What to Wear to a College Class

The ultimate guide to what to wear to class in college. Includes arguments in favor of being polished for class, plus outfit ideas.
Publish date:

One thing we get asked probably more than anything else is what you should wear to class in college.

We're sure you've all seen articles like "Why I Don't Dress Up For Class" or "I Would Rather Get Dressed Up than Look Like a Slob." Obviously, classroom attire is a controversial subject among college students!

So what do you wear to class, what don't you wear, what constitutes "dressing up" and what doesn't?

We have answers to these questions and more, as college students who love fashion but still have to roll out of bed and make it to class on time.

The "Dressing Up For Class" Debate

If you haven't heard about this before, here's the basic argument:

Some people think that because you're in college and no one is telling you what to wear, you should use the opportunity to dress sloppy. They claim that baggy pajamas or sweats that could masquerade as pajamas are easier to put on and more comfy than regular clothes. They will ask questions like: "Most college students are hungover every morning, so why should we bother to change out of our PJ's to make it to class?"

From our personal observations, these are usually the people who drag themselves to class and immediately fall asleep, snoring loudly enough that they eventually wake themselves up. They generally have no idea what's going on and believe that "just showing up" is good enough.

Here's why their argument is ridiculous:

First of all, pajamas or sweats that really shouldn't be worn in public aren't any easier to put on than a clean pair of jeans and a cute top - or even athleisure jogger pants and a cropped hoodie. Second of all, if you're too hungover to function, you don't belong in class and should really just stay home. Third, these people are obviously insecure about how they look, and trying to make those who put effort into looking good feel bad about it.

We could go on and on about this, but we'll save it. Suffice to say, we don't agree.

Why You Should Get Dressed For Class

We're not saying that you should spend 5 hours getting ready every morning or that fashion should be more important than anything else. But we do think that looking nice is important, and wearing possibly stained sweats in public is always a bad idea.

Here are some reasons why you SHOULD get "dressed up" for class - even if that just means jeans and a tee.

Showing respect for your professor

Showing up to class in your pajamas not only makes you look like a slob, but it's also disrespectful to your professor. They dress nicely for class to show that they take their job seriously. When you dress like you're ready to fall asleep, it says that you could not care less. This is disrespectful to your prof.

Making it easier to focus

We don't know about all of you, but we don't feel very productive when we're wearing PJ's. Pajamas are good for a few things - sleeping, watching TV, and lounging around. When you're dressed a little nicer, you're not going to be tempted to fall back asleep or space out during lecture.

Looking good

Okay, this is an obvious reason not to wear sweats or pajamas. Sloppy sweats and PJ's aren't always the cutest. We love 'em for wearing around the dorm, to the gym, or even to a final if we've been up all night studying... but never outside of the house for a day of classes.

If you love fashion, you should wear your fabulous clothes! Don't settle for boring and shapeless sweatpants. Wear something unique and have fun with fashion. Why bother having amazing clothes if you aren't going to wear them?

What to Wear to Class

Even if you only have a few minutes to get ready, it's not difficult to wear something cute and comfortable to class. Resist the urge to throw on ratty sweats or your pajamas!

Here are some examples of outfits to wear to class:

Note: Check out this post, this post, and this post for more looks for class. For STEM majors, see What to Wear to LabAlso see our class to night out section for outfits that transition from class to party.

Outfit #1 - Simple & Chic

simple chic outfit for college students

Products: Sweater - Anthropologie, Cardigan - Banana Republic, Tote Bag - Madewell, Flats - ModCloth, Jeans - Old Navy

This is a simple outfit that you can make a thousand variations of - a pair of skinny jeans, a slim-fit sweater, and a cardigan on top. Finish off the outfit with metallic or brightly-colored ballet flats and a cute tote bag. It's the perfect go-to outfit when you're pressed for time but still want to look nice. It's easy and chic!

Outfit #2 - Comfortable & A Little Bohemian

summer outfit with a colorful dress and gold sandals

Products: Dress - ASOS, Sandals - Guess Factory, Sunglasses - Urban Outfitters, Rings - Madewell, Bag - Lands' End

This outfit would be great to wear to class when it's warm and sunny out. A dress is so easy to just throw on. Flowy statement dresses make the entire outfit.

We added a few accessories to this outfit in the form of stacked rings, metallic sandals, and tinted sunglasses. You could go without the jewelry and even just wear flip-flops if you wanted! This outfit is all about comfort, so your footwear should be comfortable too.

It's All About The Basics

At the end of the day, if you have most of the wardrobe essentials for college girls, then you're basically good to go when it comes to getting dressed for class.

Most of the time, a cute pair of jeans with a great top or a dress and some accessories are all you need. If you want to wear something more interesting, though, we say go for it! We're all in favor of showing off the clothes you love and self-expression through fashion.

Have fun with it . . . and just say "no" to pajamas!

Your Thoughts?

What do you think about the "getting dressed for class" debate? Would you wear pajamas to class, or would you never even think of it? What would a typical school outfit be for you?

Let me know your thoughts in the comments section!

Editor's note: This post was originally published in 2008; it was completely updated and revamped in 2018 by Sharon with new photos, outfit sets, and information.

Related Stories