples in my closet rather than stuff like plaid and bandage skirts, which require a lot of styling/effort.

  70. 70
    October 31st, 2010 at 1:49 pm

    I love skinny jeans because they are a classic wardrobe stable and you could pair them with anythind and everything.

Links to This Article

Leave a Reply


* Comment Rules: CF is a positive place and our comments section is no different. Constructive criticism is fine, but if you're rude, we'll delete your comment. Please use your PERSONAL name or initials and not your business name and do not put your website in the comment text, as both come off like spam. For more info, see our Comment Policy. Have fun & thanks for adding to the conversation!


* Want a custom avatar to show up next to your comments? Sign up for a free Gravatar.