Your Back-to-School Shopping List of Anything-but-Basic Basics
The arrival of August can only mean one thing: Back-to-school shopping is officially underway. Even if you’re not kicking off a new school year per se, we can all agree that a wardrobe refresh is in order. Whether you’re embarking on a new job, just got the promotion you deserve or are simply excited by the prospect of the NEW (girl, it’s ‘bout time you traded in your squeaky-clean image for a T Swift-inspired gothic look), now’s the time to do it. But not so fast. Before you go investing in a capsule wardrobe of the same ol’ dress shirts, slacks and streamlined pencil skirts (yawn), we’ve put together a shopping list of 35 anything-but-basic basics you need to add to your repertoire STAT. Sorry not sorry, HR-approved loafers and dresses — you have some company.
The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, this retro “lazy AF” color-block rugby shirt will make you feel like Yeezy. The oversized fit will balance out all your denim cutoffs and pleated minis for a look that says too cool for school. Just don’t forget to throw in some old-school kicks for weekend vibes, even when it’s only Monday.
2. FRS Blue Ice Cream Print Cotton T-Shirt ($29): We can’t decide what we love more, kicking off a new school year or having an excuse to invest in this ice cream graphic tee (‘cuz priorities). When a slew of basic layering tees has got you feeling blue, this popsicle-printed t-shirt will make you want to break out in a happy dance.
3. Topshop Tall Badged Button Skirt ($66): Don’t even think about heading back to school if you don’t own at least one denim patchwork skirt. Pull out all the stops with this adventure-bound denim moto skirt with major ‘90s appeal. Toss on some retro sunnies and a cropped sweatshirt for a sporty look that doesn’t mess around.
4. Liquor & Poker Petite Dungaree Style Denim Dress With Multi Sequin Bib ($57): Step aside, plain ol’ denim overalls! This white dungaree style denim dress — blinged out with a sequined pocket, no less — is the real style MVP. Team it with a ribbed crop top and high-top kicks for an athleisure look, or channel your inner ‘90s babe a la your favorite stretchy tattoo necklace and jelly sandals.
5. Poppy Barley The Dainty Oxford ($225): Be on your A-game from your head to your toes. These sparkly pink lace-up Oxfords are guaranteed to win you points in the style department. Equal parts masculine and feminine, they’ll lend a little extra somethin’ somethin’ to your favorite bow-neck blouse (or come-hither slip dress for after hours) and give you a reason to ditch the heels once and for all.
6. & Other Stories Jewel Embroidered Skirt ($85): HR best be taking notice of your on-point style this fall. In a room full of corporate clones, DO make an effort to stand out with this bejeweled A-line skirt with a personality of its own. Major bonus: It’ll take you from crunching numbers in your cubicle to hitting up happy hour with a quick shoe swap.
7. JumpFromPaper Traveler Backpack ($159): Just as their name suggests, JumpFromPaper’s cartoon-like backpacks are made to fool the eye. Thankfully, you need not be in grade school to tote around this blue traveler backpack that’s made to be spotted a mile away. Wear it strapped to your shoulders or carry it by the top handle for a cutting-edge look.
8. Topshop Oversized Colour Block Shirt Dress ($75): Shirt dresses like this pink, white and black neapolitan number don’t get nearly enough style cred. Less corporate, more utilitarian, this lazy girl-approved collared dress is made for the dog days of summer when you just can’t deal. Easy as slip-on-and-go, it can be teamed with lace-up espadrilles for a day-to-night look.
this close to being on repeat all semester long. The classic girlboss look can be styled with a scalloped pencil skirt for the office or thrown on with your favorite boyfriend jeans (try a half-tuck) for a laid-back-chic uniform. Bonus points if you pop the collar for a little extra panache.
10. Free People Minnie Wrap Sandal ($99): Snooze, you lose! Don’t let summer break pass you by without investing in a pair of these playful wrap sandals that call to mind a stint in paradise. The celebratory tassels and braided ties will look DDG with anything from a Grecian maxi to a white denim mini.
11. Scotch & Soda Johnny Foil Printed 5-Pocket Trousers Relaxed Boyfriend ($155): The best part about starting a new school year is that you can be whoever you want to be. Tap into your inner rocker chick with these star-adorned boyfriend trousers that will inspire you to take more fashion risks. Break away from your goody-two-shoes image by tossing on a studded leather vest, a vintage rocker tee and a pair of worn-in Chuck Taylors.
Multi Aztec Stripe Mini Skirt ($73): The secret to looking put together with zero effort? Stylish co-ords with major about-my-business appeal. This embroidered Aztec jacket and matching mini are a way more stylish alternative to stuffy boardroom-approved suits or, worse, blasé black trousers — keep it simple with a mini leather backpack and strappy sandals for an off-duty look that slays around the clock.
13. Free People Out of Gas Cut Off ($248): For the girl who plays by her own rules, we present you with these distressed patchwork denim shorts that best belong in art class. The paint splatters and angsty embroideries will inspire you to pull out your combat boots and invest in a vintage biker jacket. Come fall, your beloved flannel shirts will round out your bad-girl look.
14. Loup Knotted Wide-Leg Overalls ($188): Channel your inner blue-jean baby with these wide-leg frayed overalls that are way ahead of the sartorial curve. Not just restricted to the countryside, they’ll look big-city chic styled with a ruffled Victorian style blouse and ankle-strap heels. For a touch of Parisian, knot a scarf around your neck.
