It’s fall season and back to school for my college kids.
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Dressing classy isn’t always easy when you’re a new college guy on a budget. But by building out a basic wardrobe and adding a few extra pieces, you can easily dress well every day. Plan and budget, get clothes that fit you and discover your own style. Dressing classy largely comes down to feeling good about yourself and taking pride in how you look.
Building a Basic Wardrobe
1Compile a collection of different looks. The diversity in men’s fashion is always expanding, but you can still dress well by building out a wardrobe of staple pieces. Before you go out and buy some staple pieces do some research to see what kind of styles you like. Cut out pages from magazines you like, or download images you find online into a special “Fashion” folder.
- Gather inspiration from websites. blogs, and magazines that cover men’s fashion. GQ and Esquire are two larger magazines which are focused on men’s fashion and lifestyle. You will not only find ads that feature looks you may like but also get style tips that you can incorporate.
- Websites like fashionbeans.com, askmen.com, and the subreddit /r/malefashionadvice will give you style tips and keep you updated on current trends.
- Save some photos of looks that you like to help you get an idea of what kind of basics you want in your wardrobe.
- Go to clothing stores and try on some clothes. You don’t have to buy something just because you try it on. But seeing how certain clothes and fits look on you will help you to save money and look your best.
2Calculate your budget. Dressing well on a college budget might require you to spend more effort finding the right clothes and building out your wardrobe over time. Knowing how much you can spend will help you to make smart buying decisions.
- Your clothing budget should come from your extra spending money, not money you need for rent, food, or other bills. If you are committed to dressing well you may have to spend less money eating out and save it for a new shirt.
- Remember that you don’t need a brand new wardrobe right away. You may find that you already own some nice pieces that you can wear.
- Don’t think that more expensive clothes are better. While GQ will give you style advice, the clothes which are featured are often more expensive. You can still find similar outfits at other stores for much less.
3Assemble staple wardrobe pieces. You don’t need a lot of different clothes to make a variety of looks. You can create plenty of looks that get you from class to the gym to the bar with less than 30 pieces of clothing.
- Focus on building a versatile wardrobe with items that are compatible with each other. Solid, staple colors and a few essential pieces can be paired with just about anything. Staple clothes include:
- Jeans and chinos.
- Collared shirt.
- Sweater and/or cardigan.
- Dress shoes and casual shoes.
- Jacket or blazer.
- A nice coat if you live somewhere where the weather gets cold. Peacoats are a staple and always in fashion. You can explore other coat styles and should find one you like. But a peacoat is always in style.
4Pick pieces for your body type. You want a look you feel comfortable and confident in. You may be more comfortable in a casual look of a sweater, jeans, and casual shoes. Or, you may like to dress up more and wear button-downs and chinos. Regardless of your preferred look, get clothes that fit your body well.
- Everyone’s body is different and certain patterns, cuts, and even certain brands of clothing will work in your favor. Generally, thinner vertical lines will slim you down, while thicker horizontal lines make you look broader. Patterns typically shorten a part of your body. Slimmer cuts in shirts and pants will accentuate the shape of your body.
- In addition to getting stylish clothes you need clothes that fit well and make your body look proportional.
- Men with broader shoulders and a smaller waist will be able to wear most fits whether you like a slim cut or a looser one.
- If you have a bit of a wider midsection, opt for tops that have vertical stripes or are a solid color. Get pants with a slimmer straight leg to make your legs look longer and create an even line from your waist.
- Add layers to accentuate certain areas. If you have narrower shoulders you can throw on a jacket or a crew neck sweater to give yourself a broader look and more definition.
- Invest in a trusty pair of dark denim jeans. Denim is one of the most versatile pieces of clothing you own.
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Method 1 Quiz
Which is most flattering if you have a large midsection?
Upgrading Your Style
1Wear more shirts with collars. You don’t have to ditch all your t-shirts, but consider polos and other collared shirts when trying to look classier.
- The polo can be troublesome due to trends of overly bright primary colored polos, popped collars, and shapeless cuts. But a well-fitting polo with a more muted color or sparse pattern can actually feel a lot like your t-shirt.
