A Guide to the Perfect Back to School Wardrobe

Last Updated Jul 13, 2020

When you think of back to school shopping, you more than likely think of apparel to an extent. Though the stereotype tends to be that only younger kids need back to school wardrobes, kids of all ages actually need new clothes for the new school year, and even college kids probably want to stock up on some trendy items to make a statement on campus. Especially if your child just had a growth spurt or recently changed up his or her style, get ready to help your child create a new wardrobe this fall.

Thankfully, because apparel is such a common thing to buy during back to school shopping, there are plenty of back to school deals to take advantage of. However, you have to remember to buy everything you need during the back to school season. If you forget about something until after school starts, you may have missed out on great back to school sales, and that can be expensive. Here are all the things you need to plan for when creating a back to school wardrobe.

Everyday Attire

These are the general outfits that you or your child will be wearing every day. Essentially, these are outfits that can handle getting dirty and scuffed up; they shouldn't be too delicate, but can still be trendy and fashionable.

  • T-shirts, blouses, jeans, casual skirts, and shorts
  • Buy 4-5 of each item
  • Choose items that can mix and match easily

General retailers such as Target and Walmart tend to have a good selection and sturdy clothes, perfect for this category.

A Dressed-up Look

Everyone needs at least one look to dress up a little bit; your Sunday best, as it were.

  • Clothing in this group includes nice dresses, button-down shirts, formal blouses, and ties.
  • You should make sure that everyone in your family has at least one of these outfits. However, if you tend to go to a number of formal occasions, get two or three.
  • It’s a good idea to buy a formal outfit that’s just black and white, as it’s a traditional color combination that may be required for performances or recitals.

High-profile retailers such as Banana Republic can provide the look you're trying to achieve here.


You may be the kind of person who wants a dozen pairs of shoes for every occasion, or you might just need one pair for everything.

  • Make sure each person has at least one pair of sneakers, one pair of formal shoes, and one pair of casual shoes.
  • Hand style choices off to the person who'll be wearing the shoes; for many people, shoes are an integral part of an outfit and an important part of a fashion display.
  • Sneakerheads have their own style, and usually want to get the newest kicks, so try Nike.
  • Retailers such as JustFab often offer fashionable women’s footwear that can work equally for yourself, your high schooler, or your college senior. If you’re getting shoes for everyone, visit a family-centered shoe retailer such as Famous Footwear.


When you want to open the door for creative expression, don't forget accessories.

  • If you're on a shoestring budget, accessories can help you play up clothes that you bought off the clearance rack, bringing life to any outfit.
  • Claire's is a staple for young girls and adolescents, but it can still be alluring even to college students.
  • Aeropostale offers something for trendy young adults and is often a more understated look.
  • Even families can benefit from accessories; stop by Old Navy for family-friendly accessory options.

Makeup and Styling Products

To top off an outfit, you need a finishing touch, and that's exactly what makeup and styling products do.

  • Make sure you tailor your styling products to your lifestyle. Active people will need different products than laid-back ones will.
  • Visit a stylist at least once before you buy styling products so you can get an expert opinion.
  • Salon products are high in quality. Beauty Plus Salon can help you get the products you find at the salon and bring them home.
  • If you're less picky about what you put in your hair, you can stop by Walgreens.

For many high school and college students, skin care is one of the most important parts of the morning, because acne and skin conditions often start to become more evident during this time.

  • Talk to your teen about his or her skin conditions, and you can develop a strategy to tackle it.
  • At DERMAE, you can get skin care items that'll help with controlling breakouts and other skin problems.
  • Companies such as SkinCeuticals offer makeup that's infused with skin care technology so you can keep up a look in the short and long term.

Makeup can be an important part of life in and of itself, and if your high schooler is just starting to learn how to apply makeup, it's a great opportunity to bond.

  • It’s very important that your makeup products are high in quality, so ensure that you buy from reputable retailers.
  • The Body Shop is famous for its wide variety of high-quality cosmetics and general care items, including both makeup and other body care products.
  • Sephora is one of the most well known makeup companies, and it stocks a number of different brands, so you can get everything you’re looking for at once.


A wardrobe is much more than the sum of its parts, and the student using the wardrobe will create personalized looks out of the clothes you provide. However, having the perfect wardrobe can be a great way to create confidence, and there's no better way to boost someone's self-confidence than by affirming his or her style choices. Whether you're going into your first semester of college or your child is graduating to high school, don't skimp on the wardrobe this year. Use a variety of back to school deals to fill up those closets at a price you can afford.

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