6 Retro Back-to-School Fashion Basics Your Parents Would Approve Of

permission Young lady drinking coffee at her office. Portrait of brunette woman in white pants and shirt enjoying tea and sitting on wooden table

The new academic year is fast approaching, and one thing that students are sure to be excited about is showing off their back-to-school outfits. During your own summer break, you may have had time to explore different fashion trends and diversify your own wardrobe. You may also be surprised about how much “old school cool” you’ll want to infuse it with.


Many of today’s youths have turned back to retro fashion for contemporary looks, wearing pieces that hearken to the past decades. Some cool examples are jumpsuits from the ‘70s, brightly coloured athleisure wear from the ‘80s, and denim and metallic details from the ‘90s. Your first day of school is the perfect opportunity to flaunt clothes like these and show your friends how much your personal style has evolved to include classic pieces from the past. They’re sure to approve just as much as your parents (or grandparents) would!


For some retro fashion inspiration that will have you feeling like a character in your favourite old films, set in the high schools or universities of decades past, here are six cool ideas:


1) Polka Dot Clothing


When it comes to vintage prints, nothing makes a statement quite like polka dots. From the 1920s up to the 1980s, this spotty pattern was used to give plain fabrics a playful touch, turning dresses, swimsuits, and pants into fun clothing items. Today, polka dots are used as the main design element in a variety of items, from kitchen towels to gift boxes. And for clothing, this retro print still hasn’t lost its charm.


Don’t be overwhelmed by the boldness of classic polka dots—there are a lot of easy ways to incorporate this retro print into your back-to-school outfits. One approach is to make it the focus of your ensemble. Remember that polka dots are already eye-catching, so there’s no need for you to wear other printed clothing that could potentially clash with them. For example, if you want to wear a polka dot blouse that comes with a cute bow, pair it with neutral basics like comfortable cotton leggings. Finish this retro-preppy look with some Oxford shoes and a hairband.




2) Classic Cardigans


On a related note, if your journey into retro fashion has brought you to the timeless preppy trend, the classic cardigan definitely has a place in your back-to-school wardrobe. Nothing beats a cozy knitted piece that’s both versatile and functional. Wear an oversized cardigan over a simple tee and jeans, or a plaid knee-length skirt with a Peter Pan-collared blouse, to achieve a relaxed, yet fashionable look that your mom or aunties would have worn themselves at your age.


3) Tailored Blazers


Another retro fashion item you can wear for school days is a tailored blazer. The structured style of this garment can instantly give your outfit a commanding flair, which you may need during special occasions like school presentations or academic competitions.


A tailored blazer can easily be dressed up or down to better serve your ensemble. If you’re going for a polished look that will be good for a formal event, wear your blazer with a turtleneck top, some high-waisted pants, and leather loafers. For a more casual outfit that’s just a touch dressier than what you already like to wear, sport the blazer with a graphic tee, skinny jeans, and sneakers.


4) High-Waisted Jeans


High-waisted jeans, also called “mom jeans,” could be a flattering addition to your back-to-school repertoire. On top of their stylish cinched waistline and versatile design, they also guarantee comfort and freedom of movement. Take a page out of your mom’s generation and wear these with a tucked-in shirt or blouse and some ballet flats or lace-up boots.


5) Vintage-Inspired Dresses


Vintage-inspired dresses with modest cuts and hemlines are ideal for school settings. They also come in myriad styles, colours, and patterns, so it’s just a matter of choosing a design you like and making a timeless piece one of your back-to-school staples.


If you consider yourself a creative person who’s into classic feminine styles, try wearing a floral printed tea dress on the first day of school. On the other hand, if you’re a more go-with-the-flow type of person, wear a slip dress over a plain white crew neck tee to marry a classic attitude with a more contemporary style.


6) Classic Sneakers


Don’t forget to add a pair of hip old-school sneakers into at least one of your go-to back-to-school ensembles. Try a style that your mom or dad once favoured, like high-top sneakers or athletic sneakers in a retro neon or muted colour palette.




You’ll likely have a blast incorporating more retro elements into your back-to-school wardrobe. Just remember to choose pieces that not only resonate with you, but also adhere to your school’s dress code. That way, you’ll win the approval of your parents, teachers, fellow students—and just about anyone who appreciates the fashion aspect of going back to school!

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