Even though college-age you was definitely well meaning with all those skinny-strap tanks and boot-cut jeans, she just wouldn’t cut it in today’s world. Crossovers from the co-ed closet to a more polished adult version are few and far between (the basics all women should have in her closet by age 30 aren’t what you’re shopping at 18). We loved ’em in college, but their age shows when viewed with grown-up eyes. Below, the unofficial list of clothes and accessories that we loved wearing in college but ditched somewhere on the road to setting up a 401(k).
MORE: 3 Pairs of Jeans You Should Definitely NOT Have in Your Closet
Lauren Conrad, seen here in 2005, set a lot of college-era trends
Belts are divine things, holding up pants and whittling waists for the ultimate in figure flattery. The ugly stepsister of the bunch? The wide hip version worn atop shirts and belt loops. It doesn’t serve much purpose beyond pure adornment and, post-college, it’s an embellishment we’re fine with skipping.
White ribbed tanks from the men’s department
Another classic clue you’re dealing with a college fashionista: She discovers shopping in the men’s department like it’s a totally brand-new revelation (fact: women as iconic as Coco Chanel have been mining the guys’ stuff for ages). Intended as an undershirt for the guys, the basic white tank was a wardrobe building block bought in packs of three and stuffed into a dorm-room closet.
Blame it on Ashton Kutcher and the cool kids on Laguna Beach (Lauren Conrad included!), but these mesh-backed snappers had a major 15-minutes-of-fame moment. They were cute, covered with cheeky phrases or pictures, and denoted the wearer as someone who liked to have fun.
It’s like strapless tops weren’t even invented prior to 2000. The college staple was tubular in construction, hung close to the body, and was acceptable for parties or study groups with jeans.
Cameron Diaz was making the tube top trend happen in 2001
Bubble dresses and skirts
With elastic sewn into the hem, the silhouette was funky and flirty and, as such, totally appealed to barfly college girls who always needed fun new going-out clothes. The shape isn’t particularly flattering, and we wised up in our older years, subbing in sleek pencil skirts and beautifully draped minis.
Ripped denim miniskirts
Off-duty adult wear includes a versatile pair of skinny jeans in the same manner that co-ed style meant a heavy reliance on a ripped-up little denim mini. Everyone had one and they went with everything, from beat-up tees to silky going-out tops.
Settling into life outside the parental home means testing boundaries, scarfing down food through an unlimited dining plan, and spending an inordinate amount of time in sweats. Today’s grown-ups are spending more time in leggings and workout gear than ever before, but never again shall we stuff our drawers with impossibly oversize sweatpants, worn low and with tattered cuffs (a hard-earned mark that you’ve been wearing them for a while).
Even if it existed decades prior in the preppy world, there was a span circa the college years where guys and girls alike were popping collars with abandon (the real boundary-pushers layered two shirts and did a simultaneous pop). The affectation still shows up from time to time, but not with college-level amounts of people sporting it.
Gym clothes that you wouldn’t wear out in public
The here-to-stay athleisure trend has fueled a fitness apparel industry that’s growing by leaps and bounds. Our college-era gym duds (cotton cheerleader shorts and bleach-stained tees) wouldn’t cut it in today’s exercise classes where stylish gym wear is fit for a full day of shopping and socializing after.