What to Wear to a College Class

The ultimate guide to what to wear in college.

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What to wear in college - guide to what to wear to a college class
Backpack: Urban Outfitters

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

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:

college girl with backpack carrying books

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 and not care about what you wear.

They claim that baggy 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 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 joggers 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.

Why You Should Get Dressed For Class

college girl looking through her closet

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.

Here are some reasons why you SHOULD get “dressed up” for class – even if that just means jeans and a tee or some cute joggers and a fashion sneaker.

Showing respect for your professor

Showing up to class in your pajamas not only makes you look like you don’t care, 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. (We talked more about how well this works in our realistic college outfits blog post.)

Looking good

Okay, this is an obvious reason not to wear the clothes you slept in. PJ’s aren’t always the cutest. We love our oversized sorority graphic tees and sweat shorts for wearing around the dorm, to the gym, or even to a final if we’ve been up all night studying… but never for a day of classes.

If you love fashion, you should wear your fabulous clothes! 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. Below, we’ve created some super cute and comfy options.

Here are some examples of outfits to wear to class:

Note: Check out this post and this post for more tips on what to wear in college. For STEM majors, see What to Wear to Lab

Outfit #1 – Comfy & Cozy Outfit

What to wear in college: Comfy & cozy outfit for class with accessories | Gray joggers, comfy socks, cropped tank, chunky dad sneakers, scrunchie

Products: Top, Pants, Sneakers, Socks, Scrunchie

This outfit is perfect if you are looking for something comfy to wear to class while also making sure that you look super cute!

Joggers have become a very trendy fashion item recently, and they are ideal for wearing to class because they’re the comfiest pants you own while still looking stylish. And let’s be honest, in 2020, it’s all about comfort first.

Just grab some classic grey joggers and pair them with any colorful shirt or accessories you have on hand. This cute purple tank top and velvet scrunchie are ideal ways to add some color to your look.

Outfit #2 – Girly Skirt Outfit

What to wear to a college class: Girly skirt outfit with accessories including plaid skirt, button-front cardigan, air force 1s

Products: Top, Skirt, Cardigan, Sneakers, Hair Clips, Necklace

If you are looking for a more girly outfit to wear to class, this look is for you!

This outfit pairs a cute high-waisted blue skirt and white crop top with a matching cami. This tennis skirt look is very popular — we’re seeing ’90s throwbacks all over campus right now in a little nod to films like Clueless.

However, unlike Cher in Clueless, we’re pairing our outfit with classic Nike Air Force 1s instead of heels. They’re our favorite fashion sneaker right now — they’re all over every fashion Instagram account but they’re also insanely comfortable and can be paired with absolutely everything.

Also, you can spice up the look by adding fun accessories that are trendy as well as girly, such as a butterfly necklace and hair clips. I love these white ones to match the outfit.

Outfit #3 – Pink Sporty Outfit

Pink sporty outfit with accessories for college classes – white leggings, pink crop top, sneakers, zip hoodie

Products: Tank, Leggings, Sneakers, Jacket, Headband

Being on campus all day or having to go to multiple classes, can make it seem like you are already getting a workout with all the walking you have to do.

So why not rock a sporty outfit for class? Often times, athletic outfits may not seem the most fashionable, but you can add color to your outfit to win some extra fashion girl points.

This outfit combines a cute pink tank top with white leggings and a matching athletic jacket. It is also paired with a wrap-around headband, which is a trendy hair accessory. We finished the look with matching sneakers to make your athletic outfit look cute for class.

What to Wear in College? 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 little athletic look 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!

What do you think of our guide to what to wear in college?

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 college 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 2020 with new photos, outfit sets, and information.

81 thoughts on “What to Wear to a College Class”

  1. I believe this all depends on the school you attend. I also go to UC Berkeley and there is a wide range of fashion on campus. Plenty of people wear clothes similar to your two outfits but there are also lots of people in sweats and Uggs. Personally, I am not against the sweats look even though I love fashion. When it is cold and rainy, as it often is, I care about comfort first. Plus as an athlete it just doesn’t make sense to dress up constantly when I have to hit the gym and go to practice daily. Fashion is fun but when you’re a student practicality is key. Wear what suits your lifestyle and keep in mind the setting you will be in. The most ridiculous outfit I’ve ever seen was not pjs or sweats but a girl in an itty bitty skirt and thigh high stiletto boots. She looked good but completely out of place.

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  2. Having read this article, and all the comments on it, I have a question for you all…
    Would it be appropriate for a girl to wear clean and colourful sweat pants on a day that they were almost too sick to concentrate? You know, those days where you can’t afford to miss a class but you’re so sick the world is spinning? Would it be okay to then wear sweats?

