10 Great Places to Shop for Your Back-to-School Wardrobe

As summer ends and classes begin, it’s time to think about how you’ll stand out this school year. Every high school and college student knows the importance of a stellar wardrobe for making a great first impression. However, the age-old question still remains: Where can I buy the best clothes at the best price?

This story is part of Gift Guide, our year-round collection of the best gift ideas.

With hundreds of stores, deciding where to spend your sometimes limited amount of money can be the hardest part of back-to-school shopping. I know my Instagram feed is flooded with influencers, brands and advertisements all selling similar products at different prices. Luckily for you, I’ve compiled a list of the best stores to shop this school year based on affordability, my personal experience and reviews.


Urban Outfitters

OK, I’ll admit this one is a given. Urban is known for selling trendy clothes of decent quality. The company sells men and women’s clothing that’s great for both casual wear and nights out. My go-to going-out top is the Out From Under Modern Love Corset. The BDG brand jeans are also a personal favorite of mine. 

While Urban Outfitters may have a reputation for being overpriced (which a lot of its products definitely are), it tends to have great flash sales year round. 

Man shooting basketball with DSG logo

Dick’s Sporting Goods

Believe it or not, Dick’s sells some of the best affordable athleisure wear there is. DSG, the Dick’s Sporting Goods brand, sells leggings, shorts and more at half the price of competitors such as Lululemon. In need of an easy, cute yet comfortable outfit for class? Throw on a pair of $23 DSG Bike Shorts with an oversized T-shirt and you’re good to go. 

The Dick’s Back-to-School sale is happening now, and you can get up to 30% off Nike and other gear and apparel.



Searching for some basics for the school year? Zara’s collection of plain yet stylish tank tops, blazers and bodysuits will fulfill all your basic needs. At Zara you’ll find men and women’s clothing perfect for class, business meetings and a night on the town. My favorite outfits are ones with basic tank tops, jeans and a jacket that adds a pop of color — Zara has all that.

Although some blazers and dresses can be a bit pricey, basic seamless tops start at only $13 (a steal compared to Urban Outfitters). I will warn you, though, that Zara’s jeans sizes are known to be a bit off, so if you’re planning on buying a pair, I’d recommend shopping in person if possible.

models wearing black bodysuits

Princess Polly

You may or may not have gotten several Princess Polly ads on social media and wondered: Is it worth it? I remember thinking the same thing after seeing my seventh Princess Polly ad, so I decided to check it out. 

The answer: Yes, Princess Polly is worth it. It’s the best place to go for bodysuits and cute skirts (the black Lutana bodysuit is a staple of mine). With a whole section of its website dedicated to “Campus Cool,” there’s something for everyone. Plus, students can receive a 10% student discount after signing up for a Student Beans account.

woman wearing Dynamite jacket and mini skirt


Starting an internship and looking for a store to help you mature your wardrobe? Dynamite has the best clothes to switch from your younger style to business chic. As a New Yorker through and through, I love the monochromatic blazers, bodysuits and tops Dynamite has to offer. 

Models wearing black top


Garage, a sister brand of Dynamite, has tops, jeans and dresses that are both trendy and timeless. From halter tops with loud patterns to basic black tank tops, shopping at Garage will spice up your style as little or as much as you want. Although some of the trendier tops may not be flattering for those with a bigger bust, pieces such as the Serena Seamless Plunge Tank are perfect for everyone.

Don’t forget to be on the watch for sporadic mid- and end-of-season sales!

Lulu's Dresses


male and female models wearing american eagle jeans

American Eagle

Although American Eagle is never my first stop for tops and dresses, the jeans are unmatched. American Eagle sells jeans in all cuts and for all sizes. I’m 5 feet tall and currently wear a size 6, which leaves me struggling to find jeans that fit me just right. American Eagle sells men and women’s jeans in short, regular and tall as well as jeans tailored for those with curves. The AE Stretch Ripped Curvy ’90s Straight Jean is one of my all-time favorite pairs of jeans. Students who sign up on MyUniDays can receive a 20% student discount on select items. 

Model wearing old navy sports bra top

Old Navy

I must admit that for years I refused to shop at Old Navy because my mom and grandma both shopped there. However, after years of resistance I finally caved and was more than pleasantly surprised. 

Dick’s may have the athleisure bottoms, but Old Navy for sure has the best athleisure tops. Old Navy’s athleticwear is of comparable quality to its sister brand Athleta; except the price tag at Old Navy is significantly less. I’ve received several compliments on my $20 Light Support PowerSoft Sports Bra, which serves both as a casual top and yoga sports bra. 

Models wearing Forever 21 clothes

Forever 21

Forever 21 is the best place to go for cheaper clothes that you don’t plan on keeping for years. Although it may take a bit of scrolling through its website or roaming the aisles in the store to find pieces of clothing you like, the deals are worth it. Forever 21 may have some questionable items, but many of its clothes make for good statement pieces. And students can receive a 20% student discount after signing up with Student Beans.

I recommend spending extra time in the sale section; I only spent $10 on my last purchase and walked away with two tops and a pair of earrings. I will warn you, though, you get what you pay for, so some of the clothing cheap in price may also be cheap in quality.

More back-to-school recommendations

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