20 Fashion Risks to Take This Semester

Want to step up your style this semester? Try some of these fashion-forward "style challenges"!
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Fashion risks to take this semester

Photo: ELLE

It's fall, a.k.a. the most exciting fashion season of the year! I don't know about you, but I've been devouring the September issues of my favorite fashion mags and getting super-pumped at the idea of rocking some seriously fabulous looks this semester. (The fashion is the most exciting part of back-to-school season, right?)

I think of fall fashion as fashion without limits, because the moderate temperatures allow you to experiment with layers and hemlines, which leads to some eclectic combinations.

Below is a list of 20 ways to step up your style this semester by taking a few fashion risks, because the best way to boost your confidence is to learn how to stand out from the crowd.

1. Wear bold color.

I am very strongly opposed to the concept of "fall colors" (a phrase, which in my book, directly translates to BO-ring!). Fall is a time to experiment and play, and IMHO, no one can reach their full fashion potential in a palette of camel, black, and maroon.

So, add pops of bright color to neutral outfits, or, even better, combine your favorite cheery summer dress with fall boots or try a color-blocked look with a bright blazer and brighter cropped pants.

Layered necklaces

Photo: ELLE

2. Layer statement necklaces.

I've seen this look in magazines for ages, but haven't tried it myself because I'm afraid it will feel like I'm carrying a lead weight around my neck. But, as the image above shows, a mix of color and texture adds a whole new level of interest to a look.

There are two ways to do this: You can do what the girl in the picture above is doing, and throw a thin-but-bulky necklace on over a thick, flat one, OR, you can wear two statement necklaces of different lengths. This will look best if they are touching each other to create the illusion of one mixed-material piece. We love the idea of mixing a utilitarian chain necklace with bright gems.

3. Tie a jacket or flannel shirt around your waist.

Still too warm to wear your favorite windbreaker, utility jacket, or flannel button-down? Tie the sleeves around your waist and rock it as the world's most effortless belt. Let it hang loose, and throw it on to edge up your girliest summer dresses. Lace up some combat boots and you're ready for class.

Target purple handbag

Bag: Target

4. Find a bold bag in a rich color.

Your go-to bag doesn't have to be black or brown (as useful as those are for anchoring fall's busiest outfits). Find a great, colorful bag in a versatile hue, like red, cobalt, burgundy, or fuchsia, to take even the simplest outfits up a notch.

I find bags in a really intense color tend to look expensive even if they're not, so find a quality one that you love and make it your signature fall accessory. Choose one with lots of structure to create cool contrast with the fun hue and make it look extra luxe. Check out a couple of my other faves from Aldo and Melie Bianco.

5. Wear tights with peep toes.

Don't you wish you could wear your favorite peep-toe booties all year? You totally can. Tights with open-toed shoes used to be one of fashion's biggest no-nos, but then again, so did mixing prints.

In recent years, the tights-and-peep-toes look has become chic, but it doesn't work with EVERY summer shoe in your closet. Tights look best with bulkier shoes, not delicate ones. That means yes to peep-toe boots and booties, thick-strapped heeled sandals, and ankle-strap pumps, but no to thin-strap sandals and, in general, no to flats.

Patchwork jeans trend

Jeans: Nordstrom, ASOS

6. Rock patches and buttons and personalization galore.

I'm loving this trend! Patches, buttons, and random personal embellishments are one of the hottest looks for fall (just check out the Marc by Marc Jacobs jeans at left), and jackets and jeans are sporting an eclectic variety of shabby-chic add-ons.

The best part about this trend? You can easily make your own, which is ideal if you're a college girl on a budget. Sew or iron on patches to an old jean jacket or pair of daisy dukes that you're getting sick of, or heck, attack them with fabric paint! Do the same thing with canvas sneakers.

For a more temporary option, adorn your blazer, denim or utility jacket, or even a dress with all sorts of brooches and pins.

7. Go for boyfriend jeans.

Back in the day, when I first saw Katie Holmes in the men's jeans that caused a media frenzy, I thought I was saying a permanent "no way José" to boyfriend jeans. Years later, consider me a convert.

If you haven't yet, I recommend trying out the boyfriend jeans trend. They're one of the comfiest and easiest ways to step up your style, and they're still huge this fall.

I'm still not a fan of the extremely baggy variety, but a flattering-but-loose silhouette, like the Marc by Marc Jacobs jeans above, is perfection. They're even better with rips. If you've already found your pair of go-to boyfriends, snoop around the internet to find some cool upgrades - Current Elliot and Lulu's have new washes, colors, and even prints in the style.

8. Top looks off with a vest.

Vests are so versatile and can upgrade almost any look. Throw one on over a basic tee, jeans, and Converse outfit and suddenly it's a fashion statement. They're also a great way to remix your favorite dress. A fully buttoned-up vest can even double as a sexy top for a night out (just make sure you're wearing the right bra!).

I have many types in my closet, and each is as versatile as the next. Decide which styles you like - tuxedo, menswear, denim, moto, or utility - wear them open or closed, and use them to step up your style year-round.

9. Try a fall hat.

A flattering hat (you'll probably have to try on a lot of styles to see what's best for your face shape) is the perfect thing to throw on with any outfit to make it instantly, effortlessly cool.

