22 August 2007

Term-paper chic

I'm a New York City college student who doesn't have a serious job yet but will have to get one within the next few years. For now, I'm hoping to update my wardrobe as I head into my junior year this fall. I'm hoping to look sophisticated, but not too out of place in a college classroom. I do a lot of walking, and spend most of my non-classroom time outside or in the library, so I usually dress in layers to allow for unexpected turns of the weather. Can you recommend a few pieces that will help me stand out from the jeans and sweatshirt masses that cover my campus? If this will help, I'm 5' 3" and a 4/6 with broad shoulders. As a student, I'm obviously on a budget, but I'm not averse to paying a higher price on integral pieces that will last me a few years.

Ah, college.

A time in every woman's life when her biggest concerns are getting the "boy smell" out of her pillow cases, sticking to one square and one square only of the cafeteria's strawberry bread and figuring out how to make a 10 page paper meet that "so unfair!" 15 page minimum.

But before I get all sorts of nostalgic and sigh with tilted head over photos from the first trip to the Foxy Lady for a "legs and eggs" breakfast or the '80s-themed house party that successfully convinced me to never again touch a drop of hard alcohol, I should remember one very important two-word constant that plagued me during those four years:

no paycheck

Therefore, because I know you're not dealing with a clothing budget as generous as that of most of my early-to-mid career professional readers, here below I've selected only reasonably-priced wardrobe staples I think you'll wear day after day and easily intermingle to create cute outfit permutation after cute outfit permutation in casual, professional, going-out and even formal venues. Your just-tall-enough slim frame is such that, other than strapless and halter necklines that will draw attention to your "broad shoulders," you needn't worry about many don't-wear-this, don't-wear-that restrictions.

I don't know exactly how much money you're willing to drop, nor do I know the breakdown of your class-to-work-to-play schedule, so helping you to prioritize among these 12 items the top three or four in which you should invest your fashion nest-egg is quite a challenge.

But I will say this, black jeans, a simple but uniquely-detailed white blouse and a khaki trench are timeless - I've had one of each since high school and still own (at least) one of each today - and will pair well with just about everything you already have hanging in your closet. Where I recommend spending a bit more money than you might otherwise have been prepared to do so is with a pair of go-to straight-leg, dark wash jeans and a simple black wrapdress -- if cared for properly (i.e. dry-cleaned and/or handwashed), a pair of premium denim and a silk jersey DvF will last you well beyond your undergraduate years. Check out the 'sale rack' links at right to find deals on both.

And without further ado...

Short sleeve jacket (£50 at topshop.com)
Maria trench ($68.50 at delias.com)*
Cotton chiffon top by Alice Roi ($80 at activeendeavors.com)*
Puff-sleeve scoopneck top ($38 at macys.com)
Cowl neck striped top by Bailey 44 ($92 at southmoonunder.com)
Funnel-neck top ($44 at bananarepublic.com)
Socialite jeans in Perry by Joe’s Jeans ($156 at revolveclothing.com)
521 skinny jeans by Levi's ($58 at urbanoutfitters.com)*
Back vent skirt by Semantiks ($68 at nordstrom.com)**

Lona dress by Diane von Furstenberg ($200.20 at pinkmascara.com)

Mod Mary Jane ballet flats ($28 at urbanoutfitters.com)

Maylie peep toes by Enzo Angliolini ($92.95 at zappos.com)**

*your Editrix's vote for a "must have"

**for interviews and dressier school events


Anonymous said...

Being in NYC she should be scouring SYMS (mid-town), Century 21 (WTC), etc. non-stop for bargains. These places can be especially good for finding work-wear at a serious discount. And the writer will need it for next summer's internship. Take it from the former college professor: get an internship.

Jo, give her some advice for that too (though you've done a fair amount lately about appropriate work-wear). No jeans. No flip-flops, etc.


Johanna said...


You're right, she *should* take advantage of large discounters available to her in NYC, and I'm glad you mentioned these two -- E, be sure to visit both before ordering online!

I guess I omitted my usual "here are some ideas, go out into the world and try to find less expensive alternatives" tagline, because I felt I'd been writing it a lot lately.

With regard to the internship front, definitely, yes - get one. And definitely, no - don't wear jeans, flip-flops, bare cleavage, paint on going-out makeup, and a whole host of other offenses so many college kids (myself included) tend to make when going through the student-to-professional transition.

