The Annual Back To School Wardrobe List

Bonjour, etudiants!

It’s that time again…time to put the summer clothes away and assess what you need to acquire (or locate in the back of the closet) in order to be appropriately dressed to go back to school.

If you’re a long-time reader, you’ll probably have a vague recollection of us going through this exercise last August, and maybe the August before that. I think perhaps we did.

Still, it can’t hurt to go through the paces again with a list, some suggestions, and perhaps a new item or two that we haven’t included previously, that will help those hopeful high school and college students get through the year without looking like something the cat dragged in, or someone who’s been hijacked by a ‘style blogger’ on acid.

Wardrobe considerations include value, comfort, functionality, versatility, durability, and, of course, Old Money Style.

I’m starting with the ladies, pulling a list from Old Money, New Woman, with question marks about some items (please advise, readers!). Here we go:

  1. White, or sky blue long sleeve,100% cotton and linen blouses;
  2. Solid color 100% cotton short sleeve polo pullovers;
  3. Solid color pullover or cardigan sweaters,100% wool or 100% cotton;
  4. Khakis or 100% cotton long pants and shorts in solid colors;
  5. Grey, black, or navy 100% linen or wool/cashmere blend pants (do you need these?)
  6. Grey, black, or navy 100% linen or 100% wool skirts; (or these?)
  7. A classic black dress, mid-length;
  8. Black high heel shoes with a closed toe, for dress;
  9. Navy or tan pumps with a chunk heel, for walking comfortably;
  10. Topsiders, sandals, or loafers, for casual;
  11. Wool socks and cotton socks;
  12. Blue or black blazer;
  13. Blue, black, or grey business suit of good quality (do you need this at school?)
  14. Navy full length 100% wool coat for winter;
  15. A London-fog style trench coat for rain.

For young men, I’ll advise with more confidence:

  1. White or light blue 100% cotton dress shirts (oxford cloth, button down, Mercer & Sons being the top of the line brand);
  2. 100% wool or 100% cotton pullover sweaters;
  3. Khakis, 100% wool slacks (grey), 100% cotton corduroy pants;
  4. Topsiders, LL Bean boots, penny loafers, Adidas sneakers (classic style);
  5. 100% wool blue blazer;
  6. A tweed sport coat in traditional style and fabric;
  7. Wool socks, cotton socks;
  8. Full length wool coat for winter;
  9. Two or three rep ties;
  10. 6 white handkerchiefs (to be kept in blazer & jacket at all times).

Okay, tribe, let me know your thoughts. Have I missed anything? Should some items be deleted?

I love back to school time. Mostly because I’m not one of those who’s going back.

  • BGT


25 thoughts on “The Annual Back To School Wardrobe List

  1. Spot on. I’d only add that one should prepare well in advance for necessary winter accessories, depending on severity of the winter climate. Being born in Maine and having lived in Minnesota for the past twenty years (save four years at a small liberal arts school in a similarly frigid river valley in NE Iowa), a good scarf and gloves is a necessary investment to go with your LLBean Boots and wool socks!

  2. Excellent list. I just have a couple of suggestions. For the girls, skirts in only grey, black or navy seems a little limited. I would include plaid and maybe even tan. For the boys, white handkerchiefs are great, but if they’re for style I don’t think they need to be limited to only white, and if they’re for more utilitarian purposes, Kleenex might be more practical. This reminded me of one of your old posts where you said one sign of being old money is that you can wear your father’s clothes and nobody notices … and you’re a girl! Also, “style blogger on acid” made me laugh.

    1. White handkerchiefs in the jacket pocket is a classic. I’d suggest expanding to red (burgundy, not fire) and blue. Maybe turquoise.

  3. No suggestions that are not already here, but I can’t wait speaking for myself. More casual summer gear is great, but I enjoy the start of the fall semester, and the opportunity to “get dressed” five days a week after a summer of khaki shorts and Madras/polo shirts with dock-siders. Just under two weeks to go until the first day of classes!

