Lately I've had graduation and fashion on my mind, especially thoughts of what it means to look casual yet well-groomed and put-together on campus. On some days, especially around midterms or finals or during term paper season, rolling out of bed, putting my hair in a ponytail, and getting to school on time seems like a monumental triumph; forget about what I'm wearing! But after 4 years of undergrad, I've figured out a couple of tricks here and there that make it easy to get dressed and look reasonably put-together in the morning, without resorting to sweats. After all, when you're getting dressed in the morning, it takes just as much time to pull on a baggy sweatshirt as it does to put on a cute sweater.
Avoid baggy sweats. Nothing says "I put no thought into how I look" like pulling on ill-fitting sweatshirts and sweatpants that don't flatter your figure at all. If I'm going for clothes that let me study without feeling uncomfortable or distracted, I'll put on cotton twill trousers, a tee or tank, and a sweater. Like most undergrads, I have a particular weakness for hoodies because of that nice, cozy feeling you get when you're wearing them, but I get them in sweater knits instead of sweatshirt material. If you have to have a sweatshirt hoodie, get one in a bright colour and a nice fit, like the ones that Lululemon carries.
Don't wear gym gear all the time (unless you're going to/from frequent workouts or varsity practices). I understand the need for comfort, but gymwear is gymwear for a reason: it's stuff you wear when you're working out! I always get so annoyed when I see people in sports tanks and Lululemon yoga pants walking around, and you know that they don't wear these clothes for exercise. With all of the non-workout clothes made from stretch fabrics out there, the "I'm so comfortable in workout gear!" excuse is unacceptable.
Mix colours and textures to add interest to your outfit. One of my favourite go-to outfits for school is a pink corduroy jacket with a sweater hoodie in turquoise underneath, a basic tee or tank under the hoodie, jeans, and sneakers with red laces and accents. It's a nice blend of different textured fabrics (corduroy, knit, cotton, denim, leather) and colour (pink, turquoise, dark blue, red). Wearing a neutral palette from head to toe is kind of boring, and, let's face it, a little depressing on top of all the rainy days us West Coast undergrads have to face.
Accessorize. You don't have to wear big pieces of statement jewelry or anything like that. Sometimes adding a few touches here and there can make a difference. I like silver and gold jewelry--stud earrings with stones in different cuts and colours and pendant necklaces--with my casual outfits. Sometimes I'll wear a headband in black or tortoiseshell to camouflage any frizz or flyaways I didn't have time to deal with. All of these options are "neutral" enough to work with any outfit, and they're just nice little touches that say "Yes, I did put some thought into getting dressed today."
Choose interesting flat-heeled shoes. Leave the big white Nike runners at home, please. There are stylish alternatives in interesting colours and designs out there: street sneakers like Pumas, ballet flats, low-heeled Mary Janes, etc. It's possible to be comfortable and not wear your gym shoes everywhere.
Wear good jeans. Choose pairs with a good fit and cut, medium-dark to dark rinse, and no rips/tears/distressing. I'm personally a sucker for trouser-cut jeans with a bootcut leg; they have a classic silhouette with clean lines, and a slightly dressier feel than normal jeans. Get them hemmed if they're too long to prevent the legs from fraying. Avoid overly light washes, distressing, and unflattering cuts (hello, tapered leg).
Wear basic makeup. I usually don't wear any makeup unless you count lip balm and SPF moisturizer as such. One friend swears by blush and a pinkish lip gloss to make her look more awake. Curling your eyelashes and putting on mascara is another way to perk up your face, especially after a late-night cram session.
If there's anything I missed, add it in the Comments section!