And I just watched a piece on GMA that cautioned against flip-flops, especially for those with high arches. Apparently, they can cause real, long-term damage.

I guess that means heels when I walk Monte now, too :-)


knew you as hannie said...

Those flats and white blouse are adorable! And so reasonable too!

dara said...

Your selection of dressy tunic/tees is on the right track, but I think she'll be able to find items for less money than you're proposing she spend. $92 for a striped turtlneck tee? Not when *I* was in college!

Maxie said...

You can always try the Banana Republic outlet... I don't know if they have those around NYC. They carry last season's stuff and it takes some searching. Even though some of the things there are hideous, I always find great work basics (blazers, dress pants, skirts) for under 50 bucks.

This time of year you may be able to find stuff for next summer because of all the sales going on.

Maxie said...

Oh, and if you do choose to go to the Banana Republic outlet watch out for SERIOUS vanity sizing. There was a post here a couple weeks back about the store having weird sizes, but I find the outlets are WAY off. My friend wears a six in most stores but has to drop down to a zero at the outlet. One positive though is they (haven't been there in a while, but they used to) carry short, regular, and tall pant lengths.

dc girl said...

The first jacket is really cute, but can we (Americans) order online from Top Shop?

Noelle said...

I think the majority of your advice is spot on, but I can't agree that black jeans are a classic piece in the same way that a tailored white shirt and trench coat are classic pieces. Didn't black jeans just come back into fashion? I wouldn't have dreamed of wearing them in college (2002-2006).

But then again, it's entirely possible (and likely) that you are just more fashionable than I am :)

Samantha said...

Maxie is right about the Banana Republic Outlet. The one in Leesburg is fantastic. I got two pairs of work pants that were originally 80 dollars each, for less than 40. Make sure you try everything on because it is an outlet, but I've been oh so pleased with everything I've bought from there!

Ellissa said...

Thank you! Thank you! (This is who know who.) I think I've finally realized where I've been going wrong - nice looking shirts with blue jeans and sneakers. You'd think attending a woman's college, I'd have some fashionable classmates to crib from, but I only seem to see dresses and jeans, but nothing in between. Thanks again.

Teek said...

Oh, one other thing that will class up the college act immeasurably - carry your books (and the rest of your life) in a giant classic handbag, not a backpack or some neon pink messenger bag. I was on the "no budget" college clothes track - I put myself through school debt free. But, I always carried a hand bag instead of a backpack even if it came from the Goodwill 50% off sale day.

Anonymous said...

I'll vote for Filene's Basement too. My wife hates rummaging through their racks, but I recently found a pair of $500 Incotex trousers there for $80! There must be such bargains with the women's stuff. I know my wife found an awesome tomato-red (with a bit of orange in it) trench there a while back. She's wearing it today. There's also NM Last Call and Saks Off 5th.

Ditto to teek's advice of ditching that ugly backpack.


georgia said...

Ellissa - As a fellow graduate of a woman's college I can safely assure you, there's no fashion sense on campus. Unless you call animal slippers fashion...four years was like one big slumber party

Noelle said...

Although I didn't go to a women's college, the girls on my campus always wore those Juicy Couture velour tracksuits. Shudder.

i said...

my, my, you're seriously going to tell me that no one that reads this blog wore sweatpants and hoodies to class and ENJOYED it?

thats what college fun is all about. hangovers, hoodies, and hookups!

i'm not saying that i didn't care about what i looked like, but you have to give yourself a break every once in awhile.

come on... y'all are a bunch of prudes.

Teresa said...

Sweatpants? Ack, no. Never. I wore my pajamas to class once freshman year and felt completely embarassed the whole time. (Hoodies are an entirely different story and still make up a substantial part of my super-casual wardrobe.)

I went to a school where the uniform was terry cloth shirts worn as dresses, flip flops, ugg boots, and Juicy hot pants. Oh, and visible thongs. And bad blond dye jobs and eating disorders. Don't miss it.

Maxie said...

My "going to class" staple was disgusting (now that I look back at it)... a hoodie (still stand by those) and these horrible stretchy jeans. Not the cute kind that are flattering but the kind that are more spandex than anything and just look disgusting after wearing them for more than 10 minutes. Oh, and flip flops... in the snow. ha!

etcetera said...

what are you talking about? i LURVE "boy smell!" i would never try to get that out of my pillow case. i still don't. mmmm.. boy smell....

Candid Cool said...

I like those dark Levis. And the trench is a nice pick too