The hottest styles right now are felt fedoras and wide-brim versions. Find one in a neutral that fits your face and your style, and wear it with everything.

10. Do a half-tuck.

This is less of a "style risk" per se, and more of an all-around major styling tip that will help you pull off amazing outfits. Tucking in a top partially, be it just in the front in the middle (my method of choice), or just on one side, adds interest and effortlessness to an outfit, and can totally change the vibe of what you're wearing.

When you're sporting a very classic look, a full tuck might look best, but a half-tuck can be your savior if the outfit is verging into too-prim territory. It's also ideal when you're mixing girly and edgy vibes - a classic blouse and feminine skirt with edgy shoes and a bag looks less contrived with a messier tuck.

You may have to play with the top a bit to make it hang right, but the cool factor of the half-tuck is totally worth it.

11. Find a bright blazer.

Like a bright bag, a blazer is a fun and polished way to spice up any look. Add one to pop against a monochrome outfit or throw it over a printed piece with similar colors. Pick a color that complements other things in your wardrobe, but is maybe a little different for you.

I recommend this one from Zara - right now it's only available in white and red, but Allison wore the blue version on Pretty Little Liars and I have it in yellow. It fits like a glove!

One earring look

Photo: ELLE

12. Wear a single earring (à la Louis Vuitton).

Wearing one statement earring and either nothing or a simple stud in the other ear is a bold new high-fashion trend seen at Louis Vuitton and Celine.

It's a bold look that's so easy - just pick your favorite big earrings and rock 'em one at a time. This works best when the earring is the only statement accessory; if you want to wear more jewelry, just stick to some rings or a sleek cuff.

13. Rock crazy tights.

One of my more exciting purchases of the season are tights with little cat faces on them from Aeropostale. It's a fun style challenge to build an outfit around your tights - Modcloth also has some amazing ones.

Generally, crazy graphic prints (like plaid or leopard) should be the only print in an outfit, whereas simple striped, lace, or polka-dot tights play well with other patterns and textures.

If your tights have an image on them, like the cats (or, for Disney fans, these princess tights from Hot Topic), choose a solid dress or one with a print that has colors in common with the tights.

Street style looks with sneakers

Photos: ELLE

14. Pair sneakers with EVERYTHING.

You already know your favorite Converse, Keds, and Vans look just as great with a dress as they do with a tank and cutoffs. Continue to wear them with daring, unexpected pieces for fall, like a tulle skirt or overalls.

They're practical for running to class and ensure you'll be having the most fun on the dance floor at a party. Want a new twist on your old fave Chuck Taylors? Try hi-tops.

15. Transition your funky pants into fall.

Loose-fitting, printed pants were a hot trend this summer, but they work with more than just a tank and flip-flops. Try throwing them on with a blazer and heels or a great pair of flats. You'll look super chic while still keeping the wild pants in check.

With more tapered styles (i.e., not flared palazzo pants), boyish oxfords and a cozy cardi would be adorable, too.

Taylor swift red lipstick

Photo: ELLE

16. Use lipstick as an accessory.

I don't really wear makeup, except for when I think an outfit calls for bold lipstick. A bright pink or classic red can take any look to the next level.

Red lips make a blouse, jeans, and structured bag combo look like photo-worthy street style, and look extra playful with leopard print and pearls. Hot pink lips make girly prints more unique and look extra funky when paired with colors like mint and royal blue.

17. Rock a crop top and skirt look.

This was a huge summer trend, and can easily be transitioned into fall (until it gets too cold for bare midriffs!). Rock your favorite summer crop top and skirt combo with riding boots and a cardigan, or swap out those minis and sandals for a maxi skirt and ankle booties for a dramatic look.

18. Carry a backpack on the weekend.

Backpacks were another big summer trend, and were perfect for all your summer adventures. However, now that it's back-to-school time, the cute, trendy kind can't handle my course load.

Still, take your summer backpack with you back to college - it's ideal for weekends spent outdoors, days out with friends, or for those days when you don't have much to carry. On a Saturday, it'll stand out in a sea of totes and cross-bodies.

Black and white polka dot nail art

Photo: ELLE

19. Play with bold nail art.

I have a confession: I'm terrible at nail art. I drool over the pictures I see in magazines, on friends, and on Instagram, and wonder how I could ever get my nails to look like that.

The best product I've found so far to help me achieve my nail-art dreams? Sally Hansen's nail art pens. They come in all kinds of fun colors and allow you to make really nice clean lines - just make sure you let your artwork dry before putting on a top coat.

I'm looking forward to spending Saturday afternoons in my dorm room catching up on TV and giving myself Louvre-worthy manicures (but let's not get ahead of ourselves).

20. Throw fashion rules out the window!

I know I have given a lot of "wear this with this" and "don't wear that with that" tips in this post, but these are just general guidelines for what I've found works best. There are exceptions to every rule, and the only way to be a true risk taker is to have fun and play with your clothes.

Don't worry about what anybody but you thinks. Dress for yourself, not for anyone else.  In this day and age, old fashion rules are totally obsolete, so go all out this fall!

What do you think?

Do you plan to/have you tried any of these ideas? Which do you love, and which would you never wear in a million years? What element of fall fashion are you most excited about? What's the biggest fashion risk you've ever taken? Has it paid off? I'd love to hear from you. Let me know in the comments!

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