15. Mango Textured Message Dress ($60): YAS, girl! Don’t let anyone rain on your parade — this statement-making dress says it all. From climbing the corporate ladder to becoming student body prez, this boxy frock won’t let you down. Layer it over a gingham button-down or style it with sensible ballet flats for instant style cred. Pssst: It even has pockets.
16. Ulla Johnson Magre Moccasin Boots ($525): Fab fall fashion, right this way! Take note: These suede moccasin boots by Ulla Johnson may not come cheap, but they’re worth every penny. (Did you check out that playful tassel charm?) Between button-front skirts and pinafore dresses, you’ll never run out of ways to style this wardrobe workhorse.
17. ASOS Petite Farleigh High Waist Slim Mom Jeans With Flared Frill Hem ($65): Boyfriend jeans and cropped flares? You don’t necessarily have to choose, y’all. Come BTS time, these mom jeans with a frilly hem will be a mainstay in your nine-to-five wardrobe. Dress ‘em up with a leather jacket and two-tone slingbacks or pare ‘em down with chunky flatforms for a look that demands attention.
18. American Apparel Printed Gia Mini Dress ($54): Get the most bang for your buck by shopping for transitional wardrobe staples you can re-wear this fall. This throwback floral print dress, featuring long sleeves and a flattering A-line silhouette, has best-dressed written all over it. For max perfection, style it with fashion-forward mules and a sleek leather backpack.
19. Zara Floral Culottes ($26): Skorts are a godsend on windy days when wardrobe malfunctions are the last thing you want to deal with. While these floral culottes may not cut it for all work environments, they’re a step up from the stuffy pant suits that seem to dominate corporate America. When in doubt, style this crossover skort with a structured blouse and ankle booties, or opt for a simple tank top and flat sandals for a low-key first day of class.
20. ASOS Shower Proof Unicorn Print Pac Away Mac ($26): Pass up the chance to show up to work in a unicorn-printed rain mac? Not a chance. If you’re going to have to trek across campus in the pouring rain, then you might as well do so in this elevated showerproof topper that’s verging on Lisa Frank territory.
21. J.Crew Signet Bag in Italian Leather ($128): Enter the scene-stealing crossbody bag that can be styled no fewer than a million and one ways. With all sorts of attachable doodads and accessories, J.Crew’s coveted signet bag can be personalized right down to your monogram. Style it with a preppy crewneck sweater and gingham pants, or toss it on alongside a maxi dress for instant schoolgirl charm.
too hard, team it with free-wheelin’ mules and a leather tote.
can’t stop staring. Every standout #OOTD starts with an OMG-worthy pair of steppers — and these cutesy mouse flats are no exception. Between the pale blue head wrap, pearl nose and pretty lashes, these metallic pointy toe flats will rack up all the likes (and *heart eyes*) on Insta.
25. Zara Oversized Poplin Shirt ($40): Same old crisp white button-down? Not on our watch. Stand out for all the right reasons by forgoing your traditional Oxford for this oversized poplin shirt that means business. The emoji-like patches are the definition of fierce — HR ain’t got nothing on you!
26. Mango Satin Bomber Jacket ($60): A silk bomber jacket that makes you look and feel like Joe Cool on any day of the week? *Adds to cart.* Don’t doubt your athleisure sensibilities for a second — this pink and blue trimmed bomber will do all the styling for you. Between midi bodycon dresses and culotte jumpsuits, this security blanket in disguise will always do you right.
not your everyday tie-waist shorts. Covered in rainbow carnival stripes, they’re guaranteed to add some oomph to your snoozy casual Friday attire. For one last summer hurrah, DO pair them with a string bikini top and metallic sandals over Labor Day weekend.
28. H&M Patterned Jumpsuit ($70): What better way to jumpstart a new school year than with a tropical printed jumpsuit with major ‘70s vibes? Channel your inner Marcia Brady by wearing your hair stick-straight and strutting your stuff in some throwback clogs.
29. Sam Edelman Gretchen Gladiators ($130): Sign us up, please, for a pair of the season’s most coveted pom-pom-embellished gladiators! Bring some festival flair to the classroom (or the boardroom) with these boho sandals that will take any black jumpsuit or printed romper up a notch.
both. These sensible lace-up espadrilles were made for the girl on the go with an iCal filled to the brim with meetings, early-morning lectures and post-work-day extracurriculars (AKA happy hour for all you young, hip working professionals). The woven detailing on the sole will look hipster cool with cropped flares or a kaftan dress.
Perspective Shorts in Yellow Stripe ($144): Usher in brighter days with this sunshine yellow striped set that calls for a girly top knot and lace-up ballet flats. The high-waisted shorts and cropped blouse prove that modest is hottest, whether you’re heading to Montauk for a boating party or playing the teacher’s pet.
32. New Balance 410 Bold Bright Trainer ($65): While the thought of heading back to school (and reliving 10th grade Phys. Ed) may not rank high on your list of to-dos, these fluorescent orange and gray New Balance sneakers are actually the bomb dot com. Whether you wear them with running shorts and a letterman jacket or a classy LBD, the styling possibilities are endless.
always come to the rescue, whether you’re lounging on the quad or holding down the reception desk.
unfortunately not included.
35. Nasty Gal Patch Me If You Can Denim Jacket ($88): Take a style cue from Gigi and her squad by investing in an uber trendy patchwork denim jacket. It’s the hero piece your back-to-school capsule wardrobe’s been missing. You can style it with distressed black jeans and a baseball cap or toss it over a dainty floral sundress for unparalleled tough-girl edge.