- Cotton, knit, and woven button down shirts are a staple as well. This type of shirt has many uses and pairs well with plenty of clothes. Add a tie if you feel like dressing up or are meeting with someone. Then take the tie off and throw on a sweater before meeting up for a study date.
2Move on from the sweatshirt to the sweater. Your university sweatshirt is great for showing school spirit at sporting events. But upgrade to the sweater for a classier look. 
- Cardigans are perfect for adding a nice layer to your top. Button it up over your button-down when it’s time to get down to business or wear it open over a t-shirt on the weekend when hanging out with your friends.
- Crewneck sweaters are a great alternative if you’re missing your sweatshirts. Not all, but many crewnecks will be thinner and more form fitting.
- Shawl collars are a great way to dress up your look without having to wear a collared shirt underneath.
- Generally, darker sweaters are considered more formal and lighter colors more casual.
3Upgrade your denim. When it comes to dressing well, your denim shouldn’t be conspicuous. Light colored denim or jeans with holes and rips will quickly draw attention to the wrong areas of your body. A pair of dark denim jeans works just as well with a blazer and dress shoes as with sneakers and a t-shirt.
- Dark denim which fits you well and shows off your legs without drawing too much attention can be the most valuable item in your wardrobe.
- Many workplaces allow employees to wear clean dark jeans as part of the workday uniform.
- Mid-rise jeans will help you to look proportional and give your legs a longer, slimmer look.
- Skinny jeans or really baggy jeans can also draw the wrong kind of attention to your legs. A slim straight cut is universal, whether it’s time to be professional, or let loose with your friends on the weekend.
- Invest in a pair of jeans that fit you well and don’t lean toward one style trend too much. A slim straight cut will always be in style and give you the most versatility.
- A dark pair of jeans is also very versatile as the dark blue will pair with most colors from black to brown.
- In addition to dark denim, black or gray jeans are also good colors as these pair with a lot of colors too.
4Get a pair of nicer pants. A reliable pair of jeans is great, but sometimes an occasion calls for something else. Having a variety of options is useful for when you feel like changing your look or you need to dress it up for an occasion.
- Chinos, wool pants, and even flannel (not pajama pants) can give you a classy upgrade to your style. These pants also provide you with a whole new combination of looks to build.
- Like with jeans, grab a pair that has a high enough rise so the pants sit around your waist. A higher rise will make your legs look longer and give you a well put together appearance.
- If you’re on the taller side with long legs, you can get a lower rise to help proportion your body. The overall goal is to have roughly a 1:1 ratio of top and bottom.
- When choosing a pair of dressier pants notice if the pants are pleated. Pleats are the folds of fabrics in the front of the pants. Pleated pants can offer more movement than flat front pants, but aren’t always in style. However, a well fitting pair might take you from casual to classy.
5Take pride in your footwear. You probably do a fair amount of walking most days going from classes to activities around campus. While canvas sneakers go with most looks, upgrade your footwear to something more supportive and stylish. 
- Casual leather shoes like loafers add class and can be quite comfortable. You don’t have to shell out a lot of money for a pair either. Sites like www.asos.com have a great selection of varying prices. Suede and nubuck loafers are a great staple that pair with anything from a suit to a sweater and shorts.
- Oxfords are a classic and perfect for when it’s time to get down to business. Simple black Oxfords can be worn at your internship, a job interview, or on a date.
- Brogues are a similar type of shoe to the Oxford but have a punch hole design which adds a smart looking touch. A brown pair of Brogues is a great alternative to black Oxfords. These shoes pair well with any pant from dark denim to tan chinos.
- Lace-up boots, Chukkas, Desert Boots, and the like are great when you need something stylish in more severe weather. A good pair of boots is a classic look that adds more class to any outfit. Be careful and get a pair that go well with your pants. If your boots are too high and bulky for your slim pants your feet will look big and clunky.
- Sneakers go through a rotation of being in and out of vogue. But solid colored sneakers made of canvas or leather will give you a casual, vintage edge to your look. White sneakers have risen in popularity because you can wear a pair with just about anything. For the most part, you don’t want a pair that’s ripped up or extremely dirty. And your skate shoes from high school aren’t the same as a nice pair of Converse, Nike, New Balance, or Vans if you want to retain some of that old school skate look.
