The Perfect Grad Student Wardrobe Staples for Women

A list of the basic wardrobe items female graduate students need in their closets.

Nanda Dyssou

October 10, 2016

The Perfect Grad Student Wardrobe Staples for Women

In the first and second parts of this article series I gave you some general advice on dressing well on a graduate student’s budget.

In the last part of the series I will give you a list of items that are must-haves. This is just a starting point, add more of each item according to your needs and preferences and as your budget allows.

2 pairs of slacks

Buy classic, timeless cuts to ensure that these will not look dated within a year. It is also a good idea to get at least one darker pair.

1 pair of jeans

Dark wash, straight legged ones work best, as they can be worn to a Saturday night party, as well as to a study session, and if your department dresses casually, also to class. Forego them for teaching or official business though.

2 skirts

Pencil and A-lines are the most versatile cuts. Aim for just above the knee or longer so you can sit comfortably without revealing too much.

2 dresses

You will need one casual dress, such as a wrapdress or a summer dress, which could work for BBQs, dates, social events, and also be dressed up with a cardigan for teaching, and one elegant dress, a sheath or a little black dress, that can be worn for presentations, dinners, and special events.

2 blouses or button down shirts

These should be in colors that go well with your pants, skirts, and ideally your casual dress too. White or cream is a good choice for the simpler one, and perhaps a more bold color for your second.

2 simple long sleeve tops

Henleys, V-necks with not too deep of a plunge, anything comfortable and simple. If you are teaching or attending a more conservative university, you should substitute blouses for these, too.

2 simple short sleeve tops

These tops could be more casual but avoid logos, drawings, or anything cutesy that could seem immature. Polos would be better choices than camis and the neckline should also be “office proper.” These tops will also serve as layering pieces so you should coordinate their colors with the rest of your wardrobe.

1 tailored blazer

Your blazer should match one of your slacks and one of your skirts so you can wear them together as a skirt and pant suit.

3 sweaters, pullovers, or cardigans

Crewneck or V-neck, at last one of these should be more elegant and one should work for layering.

2 pairs of shoes

Comfortable flats and a good pair of heels are the minimum. If you do not want to wear heels, pointy toe flats are a good alternative that work well with pants and skirts too and give your outfit a polished look without the pain of having to wobble around in high heels.

1 set of jewelry

A set of simple silver earrings and necklace that can be worn together or separately to complete any outfit.

A coat

Whatever is appropriate for the cold season in your locale. You could either buy a neutral, simple coat, or go crazy and get a statement coat. You will take it off once indoors anyway, so why not have some fun with this?

A good school bag

Tote or messenger bags are great for grad school; most backpacks are a little too casual.


The basics here include a belt in a neutral color, a hat and sunglasses. Jewelry accessories or scarves can also spice up a look to add personality and variation.

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