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  3. Thank you! It is so refreshing to hear that someone actually believes in the ‘look good, feel good, do good’ philosophy. I don’t know about you, but I tend to feel gross and surprisingly uncomfortable when I wear my lounge apparel in public. When I feel clean and put together I am confident that I can take on anything.

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  4. As a college student going to UC Berkeley (and from NorCal, no less!), I’d say that we have a very different idea of what’s appropriate and what’s not. I think here, it’s completely normal to see students in sweatpants, but it’s also completely normal to see truly grungy outfits. I know that most fashion experts advise against flip-flops, but as one person I knew commented about Cal students, “It’s flip-flop country here.” Much as the rest of the fashion world wouldn’t like it, I really believe that we have different aesthetics here with our “chill” atmosphere.

    That having been said, I believe that when showing up to class, you should be clean, presentable, and if you can manage it or have time, cute and updated. The outfits you posted here are great – not ostentatious, but cute and presentable. Personally, I don’t mind seeing people show to class in jeans, sneakers/Converse shoes (we do SO much walking here!!) and a jacket or blazer, so long as it’s neat. I really think that’s the most important part of dressing – but that holds true no matter where you are.

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  5. haha i love the picture of the girl in the pink sweats, uggs, and north face. 95% of the girls who go to my school wear this identical outfit. they all look exactly the same. why would you wear clothes that make you look JUST LIKE EVERYONE ELSE? i just dont get it and personally when im walking behind one of them in their over sized uggs, dragging their feet, I’d like to punch them in the back of the head :))))

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  6. Its really nice that there is someone who thinks just the way i do.As a young writer wanting to help my fellow nigerian student i say fashion is not all about clothings,nor what you are wearing but all about how you feel and where you are.
    Sweats is nice to wear but not to all places while Pajamas is not to be worn to class thats really absurd to do.
    I hope students start getting the clues to good fashion very soon

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  7. I TOTALLY agree and sweat- pants are comfortable but save them for the times when you are just lounging around the dorm. I LOVE the sundress outfit you showed i think it is sofisticated, cute, and very presentable and its definetley what kinds of things i like to see people wearing on college campus’.

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  8. I like to dress up, but definitely not for class. I think people look ridiculous when they come to class in a skirt or pumps, unless you’re giving a presentation, there’s no need to dress like that. You go to class for 2 hours to sit and take notes nobody cares what you’re wearing. And I don’t know what kind of sweats you wear but there are a lot of cute sweats out there, and I’m not talking about af, hollister, or anything like that. You can still look presentable dressing down, just make sure the rest of you is put together…hair, makeup, etc. I love fashion, but I think it’s unnecessary to dress up for class.

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  9. This is ridiculous.

    My professors are going to respect me more for my $40 sunglasses made in Malaysia by 15 year olds? If so, then those professors need a reality check.

    Keep consuming, ladies!

    Reply
  10. Hey, I dunno how relevant this is, but I’m an aussie college (Uni, here) student and I don’t see a problem with CLEAN sweatpants (or trackies, as we’d call em) to uni, if paired with a sporty-casual shoe and a tee with a cardi. That having been said, I wear jeans every single day of my life with white sports casuals and a colourful cardi.
    Though I absolutely detest those fluro trackies and Ugg boots. And girls who wear black tights and clingy little dresses with heeled boots to uni at 8am in hailstone weather. It’s a balance, I think 😀

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  11. I don’t necessarily agree with dressing up for class however I certainly hate it when people stroll into 8 A.M classes wearing PJ’s. I’m 100% for comfort first, especially if it’s raining outside or you are sick, but anyone who I see wearing PJs to class I find to be dirty. And as far as Uggs go, I’d rather wear those and keep my feet warm then wear really cute boots and freeze.
    Don’t get me wrong- I like fashion and wearing cute outfits- but as long as people wear clean and presentable outfits (even if they wear sweats once in awhile) I don’t see a problem.

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  12. You definetly have some good points. From my personal experience at USC (Los Angeles), you just go through the day with more confidence if you make yourself pulled-together and cute. If you’re wearing sweats it really does look like you didn’t care as much when you got up that morning, unless you pump it up with more formal pieces. For example, some people get away with sleek grey yoga pants and a very pretty lose cardigan, plus their hair looks cute and they sport accessories.

    ebayfashionaddict.wordpress.com

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  13. Wow. I most certainly agree with not looking like a slob in class. When you’re just wearing wrinkled, fading sweats with a baggy T-shirt, your hair unbrushed and face unwashed, you just look lazy and ill-prepared for class. What kind of message is that sending to your professor and classmates?

    To be honest, I don’t even consider the first outfit getting “dressed up.” *lol* at people who don’t even have the 5 minutes to do that.

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  14. I think that fashion is well when all person wil get happy and injoy.but it has a bad site. many persons are forgetting their proper mind ‘s decision. they giving in their mind for fashion and their habit change.I just wanted to everybody to keep their mind control.

    Reply

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