    Best Regards,


  4. I like the new color! Autumnal.
    Re wardrobe for young women: When in doubt, ask What Would Catherine Wear? As in, the Duchess of Cambridge. Or Queen Letizia of Spain.
    To me, some silhouettes work on some women better than others, so it is important to experiment with different proportions even when wearing classics- the cut of pants, the length of skirts. Ballet flats suit some; knee-high boots suit others. What about slim, ribbed turtlenecks? And hairstyles- where do you stand on the messy bun?

  5. If the student identifies as male and is watching expenses maybe consider some of the following.

    Lands End Hyde Park Oxford and the Lands End Rigger Oxford, they are “real cotton” not chemical treated for non-iron.
    For trousers, the Lands End Knock-About Khaki, they are not treated with a non-iron finish.
    Definitely splurge on the Polo and consider Lacoste, the fabric breathes nice and if you size up they will last you forever (cold water wash only).
    Gloverall makes great toggle coats that will last you. If not Gloverall consider Lauren.
    Merrell Mocs – for walking across Campus.
    I know a lot of us don’t wear socks, but please wear socks and protect your feet, I had a little cracked skin on my foot without knowing it, and ended up in the emergency room with cellulitis.
    I didn’t mention LL Bean, I’m saddened they did away with their lifetime warranty.

  6. Thank you so much for clueing me into the Lands End pants and shirts. I didn’t know they made them without wrinkle resistance.

    1. Yes, I can wear untreated cotton shirt in Manhattan in 95 degree weather and feel like I’m not wearing any shirt at all. sells real cotton and Brooks Brother sells one oxford at an extreme markup in untreated cotton.

  7. Women, for really cold climates when winter starts before Halloween (like New England):
    Insulated black or brown dress leather boots with a low heel.
    Down or insulated parka
    Ribbed or unribbed turtlenecks various colors.
    Nice wool or silk scarfs in various colors (great as a fashion accessories)
    Merino wool or wool blend dress pants. No linen.

    Bob, ditto about LLBean. I live nearby and very rarely shop there anymore.

  8. Unless I’ve missed it, what hasn’t been mentioned is hand-me-downs from older siblings, cousins etc as well as the school shop where very often really good quality second-hand kit can be purchased. It is usually good condition. Simply too small for the first owner, like it soon will be for the second. Huge savings to be made.

  9. Perhaps it’s also worth considering the students’ location. When ordering American brands from Europe, and paying shipment and duties, they’re no longer good value. And that’s probably what Old Money would go for in the first place.

    Besides, the American style can be quite pronounced, e.g. the OCBD with a full cut and a collar with that typical roll. Paired with khakis and topsiders, it’s unmistakably American.
    Unless one has one’s reasons, it may not be desirable.

    For wet and cold European winters, a waterproof (insulated) parka and rubber soled shoes may be essential. Boots are great, but classic leather shoes with rubber soles are versatile.

    At least in Europe, students face daily commutes and need to think practically. In some cities, a bike is de rigueur, in others long walks to the underground.

    1. Excellent comment, JL. We did go FULL USA with this list. I have seen the parkas you mentioned, and the rubber soled shoes. Thank you, sir. – BGT

  10. Good list!
    … but …
    “I have a different idea of elegance. I don’t dress like a fop, it’s true, but my moral grooming is impeccable. I never appear in public with a soiled conscience, a tarnished honor, threadbare scruples, or an insult that I haven’t washed away. I’m always immaculately clean, adorned with independence and frankness. I may not cut a stylish figure, but I hold my soul erect. I wear my deeds as ribbons, my wit is sharper then the finest mustache, and when I walk among men I make truths ring like spurs.” Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac

  11. JL, sorry for not being specific. In my part of the USA parkas and jackets are waterproof, and most boots are rubbersoled and waterproof as well. Mean culpa for assuming everyone else understood that. I promise to do better next time.

  12. Hello Byron,

    I would like to preface my questions by saying that I have loved reading your blog and apologize for the length of this comment. I was wondering what an old money man would wear to a funeral, if an old money man would buy grey pair of flannel pants for winter as well as summer then buy something like a grey pair of fresco pants for spring as well as summer and would an old money man have his repp or club ties, his polka dotted navy tie and any other tie be in shantung silk? Thank you in advance for your response.

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