How to Transition your Wardrobe into Fall on a College Budget

By Michaela Courand–

Transitioning into fall offers a variety of wonderful things like warm drinks, favorite T.V. shows, and spending time with loved ones inside. It is also the time to transition your wardrobe from shorts, tank tops, and flip flops to sweaters, pants/jeans, and boots. One thing I have found is that almost everyone loves to buy a few new things to add to their clothing collection as fall arrives. But as a college student living on your own and dealing with other expenses, your budget for clothing can be quite low. This is totally okay!

If transitioning your wardrobe on a college budget seems infeasible or daunting, then get excited for what I’m about to tell you…you don’t need to have a huge budget to get “fall ready.” After all, you don’t need to replace your entire wardrobe with brand new fall related items. The first step is to use items you already have and just transition the color palette from bright vibrant colors to deep rich ones like olive and burgundy. This gives the impression that you can seamlessly transition your clothing. For example, take a plain white tee that you paired with denim shorts in the summer but now pair that white tee with denim jeans and a big scarf. Voila, say hello to a perfect fall outfit!

Once you have explored pieces you already own, and selected fall colors, you can go to the next step. This step involves buying one or perhaps a few new pieces. While keeping your budget in mind, there are some key things you should consider to create the perfect fall wardrobe. One of these is a new sweater. Every fall season it is nice to get a new sweater that is on trend in terms of style and color. Another great piece of clothing to buy is a scarf! Scarves are wonderful because they add personal style to any outfit and make an outfit fall appropriate minus a hefty price tag. Also, scarves never go out of style. This small investment provides a piece to enjoy this year and in future years. After you buy a scarf, if there is room left in your budget, I recommend looking into buying some boots or booties. If you can afford to buy them, they are a really great way to complete your look. New styles come out each year, so I recommend buying a more neutral or basic pair that you can wear for the next few fall seasons. If there is any other fall clothes you love, go for it. But if you ask me, you can’t go wrong with a great knit sweater, scarf, and some boots!

I’ve included a few pictures to illustrate these ideas. The sweater and over-the-knee boots outfit shows on-trend and neutral fall colors. I bought the boots to pair with the sweater and leggings that I already owned. The striped dress with a cropped sweater over the top is a great example of rich-toned fall colors and booties. I had these pieces already, but for fall used the sweater over the dress; in summer I would just wear the dress. Finally, the flannel shirt and faux-leather pants also show fall colors and flannel is a great fall style. The shirt is new, and the leggings are a year old, both were very inexpensive. All of these looks, especially the last two, gave me a chance to mix and match patterns and textures to create a well-rounded fall outfit.

Transitioning your wardrobe into fall is a chance to think about your own style. You can’t go wrong if you think about what you have, move to rich fall colors, and maybe get a couple new fall pieces. You can find a store that fits your style and budget, whatever they may be. I have compiled a list of a few great stores below. I’ve grouped them into three price categories and tried to give you a sense of style or personality as well as the balance of style versus quality. I hope these stores and the ideas will help you pick things that work for you!


Lower Priced Options (e.g., sweater is $25)

Forever 21: Really great selection of clothing on trend with transitional pieces for seasons. Quality is good in consideration of the price. This allows you to get more things within your budget here.

Brandy Melville: Great pieces for every season. Sweaters are a great value and amazing quality; other pieces do not seem to hold up as well.

Target: Recently improved significantly on styles offered, especially this fall. The most expensive in this group, but also the best quality for the price.


Midpoint Options (e.g., sweater is $70)

Urban Outfitter: Hipster vibe that pushes the envelope. Huge selection of clothing. Extra $ goes mostly into quality.

ASOS: An English brand that is generally a bit more conservative. You can buy anything you could ever want here. Current season pieces are priced higher. Quality is amazing.

Nasty Gal: LA-based with a distinct style. Very trendy and very good quality.

Top Shop: An English brand that is posh, not conservative, hip and cool. Amazing quality.


Higher-end Options (e.g., sweater is $130 and up)

Free People: Bohemian styles, for example flares and see-through pieces. Exquisite and long-lasting knitwear.

Anthropologie: Graceful and elegant with nice lifestyle products as well. Tends toward more mature styles. Exceptional quality.

Nordstrom: An array of sections, each with a style and price point. Has pieces from internationally-known designers. Pricing starts at midpoint. Quality is fantastic and selection is good but not vast in any one section. Best place for good shoes.

Categories: Fashion

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