Argyle? Present. Backpack? Yep. Oxfords? Here! Back to school means roll call for the college prep style that never seems to go out of fashion. Considering that the foundation of collegiate style was established over a century ago, these student styles have proved to have staying power. Are you ready to go back to school? Now’s the perfect time to channel your inner student and ace style class!

These days, many back-to-school looks consist of the same seasonally appropriate attire people already wear all the time. Of course there’s nothing wrong with that, but there was a time when that simply wasn’t the case. Around the end of the ninetieth century, getting “prepped” for school was entirely different. Dress codes were strict for both men and women, so wearing “trends” and exercising “personal style” wasn’t on anyone’s radar.

Today, the androgynous quality of these fashion school seniors helps make these pieces some of my favorites! And don’t worry! Just because I’m a history buff of fashion and other things, doesn’t mean I suggest wearing a head-to-toe look from 1900. Here are a few ideas to keep senior styles feeling like freshmen:

Collegiate-Inspired Style

Collegiate-Inspired Style

Hang with Upperclassmen

Mixing high and low pieces is generally a mark of smart, savvy style in the fashion world. I think the same can be said of eras. Full skirts and varsity jackets, usually associated with styles from the 1950’s, can be just as chic today with a little help from their upperclassmen.

For example, try mixing in a little mod from the 1960s, like this oversized necktie, paired with black and white stripes.  Mixing neutrals always adds sophistication, which can be helpful when combining different eras. Unexpected accessories or a fancy bag will push the style envelope even further, and get you an A+ for creativity.

Collegiate-Inspired Style

Collegiate-Inspired Style

Modern Materials

Plaids, elbow patches, satchels and oxfords, all of which harken back to earlier days, can still be modern day marvels. One way to shake up these styles is to pair them with newer textiles. Neoprene is a fashion-forward material that’s on trend, and a bright pop of color will add interest to the more traditional greys, reds and blues of fall.

Playing with proportion will add another level to your look. If you cover up on top, try showing a little more skin on the bottom, or vice versa. This helps to create a more balanced look.

Collegiate-Inspired Style

Collegiate-Inspired Style

Find Your Edge

Probably the easiest way to make preppy pieces more modern is by adding a little edge. For that, try distressed denims and pieces with hardware like spikes, studs and grommets. Take classics like Argyle and cable knit sweaters, or striped and plaid shirts and pair them with distressed denim. Instead of your regular handbag, try a backpack! There are tons of adult friendly styles to give your single shoulder a rest.

As you can see, fall is the perfect opportunity to pay homage to the college prep set. There are a ton of coed chic options that will work for any wardrobe whether you’re heading to work, hanging with friends, or just running around town. Luckily these back to school styles don’t require tuition, so you’re free to try them out or create your own! Just be true to yourself and you’ll ace coed chic with flying colors!

Nicole Gordan

Excited by style in all its forms, Nicole Gordon is the author and creator of the blog 
Manners and Moxie, where she documents her style journey with travel photography and anything else capturing her fancy. Her career has been spent in the travel industry and as a stylist in San Francisco, where she currently lives. Nicole grew up in South Carolina surrounded by antiques, but is also enamored with clean lines and architectural details. Drawn to the juxtaposition of opposites, Nicole is both Manners AND Moxie! She believes what you wear should reflect who you want to be, and that much like travel, discovering style should be an exciting adventure.

Nicole is part of The Opener , an exclusive, invite-only contributor network that will bring the best food, travel culture, and innovation  writing to the pages of Coca-Cola Journey.