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Method 2 Quiz
How can you dress well while wearing denim?
Completing Your New Wardrobe
1Add more pieces to your wardrobe over time. Build out your options with items that reflect your personal style. After you have some staples you can begin to add with more clothing and accessories that fit your style. Don’t waste money or time on items that you don’t like and donate your old clothes when you get new ones.
- If you like a more preppy look, and wear more button-downs, add a tie to your wardrobe.
- While a clean pair of sneakers is great for pairing with sweaters, button-downs, and even a blazer, consider ditching your old dirty pair. Or, upgrade your shoes to casual leather loafers or a pair of brown dress shoes.
- If you’re always running late to class it might be time to accessorize with a watch. Not only will it keep you punctual, but it adds a bit of class to your look.
2Leave sweats for the gym. Dressing classy as a college guy means putting in the effort to look put together, even at that 8:00 am class. Sweatpants and a zipped-up hoodie should be worn at home or the gym.
- If you love your sweats or the athletic look, you can class it up with little effort. Invest in a pair of joggers or slim structured sweatpants which taper around the ankle. Swap your worn out zip-up hoodie for a solid-colored crew neck sweatshirt or sweater.
- You can also play with layers. Wear your sweatshirt over a collared shirt.
3Dress for the career you want. Dressing well will make you feel good, keep your mind sharp, and give you confidence. So dress for the job you want to give you a head start.
- If you plan on going into a career that is more traditional you will probably be wearing a suit or an outfit that’s close at the office. Invest in a suit and some dress shirts. Being prepared will not only help you think like a man with the job but could benefit you with potential interviews and even your professors.
- Shower before class and think about how your professors see you. When it’s time to start networking and looking for work these are some people who you may need help from. Wearing a polo instead of a t-shirt and nice jeans or chinos instead of sweats shows you’re responsible and respectful.
4Get two belts. You can really class up your style with two leather belts. You don’t need to spend a lot of money either, but one brown and one black leather belt should be all you need. 
- Depending on your personal style, feel free to get more belts that go well with a certain season or occasion. A colored leather belt can be a statement piece when you’re going for a casual look.
- Formal belts should be about 2.5 – 3.5cm wide and be understated and match your shoes.
5Plan your outfits. Planning what you’ll wear the next day will not only help you prepare to look your best, but it will give you a sense of anything missing from your wardrobe.
- Before going to bed pick out your outfit for the next day.
- Remember to match your belt to your shoes.
- Add layers when you can.
- Planning out your outfit will help you to look put together. You won’t have to worry about it when you wake up in the morning.
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Method 3 Quiz
What accessory should you add to your outfit if you’re going for a preppy look?
QuestionHow do you dress classy and elegant on a budget?Image ConsultantExpert AnswerSave money by shopping for vintage and discounted clothing. Stores like Nordstrom Rack or local consignment shops are great places to save money while building a wardrobe. Plus, you’ll often be able to get unique, fashionable pieces without having to pay a high cost!
QuestionWhat should I wear with the jeans?Community AnswerJeans are universal. They can literally be worn with anything. Add a T-shirt, sneakers, and a hoodie, and you have a casual yet put together look. Add a button down and a blazer with dress shoes, and you have a perfect outfit for that date you’ve been looking forward to. The options are endless.
QuestionWhat type of shoes should I wear when trying to dress classy in college?Community AnswerPointed black Chelsea boots look great with dark blue jeans and a casual shirt. You could also try tan or oxblood brogues for a very classy look.
QuestionWhat shirt should I wear with a brown, casual blazer?Community AnswerA white collared shirt will never go wrong when paired with a brown blazer. Brown is a neutral, so most colors will work well. Navy is always a solid choice.
QuestionWhat colors should I combine?Community AnswerColors that go together. SeeHow to Coordinate Colors.
While dressing nicely involves going beyond t-shirts and sweats, you should find your own look. Don’t feel pressure to follow style trends if you don’t like the look.
Read style blogs and magazines for inspiration. You can get updates on current styles and find what appeals to you.
Thrift stores can be a great place to find clothes when you’re on a budget.
Experiment with different looks and styles and try everything on before you buy it.
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